It may have taken close to five years for this Bengaluru septet to put out an album. These are six of Agam’s best recorded songs. The Inner Self Awakens treads a wonderfully blurred line between Carnatic music and progressive rock. The two genres are far more compatible than either camp would have imagined and Agam are the torch bearers of this trend, blending Dream Theater-inspired riffs and the calculated taalas of Carnatic music in songs such as ‘Rudra’ and ‘Dhanashree Thillana’.
The members clearly know both sides extremely well, with classically-trained vocalist and violinist Harish Sivaramakrishnan singing and duelling with lead guitarist Praveen Kumar’s smouldering solos straight from the opening track ‘Brahma’s Dance’.
The aim with The Inner Self Awakens seems to be more than just bringing together fans of Carnatic and rock music. It’s a very interesting statement about cultural diversity, just as ‘The Boat Song’ cheerfully celebrates the traditional song of Kerala’s boatmen.
Even ‘Swans of Saraswati’ starts out with a synchronised beat down reminiscent of Rush, and then Sivaramakrishnan chimes in with Telugu vocals of Thyagaraja’s Bantureeti Kolu in raga Hamsanadam. The band terms this song a bold experiment, but conviction permeates the notes. The album closes with the band’s well-known track ‘Malhar Jam’, which is an alternative rock-tinged fast-paced nod towards raga Brindavan Saarang and Mian Malhar. The flute, violin and guitar meet two backing performers: drummer Ganesh Ram Nagarajan and percussionist Sivakumar Nagarajan. Among the seven members in Agam, it’s evident that each is given their own solo moment on the album.
The Inner Self Awakens is a success because it’s cool music you can convince your parents to listen to. It wins over the traditional, raga-loving morning people and the young and restless lot of evening rock gig-goers. Don’t be surprised if you find a mix of both crowds at one of their concerts.
Bottomline: Carnatic music and rock are far more compatible than either camp would have imagined.
The Inner Self Awakens; Agam, Rs. 250