Everything about this Bangalore-based folk rock sextet conveys a sense of do-it-yourself. Their second full-length album Topiwalleh is a self-released CD that is made entirely from recycled paper.
Thematically, Swarathma’s take on very serious issues on Topiwalleh. The opening track ‘Topiwalleh’ is exuberant and has a hint of reggae, as Vasu Dixit sings about those who wear the hat.
The album has a condemning tone and the music is darker with more progressive beats and riffs. ‘Koorane’ features overdriven guitar riffs from Varun Murali, while ‘Ghum’ is an epic seven-minute trip loaded with the most experimental sounds the band’s produced.
On ‘Naane Daari’, there's the unmistakable Wah guitar in the vein of so many U2 songs. The album’s other sucker punch is the even-more sardonic ‘Aaj ki Taaza Fikar’, where they take aim at sensational news media. Topiwalleh manages to squeeze in two additional songs that Swarathma had written and released between albums.
‘Duur Kinara’, a product of their collaboration with Shubha Mudgal courtesy The Dewarists, is an eerie, almost sombre, meditation sung in Hindi, Kannada and English. The album closes with ‘Yeshu Allah aur Krishna’, made famous on their British Council-sponsored recording sessions with John Leckie (The Stone Roses, Radiohead) which then featured on the compilation Soundpad. There’s an equal amount of idealism and realism on Topiwalleh. It’s proof that Swarathma don’t really want to be a driving force in music, but more in social change. But they are well on their way to ticking off both accomplishments.
Bottomline: Darker music with more progressive beats and riffs
Topiwalleh; Swarathma, Rs. 150