Playing with percussion

Playing with percussion

Groovy beats

Playing with percussion

An eclectic mix of varied percussionists inspired the band ‘Swaha’. A mix of beats with an Indian twist, this six-member band takes music to anotherlevel. 

The group which comprises of Arun Sivag (on the djembe and timbal), Harish Sundaresh (on the timbal and vocals), Mahesh Kumar (on the drums), Michael Maxwell (beatboxing), Sujith Kumar V (on the dhol) and Sumukha G (on the flute), is a bundle of high energy and a perfect blend of creativity.

In a tete-a-tete with Tini Sara Anien, the members shed light on the interesting journey of the band.

How did the members come together?

Arun: We used to jam together for a while, before we decided to come together as a percussion band. We came together to do something unique and different using instruments from different countries, like Africa, South America, Brazil and incorporating this into Indian music was our mission. Not many people knew even our folk tradition and this was the right platform where everything blended in. We always wanted to sing music from the grassroot level.

The story behind the name...

Arun: The band is called ‘Swaha’, as every ‘mantra’ ends with that word. We have often ended music festivals and it has been grand, thus we just agreed on naming the band ‘Swaha’.

Experiences with the band...

Arun: We have visited countries like Sweden, Japan and many countries in Europe for performances. When we were in Sweden for 15 days, we did 14 concerts and it was exhilarating. Many people walked up to us and told us that their understanding of Indian music was just about music made by the tabla, sitar or mridangam. It felt so nice to break barriers.

How does each composition happen?

Mahesh: Each one of us has a different upbringing in music and our music-making process includes each one coming together with all these elements. There are elements like hip-hop and classical, which are put in together. We start playing, improvising here and there, and the song just happens. Our songs like ‘Bliss’, ‘Jog’ and even our anthem happened this way.

How has music evolved for you?

Michael: The journey with ‘Swaha’ has been amazing. Earlier we were all playing average music but we have all grown with the band. Now the band has stepped into many genres like mixing Indian classical music, having collaborations with African and Samba beats, learning to play around music, entertaining the crowd and understanding what the crowd appreciates. We have gone far ahead in experimenting from where we started.

Sumukha: I am into classical music and I add the classical tinge to the group. Our band stands out for the fact that it is ready to explore different things. The band culture usually sees groups sticking on to the same genre, but we are a cut apart there. Being a classical artiste, I find myself lucky to have experimented with African and Latin calculations.

A performance which was unforgettable...
Michael: Often, before the band goes on stage, I go and open for the band with a solo. I covered the song ‘Neruppu Da’ of ‘Kabali’ at Murphy’s recently and I got a crazy response.
Sujith: The last concert in Sweden was exhilarating. Our performance was the last one at the Gothenburg festival and that stage is precious for every musician. We got a  standing ovation and we will never forget that.

Some personal accomplishments...

Harish: I was a corporate professional before I joined this band. My uncle was a musician and I used to play with him, but that was my only stint with music. After I joined ‘Swaha’ I started singing too, which I had never done before. The project was such a positive experience that I have now become a full-time musician. It doesn’t feel like a band
but more like a set of friends who came together to do something unique.

Since I also sing, it is interesting to make the vocals stand out with the loud instruments.
Sumukha: I got exposure in the international music circuit, which I wouldn’t have got as easily otherwise.

Advice to upcoming bands...

Sujith: Always try to understand each other first before you deice to collate as a band. Also practice is the backbone of every performance, so practice regularly.

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