Meet the God of Small Strings
As popular Kochi-based guitarist Baiju Dharmajan brings Carnatic Rock to town, he chats about pioneering the fusion style, and its global appeal
His fans know him as the God Of Small Strings (a moniker inspired by Arundhati Roy's debut novel), as he fuses Rock riffs with Carnatic overtones. However, Kochi-based Baiju Dharmajan, who pioneered the genre of Carnatic Rock in the late 90s, modestly credits the genre's success to "support from listeners and touring so that our music can travel places".
From enjoying a decade-long stint as lead guitarist with Motherjane — an Indian Rock band that bagged the top spot in Rock Street Journal's list of bands of the decade in 2010 — to releasing a solo album (The Crossover, 2012) and even forming his own band, Baiju Dharmajan Syndicate, the guitarist has come a long way. Now, as Baiju Dharmajan Syndicate — also featuring Sibi M Baby (vocals), Alloy Francis (drums), Sujay Subhash (bass), Aarabhy Surendran (rhythm guitars) — gears to enthrall Mumbai, the guitarist shares notes on his inimitable style. Excerpts:
Q. How would you define Carnatic Rock?
A. Carnatic Rock is about bringing a piece of the rich heritage we've grown up with to the stage and expressing it through the power of Rock. It's an experience we share with the audience. A lot of experimentation and inspiration from our influences has led to its inception. Carnatic music is such a flexible form of music that fusing Rock into it seemed natural for us.
Q. In what way does Carnatic Rock take Fusion to a new level?
A. Rock (music) is more emotionally expressive than any other form of music and the touch of Carnatic music, as well as the technicalities of Indian rhythm structures, make it a vibrant collision of different worlds in music. It's raw. It's powerful. It's life.
Q. While Carnatic Rock has gained popularity in the South, do you believe it has a global appeal?
A. I believe the world has good taste in music. They will love it as much as we love making it.
Q. Are Carnatic purists receptive to this genre?
A. Everyone has their own point of view but generally, we've been received well.
Q. What can Mumbai look forward to at this performance?
A. This is not the first time we're performing here, but this time will be completely different. We are definitely excited to be playing in Mumbai. We will be throwing in a few new songs from the new album and a different set list.
Q. What's next?
A. We're headed to the NH7 Weekender Pune and Part 2 of our band tour. We're also working to complete a new album.
On: November 12, 8.30 pm onwards
At: Hard Rock Cafe, Bombay Dyeing Mills Compound, Worli.
Cost: Rs 500 (cover charge)