Reaching for the stars

Marked on a "30 under 30" great guitarists list, Dhruv Viswanath is set to release his first album named after a passion

Do you have a favourite constellation? Dhruv Visvanath does. It was no surprise that when the 24-year-old was signed by Pentagram frontman and Bollywood composer Vishal Dadlani’s two-month-old label VLT (Vishal Likes This), he ended up calling it Orion.

It doesn’t take much for Visvanath, who says he spent endless hours as a kid watching the night sky, to get into its legend. “The story goes that when Orion’s family is captured by the gods, because of the treason committed by his father, he sets out on a journey to set them free. A bloody battle ensues where the gods emerge victorious. But, moved by Orion’s love for his family, the gods agree to release his family on the condition that Orion himself be imprisoned in the stars,” explains Visvanath.

Dhruv Viswanath

The Delhi-based musician — who was last year named ‘30 Great Guitarists Under 30’ by Acoustic Guitar Magazine, along side names like Ed Sheeran, Newton Faulkner and Sungha Jung — will be in town later this month to release his album.

The album, he says, grew out of a meeting with Dadlani two years ago at Hyderabad. “He was there playing with his band. When he learnt about my intention of recording an album, he offered me this opportunity,” Visvanath says over the phone. Work on it, however, progressed slowly as he and Dadlani had to rely coordinate over email and Skype. “The ball got rolling once we reached the recording stage. Then, we wrapped up in a month,” he says.

The music of Orion has been mixed by Keshav Dhar from progressive rock band Skyharbor and Viraj Mohan from electronic project Karajimo and mastered by Miles Showell from Abbey Road Studios, UK. With 14 tracks, the album is a rock opera with material written by Visvanath over the past four years.

“The sounds,” he says, “are very different from the type of songs I generally write.” Known for mellow numbers such as He Said She Said, Viswanath felt he was being slotted as someone who is perfect for the hills. “My songs were seen as something that could put you to sleep.

I wanted to explore a new dimension of songwriting, the more angry side where I could be loud and know what it is like to play that song as a band,” he says. Of the 14 songs, three are instrumental, four are sing-alongs and the remaining seven are his break from the norm. These have been recorded along with his band Dhruv Viswanath and Trio (DVT) with Amar Pandey (bass), Ishaan Gandhi (drums) and Ashwin Nayar (electric guitar).

He balances the theme of Orion with reality. For instance, the track Prisoner was written by Viswanath in 2012 after the Delhi gangrape. “I was appalled by that act of violence. And, the only way I could express myself was through a song.” On the other hand, Rain, was conceived when he sat listening to the splatter of rain one dreary evening last year. “I was inspired to layer the acoustic guitar to make it sound like an object. In that frenzy of experimentation, I ended up making 20-30 layers. It sounds like a thousand guitars playing, but I’ve played with just one,” he says.

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