Baiju Dharmajan Forms A New Band With Kolkata Musicians
Former Motherjane guitarist readies album with his new prog rock band, Antaraka
Guitarist Baiju Dharmajan is to the Indian music scene what Sidd Coutto is to Mumbai. Since he parted ways with Kochi rockers Motherjane in late 2010, the Carnatic guitarist has become a compulsive collaborator of sorts, jamming with acts as varied as electronica duo Midival Punditz and Carnatic fusion band, Karnatriix, to English metal band Sacred Mother Tongue’s Andy James, besides working on his solo project.
This year alone, his signature Carnatic riffs can be heard on at least five different albums, in addition to movie soundtracks and other projects. There is the album with guitarist Sanjeev Thomas and another with Hindi prog rockers Antariksh from Delhi. Dharmajan also features on Midival Punditz’s fourth album, and besides touring and working on a new solo album, he is busy at work at Thomas’s Springr studio in Kochi for an album with his newly formed prog rock band, Antaraka, which includes a group of young musicians from Kolkata. “I always wanted to play something different and I’m guaranteeing that this will be something very big. This is the kind of music I’ve been dreaming about,” he says of Antaraka in a telephone interview from his jampad in VypinIsland near Kochi. Antaraka includes Dharmajan on guitars, Avirup Bose on drums, Saptarishi Roy on keys and classically trained vocalist in Shounak Bhowmick, who has also trained in konnakol (the vocal representation of drumming patterns usually played on instruments such as the mridangam and kanjira). Dharmajan goes as far to suggest that Antaraka’s sound is Dream Theater-meets-Carnatic. “I’ve played some progressive rock stuff with Motherjane, but this is something different and extreme prog rock. There are a lot of odd time meters, extreme guitarlines, where nothing is planned,” he says.
Antaraka came together after Roy saw Dharmajan perform at JadavpurUniversity. “Avirup and I went to see Baiju Dharmajan Syndicate. We had this idea of prog rock band with Carnatic and metal elements, but we were looking for a guitarist,” says Roy. It was the drummer [Avirup] who first suggested Dharmajan as a likely bandmate, so Roy shot the guitarist an email.
Says Dharmajan, “It was an emotional mail that talked about how they really wanted to play with me. And I get a lot of mails like that [asking for collaborations] every day, so I told them to send me some songss.” The Kochi guitarist only has superlatives for some of the songs Roy sent him: “beautiful compositions with some konnakol,” “truly original stuff,” “something big,” “shocked to see this kind of potential exists.”
In July, the trio from Kolkata arrived in Kerala to start work on the album. “We have finished about 8-9 tracks already,” adds Dharmajan, tracking the progress of their 10-song debut, which he plans to ready by the end of this month.
This article appeared in the September 2013 issue of ROLLING STONE India.