Cultural Riffs From Indie Rockers (NST)

NST Agam

THE soulful sounds of Carnatic music get a resounding heavy metal riff with India’s Agam indie band, for the Malaysian Independent Live Fusion Festival (MILFF 2017), next month.

“When we started in 2003, some of the band members were already officially trained in Carnatic music, while others were hardcore Western music fanatics.

“Over a period of time, we all started to find a blend and that’s the Carnatic progressive rock you will hear. But Carnatic music is the core of Agam’s music,” says its lead singer and violinist Harish Sivaramakrishnan.

Carnatic music with its raga (melodic formulae) and taal (rhythmic cycles) is no stranger to Malaysian audiences, while rock music has no boundaries.

The award-winning Bengaluru-based Agam (which name means heart, soul or inner soul in Tamil) draws its rock inspiration from American progressive metal bands Dream Theater, Rush and heavy metal bands, including Iron Maiden, among others.

For Carnatic music, Agam claims influences from singer Hariharan, Hindustani classical music instrumentalist Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Mandolin U Srinivas, and the thrimoorthikal (triad) of Carnatic music — Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshithtar and Syama Sastri Tyagaraja.

Agam’s band members include Swamy Seetharaman (keyboards and lyricist), T. Praveen Kumar (lead guitar), Aditya Kasyap (bass guitar and backing vocals), Sivakumar Nagarajan (ethnic percussions), Jagadish Natarajan (rhythm guitar), Yadhunandan (drums).

“Each member brings the different influences from the best of both worlds,” says Harish.

“Aditya sets the grooves. Swamy is responsible for the arrangement. Praveen for the heavy riffing and Carnatic guitar solos. Sivakumar for bringing the Indian sounds. Yadhu for Western drumming, and Jagadish forms the backbone of the entire song to make it groove with song and drums.

”As with most musicians, Agam’s members hold day jobs at companies like Amazon and Hindustan Unilever, digital Indian company Myra, among others, which is not surprising as most of them studied at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science.

A popular artiste at India’s Hard Rock Cafe, festivals and colleges, Agam received its big break in 2007 when it took part in a television band hunt called Ooh La La La, judged by Oscar-winning Indian music composer A. R. Rahman.

Agam’s success in the show brought it to mainstream audiences around the country. Set for its maiden showing in Malaysia, Harish says the band will play its popular songs like Boat Song and Swans Of Saraswati, featured in its debut 2012 album, Inner Self Awakens, and some songs from its upcoming album.

Despite a hectic schedule, Agam’s members has also launched a music school at their studio in Bengaluru.

“It’s more about basics and appreciating music itself, especially Carnatic music in the context of performing arts. We are very small now. We hope to ramp up after our album launch in November,” says Harish.

Agam is but one of five bands from India to perform at this second MILFF by Mojo Projects. The others are Aalaap Raju, Jatayu featuring Sooraj Santosh, Sid Sriram & band, and Vijay Prakash with ARB band.

Vijay, best known for singing Jai Ho in Slumdog Millionaire, will perform recent chartbusters, including Kadhal Anukkal (Enthiran).

Don’t miss catching Sid belting out his hits like Thalli Pogathey with his band comprising superb musicians such as Keba Jeremiah and music director Leon James on keyboards.

Although independent music isn’t as popular as music from India’s cinema, the bands are ready to entertain and give the audience a good time, as Harish puts it.

Malaysian Independent Live Fusion Festival (MILFF 2017)

  • When Sept 9, 5.30pm onwards
  • Where StarXpo Centre, KWC Fashion Mall, KL
  • Admission From RM146.05

Visit or Call Mojo Projects at 012-200 0505 or 017-326 5852.

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