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Swarathma at Fireflies: Rite of Passage

Remembering playing under the peepal tree at the Firefiles Festival - we began at 5;30am and finished as the sun came up cheered on by dancing crowds

Back in the day when the band was just about finding its feet, before the current line-up, Fireflies Festival of Sacred Music (or Bhoomi Jathre,as it used to be called in earlier days) was a place where Swarathma always dreamed of playing. It was the crowd: a distillation of the most hard core music lovers in the city. Driven to desperation by a city administration bent upon shutting down nightlife (responsible or otherwise) by a distinctly godly hour Bangalore’s junta would throng to this all-night music festival. It featured all manners of folk artists, left-of-middle bands and absolute delights like qawwali groups. Vasu, Montry and Pavan would sit in the crowd, watching their heroes play, wondering if some day they would get the chance of playing under the famed peepal tree.

[Photo] Vasu faces the Fireflies crowd for the first time, butterflies in stomach.

A few months after I joined the band, in February 2008, the chance finally came. I didn’t know what to expect though. Our slot was at 5.30am, when I was sure most of the crowd would have left. But to my absolute shock, there almost was a full house! We played the only gig where we started in darkness and ended in light, for the sun rose mid-way through our set. The crowd uncoiled like a giant awakening and was on its feet and dancing in the end, a lovely feeling. We were a nervous band (we still are, sometimes) and it did wonders for our confidence to play a show like that.

We were invited to play again in Feb 2009, by which time our first album was out. There have been so many people that have seen us play that gig, and have come back to us with great words of encouragement. We consider that as one of our best performances, made memorable by Fire-Poi dancers who joined us mid-set, to an extended version of Bolo Kya Hai. Other gig commitments kept us away in 2010, but we return this year with a bunch of new tunes and the feeling that we’re coming home.

See you under the Peepal Tree, then!

Swarathma Live at Fireflies Festival of Music | Feb 19, 2011

Text: Jishnu Dasgupta, Pics: Mahesh Shantaram

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