Band : Agam
Artists : Harish Sivaramakrishnan(vocals and violin)
Ganesh Ram Nagarajan(drums and backing vocals)
Swamy Seetharaman(keyboards and lyricist)
T Praveen Kumar(lead guitar)
Vignesh Lakshminarayanan(bass guitar and backing vocals)
Sivakumar Nagarajan(ethnic percussions)
Jagadish Natarajan(rhythm guitar)
Banner : Independent
Genre : Carnatic Progressive Rock
Long have you searched for an answer to counter your father or grandfather who praise the sanctity of traditional Indian classical music, and nothing else. Has the solution arrived? Not quite. But, here is a solution for tradition and modernization to holistically co-exist. Meet ‘Agam’ – patrons of Carnatic Progressive Rock. Originally started as the result of the passion for music of a group of students from BITS Pilani, Pilani Campus, the band has reached great heights in a matter of a few years. Arguably the pioneers of their genre, the band was the winner of “Ooh La La”, Sun TV’s reality show, judged by the maestro A. R. Rahman himself, who praised their style a lot. ‘The Inner Self Awakens’, their recently released debut album, is an enthralling mix of compositions in various South Indian languages, purely blending traditional music with rock. Let us go through an analysis of the songs.
|The Boat Song|
|Swans of Saraswati|
Album Analysis :-
This song is actually a prayer. But, not the kind you usually witness in temples. This is more of a radical, energized prayer – one which fills the realm in scenarios of ingrained troubles. Although the title is dedicated to Lord Brahma, the track ends up being a tribute to the ‘Thrimoorthees’ of Indian mythology, namely, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Even while diving deep into the intricacies of the song, one will wonder how a peaceful prayer can be made so powerful, without losing the spirituality of it, even a bit. The excellent guitar work, vocals and the beat is set to take even the firmest atheist into a trance. Must not miss!
‘Cloud Nine’?‘Seventh Heaven’? Maybe all of them combined. That’s what this track is. ‘Dhanashree Thillana’ is a very unique interpretation of the Thillana composed by the renowned king ‘Swati Thirunal’ of Kerala in the Carnatic raga Dhanasri. As it is, the thillana had it’s own charm, which is now intensified much more by the band. Even an avid Western music follower would become a fan of Carnatic music with this rendition. Pleasant, blissful and enchanting. Worth listening!
This track might be described as a direct hologram of a real Shiv Tandav, roughly explained as Lord Shiva’s dance in anger. With a very powerful vocal and even more powerful instrumentals backing it, the spark of Shiva’s Tandav is instantly ignited in the listener’s mind. It is as if, Shiva’s stage is the listener’s soul. The commencement of the track consists of a zealous beat repeated in succession eight times, continuing into the vocals. Although the beat is one and the same, it strangely builds up effective impetus with each repetition, ultimately converging on the summit with the start of the vocals. An awesome track!
4.The Boat Song
Ever thought songs from the countryside lacked finesse? You stand corrected. Perhaps the most light-hearted song in the album, the Boat Song is Agam’s version of the traditional Vanchippattu(which translates to ‘The Boat Song’) , sung by the famous Snake Boat racers of Kerala, to instill the energy in their teammates during a race. Written entirely in Malayalam, the song, originally very plain, has been bombarded with semi-classical and rock elements one after the other, which takes it many levels further. If you are a Keralite, your blood is sure to boil in your veins with pride upon listening to this one. If not, you are sure to get into the shoes of one, when you move with the beat and enjoy each and every moment. A great rendition!
5.Swans of Saraswati
This track is a variation of Shri Thyagaraja Swamigal’s composition by the name of ‘Bandureeti Kolu’in the raga Hamsanaadam. A very respectable version indeed, with ample attention given to the raga and the original lyrics, coalescing it with progressive rock. However, to an ordinary listener with little or no knowledge about Carnatic Music, the instrumental portions seem to fall off-place at certain points. The pieces may be of pin point accuracy with respect to the restrictions of the raga, but it seems to be a little strange to a normal listener, who looks to enjoy the pure, entertaining music. A very commendable rendition indeed, but the least favourable among the lot.
A surreal landscape is what the start of the song brings to mind. Set in a particular format, with no proper lyrics, this track has been made for good emphasis on the instrumentals, backing it up with the vocals, a reverse approach from the usual. The album version is different from the performance version, wherein they play an exuberant dual between the drummer and the percussionist. The omission of this part from the album track has decreased the shine, but to a first time listener, the track will feel as good as the others beyond doubt.
The album is a very unique composition which shoots Agam to the forefront of Progressive Rock. It is a guaranteed entertainer to all age groups alike – irrespective of the love for classical music or the undying passion for modern orchestration. Basically, it is a compound with an element for everyone.
Picks from the album : Dhanashree Thillana, Rudra
Verdict : Grab a copy as soon as possible !