Monday, May 28, 2012

Crossing over to a new beginning

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn

One of India's premier guitarists, Baiju Dharmajan, is about to release his first solo album, ‘The Crossover’

Photos: Baiju Dharmajan; the cover of the album

By Shevlin Sebastian

A few months ago, Baiju Dharmajan had gone to Munnar to spend a few days. He was accompanied by two members of the music group, 'Kaav': Syam N Pai and Shabeer P Ali. One day, at dawn, Baiju got up and looked out. It was cold, misty, and cloudy. “There was a strange mood,” says Baiju. He picked up the guitar and began to play a few chords. Thankfully, Syam, who had awakened, captured it on a handycam. Syam suggested that that it could be put on the album that Baiju was working on. The latter agreed. “When I returned to Kochi, I developed it into a full-fledged song, called 'Landscape,'” he says.

Thereafter, he worked on another five songs. This comprises the album, 'The Crossover' which is expected to come out at the end of May. “'The Crossover' is the merging of Eastern and Western music,” he says. “Most of the lead guitar sounds have a Carnatic base.”

Among the other compositions there is one called 'Cyber Reptile'. “The new-generation kids are so obsessed with the Internet, Facebook and You Tube, apart from mobile phones,” he says. “They are crawling in cyberspace, like hungry reptiles.”

Another work, 'Philia', is an emotional one. “I wanted to show my love for my daughters,” he says. At present, his elder daughter, Ahana, is in Class 12, while the second child, Neha, is in Class seven. The nearly seven-minute song begins softly and then explodes into some intense lead guitar riffs, backed by drumbeats as background music. There is, as Baiju says, a bit of a Carnatic influence, with the plaintive sound that the guitar makes at times. It is attractive listening.

Since these are instrumental songs, people, who have heard it, have reacted in different ways. “If there were lyrics, there would have been a similar reaction,” says Baiju, with a smile.

What has been unusual is that Baiju played the instruments on his own – the lead and bass guitar  –  and programmed the drums, in his studio, 'Mystic Island', Kochi, and mixed it himself.

But now he has invited a few fellow musicians to play the songs with him. They include Alex Puthumana on the bass, Jayaraj on the drums, and Lancy on vocals and the keyboard. Baiju, of course, will play the lead guitar. In early June, the group will embark on a seven-city tour – Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Kolkata and Guwahati  – to launch the album. “We are busy doing rehearsals,” he says.

Baiju is releasing the music digitally through international web sites like Amazon and CD Baby. Also, through his recording company, Cochym (old name for Cochin), the CD will be available all over Europe.

The Mumbai-based Heena Kriplani, Entertainment Relations at Gibson Guitar, one of the top guitar brands in the world, has heard the some unmixed tracks from 'The Crossover'. “I love the bits I have heard,” she says. “There is some wonderful instrumentation. It seems to me that Baiju has really come into his own on this solo album.”

It is clear that Baiju has a God-given talent. “But he has backed it up with sheer hard work,” says Heena. “The things that he can do with a guitar are quite remarkable.”

When Baiju quit the well-known Motherjane band on November 24, 2010, people wondered what his future direction was going to be like. But he has been busy, appearing on the Dewarists show on Star World, a collaboration of musicians of different genres.

Baiju played with noted US-based percussionist and composer Karshkale, and Harigovind, a master of the Edakka drum. He was also a producer of 'Kaav's album, ‘Rhapsody of Rain’, and did a tour with the jazz fusion band called Blue Fire. “We played in Mumbai, Pune, and Goa,” he says.

When asked whether he has any regrets about leaving Motherjane, Baiju says, “Not at all. I have been composing new songs, changed my style of play, and worked with different groups. I have associated with all types of musicians. It has been fun and a good time creatively.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram) 

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