Homing in Music

Guitarist Baiju Dharmajan’s pick-me up playlist for the times

Baiju Dharmajan  

Guitarist Baiju Dharmajan is fondly referred to as the ‘God of Small Strings’. A sobriquet, given to him when he was with the rock band Motherjane, which he politely declines as he left the band in 2010. But, whether he likes it or not, it has stuck. After leaving the band, he formed the Baiju Dharmajan Syndicate which collaborates with other musicians. One of the country’s leading guitarists, he is also known for his Carnatic-inspired riffs and solos. He released his first solo album ‘The Crossover’ in 2012. His collaborations have been diverse; among musicians he worked with are Sanjeev Thomas, the late John Anthony, Sanjay Maroo, Naresh Iyer, and Midival Punditz. Baiju created ‘Sacred Science; with percussionist-composer Karsh Kale and edakka exponent Njeralath Harigovindan.

The last four months have not been easy for Dharmajan too. The pandemic has got him thinking about the precariousness of the artist’s condition and space for art in these, new circumstances. “These last few months have put many things in perspective. Where does art figure in a scheme of things where there are more basic things like survival at stake?” he wonders aloud. A sense of not being able to do something to help makes him uneasy, “My daughter, a doctor, is in the frontline. So I guess that’s one way of constructively contributing,” he adds. Dharmajan’s father was one of his earliest influences, encouraging his interest in music – the guitar.

Baiju has an eclectic list of songs that are a pick-me up, irrespective of how hard the times get.

‘Chup ke Chup ke Raat Din’ by Ghulam Ali

The ghazal transports me back to another time in place – my childhood home in Kollam – to the Sunday afternoons when my father would be at home listening to music. I just need to close my eyes, I go back all those years when I was a kid and I can even hear Ghulam Ali’s voice. I remember my room, the table on which the record player sat, the walls – it is pure nostalgia for me. I inherited my love for music from him and my grandfather.

‘Stargazer’ Rainbow

Guitarist Baiju Dharmajan’s pick-me up playlist for the times

I was in my 20s when I first heard this song and it moved me on so many levels. Ronnie James Dio, the vocalist, is too good here. This 1976 song, by the British rock band Rainbow, formed by former Deep Purple founder and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, is a classic. I am a huge Blackmore fan. I like its musical quality – guitar and drum solos – and its emotional appeal. I heard this when I was dreaming of becoming a musician, and to hear musicians achieving some like this was stunning!

‘Kalabham Tharaam’ by KS Chitra

A list like this would be incomplete without KS Chitra’s ‘Kalabham Thaaram’ from the 2006 film Vadakkumnathan. I have listened to this song on loop for days, may be 95 times daily. The song, composed by the late Raveendran, tugs my heartstrings is for how Chitra chechi’s has sung it. This one is superlative – she renders each stanza with so much emotion. The refrain expressed differently each time, she inserts so much feeling and elevates the song.

‘I Still Believe’ by Mariah Carey

When I heard Mariah Carey’s song the first time, it brought tears to my eyes. It was instant. At the time I didn’t pay attention to the lyrics as much. It was how she was singing, the musical element of her voice. Her sheer vocal range. As a musician the notes appealed to me intensely. Others might have sung better, but this one ranks high on my list.

‘Madaari’ by Clinton Cerejo feat Vishal Dadlani/Sonu Kakkar

Madaari, performed at the second edition of Coke Studio India, appeals to me for its Sufism – that a higher power controls our action. The poetry of the idea touches something within me. Think about it...it puts things in perspective!

We would love to know how you are keeping busy at home. Tell us who you are listening to at metro@thehindu.co.in

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 9:58:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/guitarist-baiju-dharmajans-pick-me-up-laylist-for-the-times/article32150675.ece

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