Emaho caught up with celebrated Kerala-based guitarist, music composer, producer and guitar teacher Baiju Dharmajan and had a little jam.
Emaho : Your music has heavy Carnatic influences cleverly fused with a progressive sound. How did you come to develop this unique style?
It is kind of difficult to explain how this happened, because it was not intentional. During my initial years I used to play like any other guitarist in the rock music scenario. Over the years, my roots, which go back to the traditional Malayalam film music, got merged with the guitar, helping me evolve to the Carnatic style of guitar playing. I did not ‘develop’ it per se, but the numerous musicians who’ve influenced me like Trilok Gurtu, Led Zeppelin, Dream Theater, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Steve Vai, Prasanna, Illayaraja and Raveendran… all played a role in lending me this sound.
Emaho : You have been playing music for nearly three decades now; walk us through your journey so far…
Instead of giving a walk through of this journey, I would like to say that as a musician, I look at my life as a musical… it’s like a song that lasts years… it will have its ups and downs – the slow tempos, the thrill, the sadness and the excitement. I enjoy all the pain and pleasures from this journey. If anything good happens then it’s good, and if anything bad happens it’s just that. To me, walking this journey is more important and apart from that, nothing else like fame, glory and money is. You have to fulfil your destiny and whatever is a part of it… will come to you.
© SKP Photography
It’s been a wonderful revelation! When I was with Motherjane, it was like I was inside a closed room. Now I can see the world, I can do whatever I want to do. There is no time frame, no ego trip, nothing. I am a free bird and I am enjoying this freedom! (laughs)
Emaho : Being a solo guitarist in India, how has the music industry here favoured you?
A lot… when I started the whole crossover tour, I never ever expected this kind of love and support from my fans. It was overwhelming. I’d played almost all over India with my band The Baiju Dharmajan Syndicate and I’m very grateful to all the people for this wonderful support.
Emaho : Tell us more about who your influences are and the artistes you have collaborated with…
To be honest I am heavily influenced by Indian film music especially classic Malayalam and Tamil film music. I grew up with all the beautiful melodies and not with Jimmy Hendrix or The Beatles. I have been extremely fortunate to collaborate with some of the most wonderful musicians inIndia. Each and every one of that collaboration was a new lesson to me; it was like a new beginning, an opening to a new world. Midival Punditz got me hooked onto electronica, something I didn’t imagine myself playing… but now I am planning to start my own electronica band. Susmit Sen was obviously a wonderful experience. What a genius the man is!
© Vijay Hegde
Emaho : How has the music scene in India evolved since you began playing?
It’s very huge now. Look around you… there are lots of music festivals happening, lots of gigs, lots of events. The rock scene in India has emerged as an industry now. There are lots of endorsements and branding opportunities available. It is changing very fast. If you have content, this is a great time to be a musician in India.
© SKP Photography
Emaho : You’ve been awarded ‘Best Indian Guitarist’ at the Jack Daniel’s Rock Awards two years in a row, and your fan-base continuous to grow. Has this affected your style of music?
I don’t know man… I am still the same, music-wise and attitude-wise. But you know… I’ve become more disciplined and more focused compared to my last few years… I have a very enthusiastic and dedicated team working with me that pushes themselves and me to the limit always.
Emaho : You’ve just released your rendition of ‘Mile Sur MeraTumhara’, and your versions of ‘Vande Mataram’ and our national anthem are amazing; is there a strong patriot in you?
Yes… like any other Indian I love my country. I love all these wonderful melodies with a strong patriotic messages…you know like any other Indian I grew up with these wonderful songs…
Emaho : What is your goal as a solo guitarist in India, and a musician in general?
I would like to see my music reach the world, the universe that is my ultimate dream..
© Amit Saha
Emaho : How would you define your music?
Ooops! How can I define a thing (music) that I still trying to explore and understand…
Emaho : Share with us some of your most memorable moments performing on stage…
I have been fortunate enough to have played the most amazing concerts our country has produced, but the most recent and fresh memory of a memorable moment was a small gig played this year. I was a very proud person when I played in my home town this Republic Day in front of my friends and fans, who packed the place not to watch me play as the guitarist of Motherjane but to watch me play as Baiju Dharmajan… that was an awesome experience and a proud moment.
Emaho : You were featured in the first season of ‘The Dewarists’, collaborating with Karsh Kale and Njeralathu Harigovindan; tell us a little about your experience working with them.
Oh yes… it was an awesome experience with two brilliant artists and wonderful human beings. Musically, The Dewarists was about defining your personality or your sound but to me it was also about sharing our experience as musicians and as ordinary men. That was the most wonderful part of the whole collaboration.
© SKP Photography
Emaho : Since you are a self-taught guitarist, what tips would you give to amateur guitarists?
Always try to get new things. You can pick them up from any where and everywhere. Example: Always try to learn a new chord or a new riff or new scales and be open to any form of music. Follow your dream and never give up.
Emaho : Who is Baiju Dharmajan apart from the music?
Apart from music, I am nothing.
Art & Culture Interviewed by: Aditya Varma