In an age where music has surpassed traditional culture and has attained a western format, a few bands in the country still choose to stem from their roots. One such band is Agam, whose speciality is a perfect amalgamation of Carnatic music along with influences from rock and metal, creating a fine balance between music from two generations.
Our music, our way
Agam, derives its name from an ancient Tamil word which means ‘the inner self’. “Our music combines the myriad hues and intricate rhythm structures of Carnatic music and aesthetic principles from the western world.,” says vocalist Harish Sivaramakrishna. How did the band start off?
Harish explains, “We all met up in different instances and started doing music from our college days, in 2003. The band initially conisted of me and the drummer, Ganesh Ram, and were later joined by Swamy Seetharaman, who played the keyboard.”
The current line up of the band also features guitarists Praveen Kumar and Suraj Satheesh, bass guitarist Vignesh Lakshminarayanan and percussionist Shiva Nagarajan.
“We were just any other band until 2007, when we participated in a reality show, Öhlalala. Only after we won the show, we realised that we sound pretty decent and that we should stick together,” Harish laughs explaining. He quickly adds, “It is also during the same time that we composed Brahma’s Dance and people came back to us with a great response. We then decided that we believed in this form of music.”
He explains that the kind of fusion the band practices is raw and has its own rhythm. “We did make an effort to write songs, even adapted a few traditional melodies and tried to and give it a contemporary, progressive uplift.”
Juggling between roles
All the band members are full-time software professionals and try and do music during their free time. “All of us have a collective passion for music. So, I guess sometimes you got to take challenges to do what you love,” Harish says and adds, “Everybody in the band is married and some of us even have children. So here we have to balance three sides of our lives. I guess challenges and sacrifices are a part of everything.”
Independent music scene
Agam has been a hit at many recent music festivals, including the Storm festival at Coorg and MAD Festival at Ooty. They were also featured on MTV Roots, a music show that features bands with a strong South-Asian connect. “Storm was an incredible experience. People were having a great time, it was organised really well and was one of our best festivals. MTV Roots was a big break for us as we got recognised on national television and people came to know us.”
Given the surge of music festivals in the country, Harish beleives that the independent music scene has been amazing over the past two-three years in the country. “Places like Coorg, Kashmir and Ooty have been supporting independent music and have been creating more opportunities for people like us to help reach our music to people.”
Ask him if an independent musician can make a living on just music, and he replies, “No. Not at least till five more years. I would love to be a full-time musician and live on it, but I guess I have to work only so that I can make music. There are several full-timers who still do not make a living out of music.”
Music for social awareness
Agam is also popular for performing live shows for charitable efforts. One of their tracks, ‘Searching for Heavens’ made for the Bihar Flood Relief, contributed nearly `12 lakhs towards the cause. ‘Live Again’ another track sung by Shreya Ghosal for the band was a step towards spreading awareness about breast cancer. The song has crossed over 21,000 downloads, and more than 6,000 people have shared it in four months. “Shreyaji finally sang it for us and our goal of using music to help spread the message was fulfilled.”
Hyderabad is crazy
The band which will be performing in the city this Thursday, will be back for the fourth time. All that the singer has to say is, “Hyderabad is crazy. Every show we play, the venue is packed. People here know and follow music and the crowd is very chilled out. They are very vibrant people from different age-groups who attend our gigs. This makes us want to keep coming back to Hyderabad.” Agam will be performing live at Hard Rock Cafe in Banjara Hills on Thursday at 9 pm.