ByÂ Shubhodeep Datta:
The lead vocalist makes 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 is donning one of his many frilly Rajasthani Kurtas and the violinist, his glittery suit. Clad in a flowery shirt with shiny purple bellbottoms, the percussionist cum vocalist seems to have made his way straight out of the sets of a 70’s Bollywood movie. The guitarist though was making his statement with his long locks rather than his motely robe that he had forgotten to wear. A diminutive figure with a huge gleaming smile on his face takes his place behind the drums and music is all set to roll. Welcome, Swarathma!
Yamunotsav’12- an initiative by the 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 and 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 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 halts to give a sneak peek into their next song, ‘Since we are at Yamunotsav, this song too is 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 jeers jocularly, ‘Which Chord is it by the way?’ The audience explodes in to a fit of laughter and Jishnu remarks, ‘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 claims, ‘Ab vaqt hai political debate ka’ (Now, it’s the time for a political debate). They churn out many of their songs from the recent album and each one distinctly different from each one. 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, suddenly with his Kacchi Ghodi (steed) that’s long been associated to the band’s brand image; runs through the stage amidst the huge cheers in the crowd and Jishnu who does most of the talking for band declares, ‘It is story-telling time.’ Their hit song from the first album ‘Pyaar ke rang’ is a song of love and had been on their set-list since the ‘Soundpad’ days. Another song that hardly ever gives a miss in the live shows is ‘Yeshu Allah aur Krishna’ which is all about ‘Devotional Atyachaar’. The song speaks of communal harmony and Kabir’s teachings.
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’s and Pavan’s percussions are tight, Jishnu’s bass and melodies perfect. Whereas, Vasu’s powerful vocals and the raw acoustic guitar guarantees 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 of colours they flaunt on the stage can be seen on their cover arts 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 earned many friends and accolades all 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!