Sunday, December 11, 2011

Making the guitar sing

Ace guitarist Baiju Dharmarajan is on a creative high, after his departure from Motherjane. His collaboration with international percussionist and composer Karshkale will be shown on Star World on Sunday, December 11

By Shevlin Sebastian .

Guitarist Baiju Dharmarajan is excited. At 8 p.m. on Sunday, December 11, on Star World his performance on the Dewarists show will be telecast. This show, sponsored by Dewars scotch whisky company, based in Scotland, is a collaboration of musicians of different genres. So Baiju has played with noted US-based percussionist and composer Karshkale, and Harigovind, a master of the edakka drum at Angadipuram, Malappuram district.

“Karshkale played electronic music, Harigovind hit the drums in his traditional style, while I played rock music,” says Baiju. The song is called ‘Sacred Science’.

Not many people may have heard of Baiju, but in the music world, he has a stellar reputation. On December 1, when the young rock band, ‘Evergreen’, staged a performance at the Children’s Park, opposite the Gold Souk, Kochi, highlighting the dangers of the Mullaperiyar Dam, it was the forty-something Baiju who stole the show.

Dressed casually in a blue T-shirt and jeans, he let rip chords that made the guitar weep, sing, laugh and cry out aloud. Sometimes, his face contorted with the effort. Sometimes, his body shook. And always, the tendons on his arms stood out, as his fingers ran up and down the frets. There was no doubting his extraordinary skill. The piercing sounds pierced the soul. There was a pin-drop silence in the motley crowd of youngsters, middle-aged parents, children, and idle bystanders. In the end, the ‘Evergreen’ kids got a master class in guitar-playing.

Baiju, of course, made his name as the lead guitarist of Motherjane, one of the top bands from Kerala, which had a nation-wide impact. Their original album, ‘Maktub’ became a hit and established the band’s reputation.

“We travelled all over India, doing shows in IIT and engineering colleges,” says Baiju. “There are thousands of professional colleges in the country. It is like a sub-continent.” And the band raked in the moolah. In two-and-a-half years, the five-member team earned Rs 42 lakh. “If you are a top class musician, you can survive easily,” says Baiju, with an easy smile.

But all good things have to come to an end. Differences about the creative direction of the band forced Baiju to opt out of Motherjane in November, 2010. “I have a lot of ambitions,” he says. “I want to move to the next level.”

He has now set up a new band, with a drummer called Sojan, vocalist, Richard Wilson, and bass guitarist Vivian verghese. He is now looking for a keyboard player. In this one year, Baiju has composed 12 songs. “I am in the recording stage,” he says. “Then there will be practice sessions, followed by live shows. It is time-consuming. If you start any business, it takes time to get it moving. It is the same with a band.” Along with this, Baiju is also helping new and upcoming bands like ‘Kaav’ to produce an album. He is like a guru to them.

At a restaurant in Kochi, Baiju looks happy, accompanied by Kaav band members Shyam n pai, and Arun s kumar. “I have no regrets about leaving Motherjane,” says Baiju. “In fact, I have become free. I am able to understand my strengths only after I left. I am a lot more creative now.”

Baiju is the son of Dharmajan, a government servant, who played the Hawaiian guitar as a hobby. Baiju learnt the guitar when he was 13. But his initial musical influences were all Indian. “Thanks to my father, I grew up listening to the ghazals of Mehdi Hasan. shamsad Begum, and Anup Jalota. I also listened to Tamil and Malayalam film music. My all-time favourite is Yesudas.”

And it would be the legendary singer, while giving an interview to the BBC, who would provide a tip that Baiju took to heart. “Music is like a lamp,” Yesudas said. “If you clean the lamp every day and put oil in it, it will glow. But if for a couple of days you do not do anything, immediately, dust will gather and the lamp will lose its glow. That is the same with music. Constant practice is the key to excellence.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)


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