Tag Archives: The Inner Self Awakens

Agam and Aks at CounterCulture, Bangalore


When two bands of national acclaim are gathered to play at a popular venue, you can expect the early animated crowd to fill in way before the concert. This night was no different. Each table had an excitable someone telling their friends about the bands that were to perform. One of the most heartening things about the Indian music scene is getting to see fans pointing to band members (who are almost always part of the audience, sipping on their pre-gig drinks) in awe. And so it was that when Aks took the stage, the audience cheered them with a fervour that came from finally not having to mutter their appreciation at dinner-table volume.

Without wasting any time on the soundcheck, Aks played their first song – a track about a traveler moving through life while trusting god with their good graces. The vocals were very slightly off-key at the start, but as the song picked up, the track blossomed into a powerful anthem. The band’s characteristic blending of aalaps towards the end of rugged vocals was reminiscent of their Coke Studio days that were well-favoured by everyone. Audience engagement also started early as the band urged everyone to sing the chorus.

Their next track was called ‘O ji re‘. It had all the undertones of a sweet folk love song, complete with a peppy flute solo. Xavier’s vocal acrobatics on this one did not fail to impress, although his breath control did seem to waver around the high notes. After a bluesy ‘Panchi‘ which was a song about freedom, packed in with a flute and a guitar solo, a deceptively long flute intro led the audience to believe a smooth song was up. What did play was a cover of the Agosh classic ‘Paisa‘. There was a very long drawn-out instrumental section in the middle that wasn’t devoid of technical brilliance at all but seemed patchy in composition. ?

Their next song ‘Baavla‘ was dedicated to the heavy metal band Anvil. It was a smooth number with a catchy acoustic solo. However, much of the rhythm was held together by the flautist. They then played a new track that started with a drum intro and proceeded into becoming the perfect, upbeat final song that ended their set.

The crowd cheered on as they left the stage and their hearts wanting for more. After a short break, Agam took the stage. After a brief soundcheck, they got the ball rolling by playing their usual set opener – ‘Brahma’s Dance‘. Other than a few glitches that were barely noticeable, their set was as good as it gets. They played ‘Dhanashree Thillana‘, ‘Seventh Ocean‘, ‘Ishq Labaa‘, ‘Swans of Saraswati‘, ‘Boat Song‘, a really great version of ‘Dil Se Re‘ followed by a genuinely innovative cover of ‘Aaromale‘, to then end with ‘Malhar Jam‘, which is also the last song on their album – The Inner Self Awakens.

There could not have been a more phenomenal ending to the evening with a long-drawn percussion solo in the middle of ‘Malhar Jam‘, followed by Dappankuthu. The audience really got what they came for, and there was not a single unsmiling face. Their youngest fan was a two year old who caught everyone’s eye as she sat on her father’s shoulders jumping to every beat.
If Aks set the tone for the evening, Agam turned things up a notch higher. A gig well executed, and an evening to remember.

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Swati Nair

Swati is a writer/sub-editor for What'sTheScene. She enjoys most kinds of music and spends all of her time scouting the Internet and re-watching Star Trek and Swat Kats.


In conversation with Agam about ‘The Inner Self Awakens’


WTS does an exclusive interview with Agam on the launch of their album ‘The Inner Self Awakens’.
Videography and Interview by: Dev Ambardekar

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Dev Ambardekar

Dev is a music photographer based out of Bangalore. He has been documenting the music scene actively for almost two years during which he has shot several Indian bands and a handful international acts. His expertise ranges from multi-day music festivals to pub shows. While he is not behind the camera, Dev is an Architect and occasional writer. You can follow him at @DevAmbardekar.


The Inner Self Awakens by Agam


Software engineers by day and musicians by evening or at least over the weekend – such is the story of Agam. Formed in 2006, following a few compositions (which were mere experiments then) by a bunch of friends in an apartment studio, Agam has become a powerful force with their brand of music since then. This Bangalore-based ensemble features Harish on vocals, Praveen on lead guitars, Swamy on keyboards, Vignesh on bass guitar, Jagadish on rhythm guitars, Ganesh on drums and Sivakumar on ethnic percussions.

From winning a musical reality show helmed by maestro A. R. Rahman himself to collaborating with Shreya Ghoshal, the band has had a glorious journey thus far. Though, a performance on the fabled Coke Studio stage has been the talking point for a while now and makes a perfect setting for the release of their debut album. ‘Agam’ literally translates to ‘the inner self’ and hence the album gets the name ‘The Inner Self Awakens’. Each song in the album pivots around a central Raga and is embellished by the elements of progressive rock, which brings into perspective a completely unheard of and unexplored genre – ‘Carnatic Progressive rock’. With the songs quite often delving into religious themes, the cover art of the album has been aptly chosen to depict the Keralite festival of Theyyam.

‘Bramha’s Dance’ starts off with a vedic chant accompanied by war-field percussions and roaring bass-lines that provide a worthy build up to this terrific album – almost as if calling out to awaken the enormous beast from its Carnatic foregrounds. Harish’s violin is subtle but adds the most mellifluous of touches to the song. The appropriate use of cymbals, the ghatam and Praveen’s electric guitar are in complete sync with the vocals as the song goes through a plethora of moods and tempos.

‘Dhanashree Thillana’ is the progressive rock rendition of a Swathi Thirunal composition based on the Dhanashree Raga and is perhaps one of the finest tracks in the entire album. This one kicks off as a typical rock ballad but gradually transcends into melodic taranaas moving over an entertaining rhythm structure. The guitar sounds magnificent and the jugalbandi with Harish’s vocals leads to a perfect finish.

Inherently violent in nature and composition, ‘Rudra’ fits the bill for Tandava or what the more mainstream metal-heads call it – ‘head-banging’. Like any regular metal song, it is loud, noisy and all about the heavy guitar lines and percussions. But a funky and rather jazzy bass solo, high-pitched melodies and the wonderful usage of the conch towards the end, for me, stole the show.

Justifying the moniker, ‘Boat Song’ is for vallamkalli or the Boat Race during Onam. The song has got an extremely happy ring to it and you won’t be alone in thinking that the song sounds like something out of a Malayalam movie. But that’s only till Praveen churns out a breath-taking guitar solo that dispels all clichés.

The start to the song ‘Swans of Saraswati’ is an incoherent feature here and perhaps a tad overdone for the sake of rock. Though, it soon takes shape in a beautiful guitar solo, like any other song in the album, this song relies predominantly on Harish’s vocals and his numerous alaaps. This enormously brave endeavour to give Thyagaraja’s ‘Bantureethi’ a rock makeover is an absolute stunner. It’s unbelievable how Rock gets weaved into Carnatic Classical music with such ease – as if they weren’t ever different entities, just like a perfect marriage.

‘Malhar Jam’ is the most refreshing, energetic and undoubtedly the best composition on this album. This song also featured in a multi-producer episode of Coke studio, though a very different rendition of it. This one has got no israj in it and the flute segment by Annada Prasanna Patnaik (who does a cameo here too) is subtle and barely forms the highlight. This one’s got more room for Swamy’s wonderful work on the keyboard, taranaas and Vignesh’s heavy bass lines. The song forms a grandstand finish to this magnificent thirty-eight minute album.

The sonorous vocals of Harish stand apart throughout the album and the percussions, bass and guitar lines complement each other well. Their experiments with a few classics may make a staunch Carnatic listener think twice, but for a generation thriving on a healthy blend of sensibilities, it’s a guaranteed treat. The rock may have got a little too heavy for fusion here and there in the album but the underlying beauty of a raga has barely been compromised. Six years has been a rather tantalizing wait but when sated by such an eclectic experience, it has been worth it.  For a debut, this is a scintillating start by Agam and may go down as one of the top albums to be released this year. The album goes through the various textures of a human brain and listening to it is a spiritually uplifting experience – all this for a meager amount of Rs. 90 – who wouldn’t want to buy it?

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Shubhodeep Datta

Shubhodeep is home to a lunatic in his head, who is on his own with no direction home. Tell him about his grammatical errors! Follow him on Twitter @datta_shubho