Sweet Sound of Scams

Topiwalleh,the new album by folk group Swarathma,takes up issues of political scandals and corruption

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published: April 4, 2012 12:04:30 am

Topiwalleh,the new album by folk group Swarathma,takes up issues of political scandals and corruption

At gigs,Vasu “Ghodi” Dixit prances around performing the Kacchi ghodi dance with a dummy horse as his prop. All the while,his band mates,dressed in colourful costumes,fill the stage with guitar riffs,violin strains,djembe beats and folksy vocals. This mix of street theatre and folk music has made the band,Swarathma,instantly recognisable in the country’s “musicscape”. “You are going to see more of Kacchi ghodi soon as we will tour the country in May with our new album,” says Vasu.

A trained theatreperson,Dixit formed the band in 2002 with a group of friends,all of who were passionate about social activism as well as music. Hence,the name of their second album comes as no surprise,Topiwalleh,conjuring images of politicians.The nine-track album will be released later this month.

The band — Pavan Kumar KJ on djembe and kanjira,Jishnu Dasgupta on bass guitar and backing vocals,Montry Manuel on drums,Sanjeev Nayak on violin and Varun on lead guitar — say that their sound has evolved since their eponymous debut album. “We have a clear musical ideology now,” says Dixit. They roped in musician Loy Mendonca as the producer. “Loy sharpened the focus in such a way that it was possible to retain the live ethos of our band,” says Dasgupta.

The album opens with the title track,Topiwalleh,a satirical take on the plethora of scams in the country. It begins with a Nukkad natak (street theatre) feel,with two men talking to each other. So when William Shakespeare’s famous line ‘To be or not to be’ is sung as 2G or not 2G,“it sort of tingles you,entertains you,but still makes you ponder over what is happening,” says Dixit. Other numbers include Aaj Ki Taaza Fikar,about trivialising Breaking News,and Kooraane that brings together influences from a folk song from tribal Karnataka and talks about consumerism.

“Every 100 km in this country,the dialects change,allowing us to get influenced by various kinds of folk music and giving it our own spin,” says Dixit.

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