Swaraag wows Hyderabad with their fusion of Sufi, folk, indie and Bollywood tracks

In 2014, with a zitar, saxophone, acoustic guitar and tabla, the instrumental band Swaraag was launched in Rajasthan. They did gigs, performed at events and also played at weddings. “At weddings, when we saw people rushing to us, with their dinner plates in hand, to listen to us, we knew we were on the right track, because at weddings, the focus is mainly on socialising and food. Yet, we were able to divert their attention to our music,” laughs Pratap Singh Nirwan, the man who formed Swaraag.

Swaraag comes from Swa-self, raag-raga, “a person in perfect harmony with music,” elaborates Pratap. Swaraag that is acknowledged as a folk-fusion band, features Pratap Singh Nirwan (founder/team coach), Asif Khan (lead singer), Arif Khan (zitar), Tasruf Ali (saxophone), Rishab Rozar (guitar), Arif Khan (khartal/morchang player), Sajid Khan (drummer) and Saif Ali Khan (tabla player). The band aims to bring the best of traditional Rajasthani music in amalgam with modern instruments to create a mellifluous experience for the audience. Pratap recollects, “Some time after we launched Swaraag, we realised that being an instrumental band restricted our audience. So we roped in Arif’s brother Asif and a trained vocalist with Sufi singing as his forte. Along with him we brought in a morchang khartal player and a drummer.”

After the band reassembled and heard each other play together, the team was happy. “The music, the song selection and the mood picked up instantly. We started with Sufi songs and then went onto include three more genres — Rajasthnai folk, Indie fusion and Bollywood mashup,” says Pratap.

Introduction of drums and mochang khartal brought in a different energy to the band. And people’s curiosity to see an artiste play the khartaal was immense. That made Swaraag explore the option of promoting Indian folk instruments. “When a members of the audience approache us to take a close look at the different instruments, we allow them to touch and feel it and sometimes, even try it if they want to,” says Arif.

With over 1000 performances worldwide, the band’s unique blend of zitar and saxophone with drum and tabla in Sufi and Bollywood songs portrays their versatility in performing all possible genres of Indian music. Even though they perform a lot of Nusrat Fateh ali Khan’s kalams, they also play their own music occasionally. Swaraag’s music expresses the deep-rooted thoughts of one’s heart with their simple lyrics. “Our shows have made us look at live performances as an ‘energy exchange’ programme. But the onus to ignite the mood rests entirely on the artiste/band.”

With their sound training, band members know how to help each other for a better performance. “When we are rendering Bollywood numbers, our drummer takes the responsibility to lead the team, similarly when it is Rajasthani folk, Arif leads. The coordination is so beautiful that the members just signal each other without anyone realising and that makes them play flawlessly,” says Pratap.

The band members however, insist there’s still a lot to learn; every stage performance turns into a learning experience. “We participated in the TV reality show Rising Stars to see where we stand, to understand what makes us unique or how we can improve. It was overwhelming to see the support and cheer for that. Having met us at the show, Shankar Mahadevan recorded songs with us; with that our entire recording knowledge took a 360 degree turn,” shares Pratap. Arif adds, “He showed how one can improve at a recording studio, improvise instantly, use a whistle or a clap to give different moods to the music.”

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2020 4:55:01 PM |

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