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Rocking the reclamation

In the inconclusive debate of live music versus studio sound, Swarathma, a six-member outfit from Bangalore, made a compelling case for the former.

mumbai Updated: Nov 24, 2009 01:14 IST
Purva Mehra

In the inconclusive debate of live music versus studio sound, Swarathma, a six-member outfit from Bangalore, made a compelling case for the former.

Before the band eased into its easy, infectious folk rock, their resplendent, traditional get-ups paired incongruently with dazzling sneakers set the tone for the theatrics that were to follow. Vasu Dixit, the band’s little frontman, with a big, soulful voice and bigger hair began on Ambar, a stirring melody that brought back the dissipating audience and several eager motorists during a gig at the Celebrate Bandra Festival held in partnership with the Hindustan Times.

In the six years of its being, Swarathma has amassed in Mumbai a considerable listener base, many of whom chorused with the band’s crowd pullers, Patte Saare and Yeshu Allah Aur Krishna, a track with a get-on-your-feet sound that belied several layers of meaning.

“We’re constantly innovating. Most of our songs were written long ago but with each performance they grow and sound different, as we like to experiment with instruments such as the kanjira, ghatam, dholak and mridangam,” said Varun (guitar and backing vocals).

The band’s eclectic compositions accommodated reggae, Carnatic and Baul regional styles and a welcome serving of humour to alleviate the intensity of their lyrics.

“We also play songs with no meanings and have plenty that are sung in a lighter vein such as 123 Let’s Go or Mauj Kare. It’s always a challenge to perform in Mumbai because people have such varied exposure to the arts here that we always have to think of ways to make it different,” said Dixit.

While the enthused crowd at the Reclamation Promenade didn’t get a peek at the band’s mascot the Ghodi (an accessorised, stuffed horse found in Rajasthan’s folk fairs) on which Dixit is known to prance, they did release custom-made Swarathma kites that soared unnoticed in to the ebony sky.

“We’re each of us from creative backgrounds and it’s always our attempt to render our live acts entertaining to distinguish it from the album experience. No one returns for a live gig to hear the band sound just like they did on the CD,” said Varun, defending their outrageous stage acts that run the risk of getting slotted as tricks.

But judging by the encore that followed their 10-minute version of Ee Bhoomi, the concluding track of the performance, Swarathma need not worry about any such presumptions.