Rock Sitar, an Eastern style influenced rock band led by sitarist virtuoso Bijaya Baidya, has been around since 2008 and has performed extensively in and out of the nation. Verse caught up with the group, as they were getting ready to embark upon the Blues festival happening in Bruges, Belgium.
What sets Rock Sitar apart from other Eastern influenced rock bands is Vaidhya’s standing sitar, which is contrasting to the conventional idea of a sitar played whilst seated. The sound intonation of the instrument (tuned to E) is also different compared with a standard sitar. On stage, Vaidhya takes on a persona, which reflects a true musician who has pioneered a new kind of sound. He commented, ‘I always wanted to play guitars. However, I could not find a place to go and learn the instrument in depth. So I chose sitar because I could study the instrument well.’ He completed his Masters Degree in Music from Allahbad, India.
Every member has been involved for over a decade in the active music scene. Most notably, Vaidhya is popularly identified with Sur Sudha, an instrumental group popular since the 90’s and Tuladhar with the popular folk rock band, Nepathya. Their music is mostly instrumental and explores Eastern melodies over a rock setting. Both the flute and the sitar share the melodies while the guitars and bass provide the rock foundation. The overall sound is a unique blend, which the group says, is an addition to the traditional elements found in eastern classical music.
One of the easiest ways to become an active listener is by noticing the chemistry between the players, live. It says a lot about how the art form is explored. Watching them live, it was clear that not only were these musicians experienced but they also made it look seemingly easy. The improvisation aspect was very alive in their playing and the themes of the compositions were reflected here as well.
Vaidhya composes most of their songs by coming up with the melody which is then built upon by each member, providing their ideas into the structure. Till date, they have released 3 albums: Chants of Himalaya, Rock Sitar and Sitar Sudha. The songs are very emotional in nature and though instrumental, they do have a voice crying out emotions that leave a deep lasting impression. They make you want to come back and listen again. The soothing melodies give their sound a distinct eastern feel, which comfortably fits over the rock elements. The name Rock Sitar thus is a perfect description of the nature of the band’s goal to fuse Eastern and Western components without harming the musical output of either side.
Rock Sitar have toured the globe extensively and are very excited this time about their summer tour of Belgium. On an international level, they believe they are representing Nepali art and culture through their music. They are also anxious about the audience that will be part of the festival there. Though the members are not unfamiliar to performing in different groups, ensembles and other performances abroad, this tour is a first together to Belgium.
The sight of Vaidhya pulling a Jimi-move on the guitars with his teeth is always a welcome sight. Other on-stage antics include flute runs, sounding like shred runs by K.C. and diverse blues licks from Lama. Moreover, it reflects the positive energy coming out of the band as a whole. The mellow nature of their songs shows expression of the top level from this bunch of talented upbeat professional musicians in the modern Nepali music scene.