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The gurus of grunge

The UK bhangra/hip-hop sensation - 'Swami' - aim to break the stereotypical and transcend cross-cultural barriers with their music

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A holy man draped in saffron robes might be the stereotypical image that accompanies the term ‘Swami’. But the band wants anything but to be stereotyped as just another addition to the Brit-Asian artist clan invading the Indian music scene. After taking hip-hop/rock aficionados in UK by surprise with their first collective venture ‘Desirock’, the band now is all set to intersperse bhangra beats, grunge-metal guitar riffs with ferocious rap vocals.

“We see our music as an equivalent to reggae in the West. The energy of desi bhangra with pure rap-rock melody is almost like intoxication,” exclaims DJ Swami, the pioneer of the group. But what differentiates Swami from tons of artists who use a bhangra base just because it’s a rage today?

“Desi rock aims to break musical and cultural barriers. Apart from reflecting social issues through music, we want bring about a social change,” says Swami. Ask them whether they can be viewed as a parallel to the Asian Dub Foundation from the Asian Underground Scene, and they are quick to clarify. “ADF is very ferocious with their music and they are more politically charged. We are mellower and want to relate to people on a personal level through music,” says bass player Martin Savale (ironically, the brother of ADF’s guitarist Chandrasonic).

Swami, who performed for the first time in India at the MTV Lycra Style Awards, already have a handful of international gigs to their credit including the very recent Glastonbury, City Showcase London and the WOMAD festival. “WOMAD was absolutely crazy. The crowd there went as berserk as we go when we play music,” reminisces vocalist Sups.

With major international influences like Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley and Rage Against the Machine, Swami also acknowledge their respect and recognition for Indian maestros like Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia.

Their conspicuously different backgrounds are hardly an obstacle to them being together as a band. “Our versatile combination is our greatest strengths,” asserts Sups. Lastly, they cannot stop raving about their love for India and the connection they feel with their audience here. “I am coming to India after ten years and it still feels like home. Right now, our dream as a band is to come back and again play for India…or should we say play for ‘home’?”

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