Baiju Dharmajan is an Indian guitarist, music composer, producer and guitar teacher based out of Kochi, Kerala. A celebrated musician in his own country, Baiju had an extended stint during the 2000s as the lead guitarist of the Indian rock band Motherjane. Nicknamed the "God of Small Strings" by his fans (a play on the similarly-titled Indian novel), Baiju is particularly noted for his winding, Carnatic-inspired and enduring guitar solos. Baiju Dharmajan, along with Prasanna, are among the most popular Carnatic guitar exponents in India.
Born in Vypin Islands (near Cochin, India) to Thankamani and Dharmajan, Baiju started his musical career at the age of 14. He began with the Carnatic violin but then slowly shifted to the guitar. His father used to play the Hawaiian guitar and his grandfather was a Carnatic musician. His first role as a performer began at the age of 5 as a guitar player in a traveling troop of musicians, giving him the opportunity to play with legendary Malayalam singer Yesudas.
After relocating to his hometown in Vypin in the 90's, he started playing in a band called Instinct, followed by short stints with the bands Wrenz and Aatma. During one of the practice sessions of the band Aatma, he met John of Motherjane, who then invited him to audition for the lead guitarist position in the band.
Baiju is also a big fan of Illayaraja and loves the compositions of other Indian composers like Raveendran, Devarajan, Naushad and R.D. Burman. His father had a vast collection of ghazals by Mehdi Hassan, Anup Jalota, and Pankaj Udhas. He grew up listening to Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi film music.
Baiju likens his own development as an artist to a journey, one without the compulsion to struggle to make it out but rather a sense of purpose to dedicate himself for the sake of music. His favourite guitarists include Jimi Hendrix , Jimmy Page, Steve Vai, Mattias Ekhlund and Guthrie Govan.
Baiju was the lead guitarist for Motherjane from 1999 through 2010, during which the band released two full-length albums– 'Insane Biography' in 2003 and 'Maktub' in 2008. The band was a popular live act in India in the 2000s and played at many festivals. Baiju has credited the song 'Broken' from the album Maktub with changing his musical direction from a conventional rock/metal style of guitar playing to one with Carnatic overtones in it. The other songs on the album Maktub are audibly influenced by Carnatic elements as well. Songs such as Mindstreet and Fields of Sound firmly describe Baiju's tonality.
Collaborations and Solo Projects
Since 2010, Baiju has been working on collaborations and solo projects. He released his debut solo album titled 'The Crossover' in 2012 under the record label Cochym, supporting which he travelled with his band 'Baiju Dharmajan Syndicate' to various festivals in India. Baiju's also contributed towards producing an EP for Kochi based band 'Kaav'. He's released Indian rock versions of patriotic songs Mile Sur Mera Tumhara, Vande Mataram and the national anthem of India, Jana Gana Mana.
Baiju's been a part of 'Kashmir' with Sanjeev Thomas, 'Karnatrix' with John Antony and 'Bluefire' with classical violinist Harikumar Sivan. Baiju also co-created "Sacred Science" for the popular TV Series The Dewarists with percussionist cum composer Karsh Kale and edakka drum teacher Harigovindan. Other collaborations include Sanjay Maroo, Naresh Iyer, Keith Peters, Ustad Asad Khan, Uday Jose, David Joseph, Midival Punditz and Susmit Sen. In 2013, he accompanied British "shred-king" Andy James for a workshop in Kolkata.
Baiju was thrice voted as the best guitarist at the Jack Daniel's Rock Awards . The latest being in the year 2013–2014.
- Insane Biography with Motherjane – 2003
- Maktub with Motherjane – 2008
- By the Moonlight – Wrenz United – 2011
- The Crossover – Baiju Dharmajan solo – 2012
- Jana Gana Mana – Baiju Dharmajan – 2011
- Vande Mataram – Baiju Dharmajan – 2011
- Mile Sur Mera Tumhara – Baiju Dharmajan – 2013
- Vaishnava Janato – Baiju Dharmajan – 2013
- Moham – Baiju Dharmajan – 2014
- Kaav E.P – KAAV – 2010
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- "Interview With Baiju Dharmajan(The God of Small Strings)". Indian Music Revolution. 24 March 2012.