Tag Archives: Yeshu Allah Aur Krishna

Swarathma: What’s the colour?


The lead vocalist made his way onto the stage wearing his blue socks and red sneakers- green laces on the left boot and yellow on the right, a green satin dhoti to go with a red top. The bassist was donning one of his many frilly Rajasthani Kurtas and the violinist his glittery suit and white Jodhpuri trousers. Clad in a flowery shirt with shiny purple bellbottoms, the percussionist cum vocalist seemed to have made his way straight out of the sets of a 70’s Bollywood movie. The guitarist though, was making a statement with his long locks rather than with his motley robe he usually wears. A diminutive figure with a huge gleaming smile on his face took his place behind the drums and music was all set to roll.  Welcome, Swarathma!

Yamunotsav’12- an initiative by a NGO Sweccha, saw the band performing in Delhi on their recent ‘Restless Tour’ promoting their latest album Topiwalleh. This time it was for the English-speaking-white-collared bourgeois munching on Blackberries and Apples at the India Habitat Centre. Commemorating the World Environment Day celebrations, Swarathma, with its kaleidoscopic brand of music was the perfect choice to preach some socially important, yet often ignored lessons with some fun, humour and wit.

The troubadours from Bangalore started off with ‘Aaj ki Taaza Fikar’; the band’s take on yellow journalism and the sensationalist-TRP-hungry media. The crowd was still shuffling inside the IHC amphitheatre and gradually picking up on the frenzy with Montry’s adept drumming and Varun’s fluency on his Gibson Les Paul. Meanwhile, Jishnu Dasgupta, the bassist halted to give a sneak peek into their next song, “Since we are at Yamunotsav, this song too has been written for the plight of a river and it strikes a chord….” To which Vasu, the frontman of the band and an eccentric oddball with curly hair jeered jocularly, “Which Chord is it by the way?” The audience exploded into a fit of laughter and Jishnu remarked, “D major”. ‘Pyaasi’– the song that saw the band rise into fame is the voice of River Cauvery, as it reacts to the violence that broke out during the water sharing issue between the two states down south.

Swarathma’s lyrics have always been the trailblazers of social change. Their latest sophomore album ‘Topiwalleh’ is their smirk at the topi-wearing corrupt politicians. Jishnu, who perfected his PR skills and the vernacular Bihari accent at XLRI Jamshedpur claimed, “Ab vaqt hai political debate ka” (Now, it’s the time for a political debate). They churned out many of their songs from the recent album, each one distinctly different from the other, be it the composition or the social message it imparts. ‘Topiwalleh’ is a cheesy number while ‘Koorane’ with its typically heavy metal riff unleashes the ‘animalistic’ instincts within. ‘Naane Daari’ is powerful and the latest heavy artillery in Swarathma’s arsenal these days.

Vasu, then suddenly with his Kacchi Ghodi (steed) that’s long been associated to the band’s brand image; ran through the stage amidst the huge cheers in the crowd and Jishnu who does most of the talking for the band declared, ‘It is story-telling time’. They shelled out their hit from the first album ‘Pyaar ke rang’ a song of love that has been on their set-list since the ‘Soundpad’ days. Another song that hardly ever gives a miss in their live shows is ‘Yeshu Allah aur Krishna’ which is all about communal harmony, Kabir’s teachings and ‘Devotional Atyachaar’And the latest addition ‘Duur Kinara’ -a sensational collaboration with Shubha Mudgal reverberates loud in one’s head long after the last note has been played.

Varun’s strumming on the guitar has heavy western influences and Sanjeev’s mellifluous violin lines complement the music to form an impeccable fusion of rock and folk. Montry and Pavan’s percussions are tight, Jishnu’s bass and melodies perfect.  Vasu’s powerful vocals and the raw acoustic guitar guarantee unadulterated fun. But, Swarathma isn’t just about their music. They have their marketing skills sharpened and they know how to sell their brand. The myriad colours they flaunt on the stage can be seen on their cover art or their promotional posters. Be it the ‘Action Replay’ concerts for the underprivileged and disabled kids or the concerts for social causes such as Yamunotsav, ever since they took the Indian folk-rock genre by storm, they have won many friends and earned accolades all along their way.

In the end, Swarathma’s colourful music does more than putting a smile on your face. It makes you think, it inspires you.

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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


Topiwalleh by Swarathma


Swarathma is a talented group of musicians, just thinking about whom brings an explosion of colors in one’s head – not just because of the colourful dresses they don, not even because of the showmanship, the on-stage gimmickry or the props. These colours are of traditional art assimilated in an arrangement of largely western instruments, and the flamboyance with which the band rebukes the dishonest, mocks the ludicrous, and alleviates suffering through their honest rendition of songs that describe the world as they see it.

Their second album, Topiwalleh, is an experience where every word – spoken or sung, every pulse, beat, and measure, is a rush of colours of contrasting human emotions. Your senses are exposed to the entire spectrum in less than 55 minutes, if you listen closely. The melody is almost never melancholic, although when it’s dark, it’s ominous.

This album brought with it not just great music, but a lot of creativity in the album promotions too! Right from the colourful topis, the vibrant album cover, to running interesting contests on Facebook, and the launch followed by a ‘Restless Tour’ that took them to many cities over a period of one month, the band has done a fabulous job of promoting their new album.

Swarathma has six members: Vasu Dixit (vocals, rhythm guitar), Pavan Kumar KJ (percussion, backing vocals), Montry Manuel (drums), Varun Murali (lead guitar), Sanjeev Nayak (violin) and Jishnu Dasgupta (bass guitar, backing vocals), and for the sound that is more refined, all six members unequivocally acknowledge Loy Mendonsa (from the Shankar-Ehsan-Loy trio) who has co-produced this album.

One might as well call the band Swarathma 2.0, because of two noticeable things– one, a paradigm shift in the ‘sound’ of a recorded album, and two, a concept album with many societal messages being delivered within a span of 10 tracks. For the message to be heard and the outreach to be as vast as the problems addressed and solutions needed, their language of choice is Hindi, although they have sung in Kannada on two of the tracks.

Topiwalleh’ has an effervescent, Rastafarian reggae rhythm, a violin that can admiringly be called the second vocalist for the track, a laid-back 40-second guitar solo and the superb backing vocals. The lyrics take a dig at everything that’s wrong in the current political circles. There are many tongue-in-cheek references and no-holds-barred statements that the artists have taken the liberty to make on this track.

‘Koorane’, my favorite track from the album, starts with the sounds that we relate to crying of wolves on a full-moon night. Varun Murali finds a fit to display the rock in his guitar, which is alarmingly close to ‘Roadhouse Blues’ by The Doors. The song seems to draw a metaphor – the mention of a rare animal Koorane being hunted by the hunters (human or otherwise). Think capitalism, consumerism, how the society is fascinated by television and advertisements, while disrobing itself of tradition and a sense of judgment, hypnotized by the domineering supremacy of advertising duplicity.

‘Rishton Ka Raasta’ is pleasing, and contemplative, with an intention that’s driven straight to the heart by the expressive violin (the tone sounding almost like it’s a Saarangi) that opens this song which is about broken relations and the willingness to mend fences. For me, it delivers the most powerful message in the entire album.

‘Ghum’ is characterized by a sense of despair, urgency, and hopelessness, made apparent within the first 90 seconds of the song. The mood remains largely that, only you’d have to find an interview where the band mentions what this song is about. This is their voice against child sexual abuse, and is the gloomiest of all tracks on the album.

‘Naane Dari’ starts with a superb guitar solo but everything else plays second fiddle to the violin and to the terrific lyrics. ‘Naane Daari’ (I am my own way) talks about hope and leaving the past behind.

‘Aaj Ki Taaza Fikar’ may confuse you with the way it begins, if you ever used to trip on ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ OST (think ‘Jaane Kyun’) – and perhaps thank Loy Mendonsa? The highlight of this track is the juicy potpourri of all the overused or hyped snippets on the television (‘Sannate ko cheerti hui sansani’ and the like). It lands a sucker-punch on the sensationalism as created by the media.

‘Mukhote’ has got a fragrant, violin-drenched overture. This is a song about the two-facedness in human relations, the drumming stands out and is most imaginative among all tracks on the album.

‘Duur Kinara’, featuring Shubha Mudgal, has everything that is being and has been talked about already. Shubha’s vivacious vocals work perfectly with Vasu’s high-pitched recital of the Kannada lines on this track about separation from loved ones and the desire to unite, and about tales of a far-away land.

‘Yeshu Allah aur Krishna’ is where the arrangement goes back to reggae for most part, the violin speaks as if reinforcing the spoken words, and the vocals are dramatic and appealing. The song speaks about religious evangelists and communalism, but unless you are a in a mood to complain about the issue really, you might just end up dancing along with this one as well.

On a splendid album, where nine songs talk about one powerful subject each, ‘Khul Ja Re’ is one song that apathetically speaks of optimism with adolescent lyrics and ordinary singing. For being a keepsake from the band’s past, ‘Khul Ja Re’ is forgivable.

All said and done, social issues and worldly worries notwithstanding, Topiwalleh is a fun album. The sheer energy that makes the audience sway during their live shows is not missing on this record. Though the lyrics may seem juvenile here and there, the maturity that’s apparent for most part of the album compensates for it. The lead guitar has got to find a voice by bringing in more tones and risk-taking. As far as the percussion and violin are concerned, I would not want to change a thing. For the vocals though, my only sour point remains the habit of throwing the last note (for instance – at 1:29 mark in ‘Koorane’).

Swarathma has already started working on their third album and until that is out, buying a digital copy of Topiwalleh and listening to it is only the second best choice. The best choice is to land up at a Swarathma gig, and treat your senses to the musical mixture of colors, sights and sounds.

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Gaurrav Tiwari

Drummer at DIARCHY, and HR Manager at Genpact


The Big Junction Jam Festival- Day 1


Something that I have learnt over the years about Indian musical events, especially those that have live music, is that they never seem to start off at the scheduled hour. I walked in at 10:30 sharp, on that lazy Saturday morning, into the Big Junction Jam Festival arena in Palace Grounds and was greeted by Swarathma, at work on their sound check. A quick round of introduction with Karan Karthik (from The Live Gig) revealed that their sound check started an hour back. Well, it continued for the next hour or so, while I lazily roamed around the place.

After what seemed like an eternity (but was really a couple of hours), Bangalore based Old School Rebels got on the stage & kicked off the festival. Playing an extremely short set (which almost every band, that followed them, did over the course of the fest) of four tracks, they played two of their originals, covering Audioslave’s ‘Revelations’ & Velvet Revolver’s ‘Slither’. Maybe it was the lack of a sizeable audience, the set never made quite an impression by the time it ended.

Local Bangalore based jazz-fusion jam act Bourbon Street were up next, with Fidel from Old School Rebels on the bass again. Bourbon Street is fronted by Jerome Mascarenhas, who was missing from the action this time around. In his place was a thin lad named Ganesh, whom I hadn’t seen play with them before. I was told this wasn’t his first gig with them, which was evident from the way he was on the stage. Playing originals as well as covering old songs like Bobby Hebb’s ‘Sunny’, & Phish’s ‘Free’, their set was cut short as well, and was plagued by sound glitches, the booming bass & the inaudible-at-times lead guitars. One noticeable cover was that of ‘Nature Boy’, a poem, originally performed by Nat King Cole.

The all-Infy band Joos followed Bourbon Street for their set. Playing an original ‘Float’ with three covers that included Elvis’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’; this was a decent set, although the vocals were a bit of a disappointment!

Black Sun, a 3 piece blues-rock act from Bangalore came in next. Not having heard of the band earlier, I had absolute zero expectations from them, and was pleasantly surprised to see three young lads climb the stage. Playing a real tight but short set, that included a self-composition oddly titled ‘Old Monk’, they were probably the only act of the day that asked for a couple of minutes for an extra song, and the organizers obliged. Closing off with a neat cover of Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child’, they were well received by the limited audience that had gathered by now.

By the time I had got my share of chicken wings (Plan B had a counter in there!) and a couple of beers to wash them down, Mad Orange Fireworks had set up and were halfway into their first song. With Michael Dias fronting the band, it was difficult to miss the TAAQ/Bengaluru Rock flavor this band’s music has. Also, the fact that the first gig these guys played together was just couple of months back wasn’t really evident, with original compositions taking preference over covers for the majority. Their tremendous energy throughout their set wasn’t lost on the audience either.

Towards the end of the afternoon, a decent number had turned up and The Indian Blues and Khalihan got to perform before the event was interrupted by rain. The Indian Blues seemed to make an impression with the presence of a sarod and a santoor on stage; however Khalihan failed to create much of an impact.

When I had read the schedule for the festival, one thing that caught my eye was Live Banned, the only act mentioned sans the genre of music they played. Imagine the shock when they got on stage. Forget the black metal bands with corpse paint or GWAR with whatever they wear; these guys had the most insanely funny outfits I have seen a desi band sport. Still no hints on what they’d play though. I did not see what was coming my way. A Tamil movie song is what the guy next to me says. Okay. Wait! Baazigar’s ‘Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhen’? Crossed with Maiden’s ‘Fear Of The Dark’? Was I drunk or was that the Swat Cats theme? The Terminator? The most entertaining act of the day till then, Live Banned had everyone up on their feet and close to the stage in no time. Hope this act lasts, entertaining audiences in the days to come, and I hope their gags on stage do not repeat either.

Mumbai based raga rock act Paradigm Shift were a surprise entry among the headliners, and their beautiful set left no doubts that they deserved the spot. Their seamless blend of Indian classical music & rock n’ roll was vibrant enough to draw us closer to the stage and pay attention to them. With a violinist in the fold, the sound was very different from what we had expected of them. Vocalist Kaushik who, we later learnt had no formal training in classical music, has very soothing sufi-esque vocals. The track ‘Dhuan’ was the highlight of their set, probably the most polished song of them all. They paid a tribute to A.R Rahman covering the title track of the movie Roja.

The only progressive yet melodic hard-rock act of the day, Evergreen from Kochi took stage as the Sun went down. The traces of metal in Evergreen’s music, if not abundant, are evident. Fresh from the release of their latest video (City Blocks), their set was probably the longest of the day. Playing regulars like ‘From Here To Clarity’ and ‘Vengeance’, their DT/Rush influenced song writing, if not as prolific as either, was a breath of fresh, though heavier air from the rest of acts. Though the audience reception wasn’t very warm, they were the perfect openers for the rest of the headlining acts that followed.

Carnatic rock aficionados ‘Agam’ came on at the far end of the first day of the Big Junction Jam, right into slots reserved for headlining acts. After a short and uneventful sound check (as opposed to the longer ones audiences had to endure prior to the bona fide professionals grabbing the stage), Agam’s Harish Sivaramakrishnan introduced their first song ‘Brahma’s dance’; he sure had to make time for a hat tipping to the organizers and the crowd which was a nice little touch. Despite its down-tempo beginning, ‘Brahma’s Dance’ had the band off to a strong start. It took the first few bars of the song for Harish to settle into his vocals, a minor flub we heartily ignored. A strong point toward the middle of the song is an amber-toned shot glass of Harish’s special brand of rock Carnatic vocal that’s come to be the quintessential Agam flavour. A rising crescendo with an abrupt end had the crowd sighing with relief at the arrival of one of the few refined bands of the day! ‘Raag Dhanashree’ was up next and began strong on the tabla and electric guitar; the violin nosed its way in after Harish’s mike, toning it down just enough to meld with the song rather than overshadow it. And lo and behold, there was a sudden crowd in the front – stark contrast to the motley crew that had populated the area so far – mostly photographers, who ambled around looking like stragglers at an after party.

A flurry of well-rounded musical scales in the interim and the band was already halfway through the four-song set! ‘Lakshya Padhyai’ or ‘Path of Aspirations’, the next song, had a notable jazzy bass guitar face off – so short, you could miss it – that is a highlight of the song for this jazz lover. Beautifully light violin notes lead into the bridge and on into the end of the song. ‘Raaga’ was up next with the first Hindi lyrics of the set and a heavier sound justifying their ‘rock’ tag. With its short staccato stabs of guitar playing, the song was the first to get the crowd going in what seems like forever! It even brought Harish down to his knees – making photographers scramble to capture it! ‘Malhar jam’, usually the best kind of crowd-pleaser, was up next, but the band was cut off by the organisers. Harish made a valiant attempt at a last song but he was shot down.

Parvaaz, Bangalore-based psychedelic/blues outfit was up next. Having seen them win the Unmaad gig in IIM-B earlier this year, and then play at Fireflies as well, and the level of commitment they have shown at each and every gig, the only grudge I have against them, if I were to nitpick, is the lyrical content, which just doesn’t seem to match up with the music they play. Either that, or I don’t get it at all. Probably the latter. The show was running late as it is and musical sharks Swarathma and the percussion masters Beat Gurus waited patiently in the wings, waiting to do justice to the stage.

Enter Beat Gurus & the crowd that had pretty much settled down for a short break was back, up against the stage barricades in a minute. This decade old percussion-only group is a familiar name amongst namma Bengaluru music aficionados. The octet got on stage, a quick sound check was followed by a quick exit and a quick return in colorful kurtas. Well, the quick part about their stage act showed up in the length of their set as well. Two songs were all they got time to play. The seasoned performers they are, the audience was clapping along in no time cheering them on. Almost everyone, including the band, wanted this to last a bit longer, but time was running out and the biggest act of the day was gearing up to close the night.

Swarathma, arguably the biggest folk rock act India has seen in recent times, finally took the stage at quarter past ten. After a second and thankfully shorter sound-check, they started off the proceedings with ‘E Bhoomi’. Crowd favorites like ‘Yeshu, Allah aur Krishna’ shortly followed up. Swarathma are a treat to watch live, despite the relentless touring they seem to be on nowadays. Be it Vasu Dixit’s humor on the stage, his word-play with Jishnu, or Varun Murali’s flawless guitar playing, they have something for everyone in the audience, be it the musician or the ones who are in for the fun. Vasu was off the stage in the middle of the song and before you knew it he was dancing on the thela right in the middle of the crowd, urging everyone who had waited patiently for them to be a part of the act. It was nearing eleven already and even Swarathma ended up with just a four song set at the end of the day. I rue the fact that their sound-check in the morning lasted long enough to eat up into the length of their own set, not counting the bands that didn’t get a chance to play at all.

Despite the good music, the food and the beer, the number of people who attended was lower than expected. We finally left the venue, a little disappointed, but secretly hoping that the scene would improve on the second day of the festival.

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Sharanya Nair

Sharanya is a 'writer' and an 'editor'. You know the type. She loves her music too much to share.


Swarathma at Infosys, Bangalore


I made my way to the Convention Hall with a million questions running through my mind. Would I witness yet another show of forced humility and rehearsed answers? Or perhaps some half-baked, half-hearted replies to my painstakingly constructed questions? On entering the hall, I let out a groan as I noticed that the sound check was still on. ‘Oh great!’, I said to myself, ‘good luck rounding up the band members in one place for the interview!’

A minute passed, and I found these thoughts dissolving into oblivion. I let the music wash over me; the effect was hard to describe – a lot like balm to the restless soul, and this was only the sound check! As I sank into the chair in an inconspicuous corner of the hall, I heard Vasu call out to his band-mates – “Guys, this is Priyanka from What’s The Scene, she’s here to interview us.” A warm welcome followed. ”We owe her this one for a long time now”, said Jishnu as he greeted me with a hug. I recalled the interview-with-Swarathma-that-hadn’t-happened at Hard Rock Café, Bangalore, I remember being quite miffed that day because despite our having reached the venue hours in advance, the TV9 crew who had walked in much later with a video camera had left with an interview, but not us!  I found solace from the fact that I was going to interview the band right here, in my campus.

Swarathma at Infosys, Bangalore

I have interviewed bands before and, most of the time, this is how it works – one person from the band (if you’re lucky, two) answers most of the questions while the others look on. This time, however, it was different: within a minute, all the members of the band were sitting around me, taking turns to answer the questions I rolled out to them. Each question was treated with the same level of importance and interest. Jishnu with his effortless humour kept the mood light and prevented the rather long interview from becoming a drag. None of that “We’re taking the stage now- please wrap this up quickly” talk; instead, they took turns getting dressed while the rest continued to answer my questions. Finally, five minutes before they took to the stage, I wrapped up the interview and took my seat in the audience. A dash of colour! The stage stood completely transformed – vibrant and enlivened by a group of six people in colourful attire! This was what I expected from the show – they were going to play one song after another, the songs were going to be awesome and we’d all applaud and retire to the bus bay. Little did I know that we had some surprises in store for us!

Swarathma at Infosys, Bangalore

I had wondered backstage why the band felt the need to wear these costumes, but as the show progressed, it became apparent to me – well, maybe it’s just my imagination but it seemed to me as if they were wearing exactly what they feel inside! Vasu, like a free spirit, was blissfully lost in the music, dancing with abandon, like a leaf flitting about in strong winds- the perfect front man. The flamboyant orange pattern on his blue pyjama, the bright green shoes with colourful laces, the silver ring tied with a black thread around his throat that danced about with every note he hit – all oddly endearing!

Swarathma at Infosys, Bangalore

It soon dawned on me that Swarathma has six front men. Jishnu, with his curled mojdis and embellished yellow jacket over a silk kurta, kept the crowd engrossed as much with his bass playing as with his ability to be funny, charming and endearing.  Montry seemed rather ‘vocal’ and expressive with his drumming, which made up for the fact that he’s rather quiet in person. Sanjeev, dressed in his peculiar and rather unique coat, looked like a magician captivating the audience with the intoxicating tunes he conjured out of his violin. Pavan added the extra zing to the songs with the precise percussion. Varun’s brilliance on the electric guitar wasn’t lost on the audience. I’m not too sure if it’s his style, but Varun seemed a little aloof onstage when compared to the rest of the band.

Swarathma at Infosys, Bangalore

Mukhota’, ‘Khul Ja Re’, ‘Patte Saare’,’Topiwaale’, ‘E Bhoomi’, ‘Yeshu Allah Aur Krishna’ and ‘Pyaasi’ seemed to get the best response from the crowd. But the song that appealed to me the most personally was ‘Gum’ – this one was about child sexual abuse. I remember closing my eyes to grasp the feel of the song. The mood shifted from merry to brooding, as the dark tune engulfed my senses and took me through the torment that a victim would probably go through. As Vasu imitated the cries of a little child, the haunting tunes from the violin stirred us out of our indifference: and when I opened my eyes, there they stood – six protestors urging us to unmask the evil doers who live amongst us, unpunished. The mood was lightened considerably by the next song that featured a riveting jugalbandi between the percussionists. Vasu’s theatricals were absolutely brilliant – the man is a consummate artist: from design to theatre to music, he’s only finding new means of expressing the myriad of emotions within.

Swarathma at Infosys, Bangalore

As Vasu walked up to the members of the audience, engaged them in conversation, made them dance, formed a human train that ran all around the convention hall, I realized the magnitude of the feat the band had accomplished. Never before had I witnessed anyone work their magic on people to the extent of pulling them out of the shells they surround themselves with all the time. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Swarathma!

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Priyanka Shetty

Priyanka Shetty is the founder of What's The Scene? Follow Priyanka on Twitter @priyanka_shetty