Sound of Music

I feel lucky because I was allowed to experiment on my taste in music from a young age. Every year my annual gift used to be some kind of music device, from cassette players to Walkman’s to mp3’s. I was allowed to spend on music and listen to whatever I liked

If there is one thing I splurge on its music and related devices. Growing up all my pocket money would go towards either buying cassettes or fancy headphones. In my expensive sojourn I have progressed from Headphones that are basic but solid Creative (Rs 199) to High end Klipsch S4 (74$). It is because nothing brings me more joy than listening to good music. I don’t swear by any particular genre though I clearly steer away from pop, hip-hop and rap.

The first album that I ever heard was by Colonial Cousins to this song  on a Sony Walkman that was gifted to me by my father. I used to hold it to my dear life as it would help me escape from morbid ennui surrounding me. I grew up near a beach so my favorite past time would be to take my Walkman with me, sit under the Guava trees and listen to my favorite tracks. Though I was too small to ride a bike, I would speed on my mom’s moped clutching the rear view mirrors pretending to ride a Harley Davidson listening to catchy song from Alaipayuthe by AR Rahman. It created an alternate sense of reality for me where I was popular, likeable and more sociable.

I think I suffered from mild social anxiety from a very young age hence most of my attempt to be social would revolve around talking about music. And it extended to the way I would approach girls. I would either make a mix tape for them or recommend a particular song and hence music would act as an ice breaker for me. So for any girl who knows me is reading this:  If I constantly pestered you into listening songs that I like, it was my way of hitting on you 🙂

And also looking back, I was growing up to be an atheist even without realizing it. When I was in 7th grade our relatives thought it was an excellent plan during the summer vacation to go to Tirupathi. Let me tell you a thing or two about Andhra Pradesh. It is as hot as a sauna and the food isn’t spicy it is incredibly hot/spicy. I think the main PMO agenda for that state would be like “Screw AIDS lets cure ulcer”. Everything is laced with chilli powder and I hate raw mangoes. So basically I felt like I was marinated in a gigantic pickle all the time. Their version of having a candy is by eating raw mangoes laced with Chilli powder.

So anyway I have a habit of sharing my new found favorite tune to the person next to me without even knowing about their preferred genre. As I had the habit of listening to late night radio, I heard “Highway to hell” by AC/DC. As soon as the engine rumbled to life I put it on and everyone went “Aiyoo kadavule”( Oh god).

I always thought choice in music is subjective and just because someone listens to a personal genre doesn’t typify him with a personality. The perception of social music was completely different from what I felt in south. In south people listened more to classical music which was in its own way considered eclectic and the only time we had loud music on the streets was when there was a religious function in tow.

But Bombay painted a different picture, it was a kaleidoscopic. From Nashik dhol to Ganpati songs on the street, it was joyous riot to say the least. But I noticed a change in trend around my campus, traditional Indian music was widely considered unpopular compared to mainstream American pop/rock. I really found it difficult to digest why the likes of AR Rahman were not considered amongst the ilk of Linkin Park, Metallica or at least Nickelback. I failed to understand why one’s taste in music must be so closely scrutinized to the point of discrimination.

Anyway I gradually graduated from the commercial filmy music to mainstream rock, melody and metal. The reason was not to sound cool, but I felt that music from movies inhibited creativity of musicians. And I’ll explain you why:

There are traditionally 5 types of song in an Indian (Commercial) “Masala” movie. The list goes like this

  1. Introduction song: There are two types of introduction songs;
    1. Lead actor (Hero): He usually wears a wife beater, loud unbuttoned shirt a seat belt with a buckle shiny enough to signal Boeing 747’s and a sports shoe. The lyrics deal with social issues, commentary on the current political system and his own utopic personal opinions
    2. Lead actress (Heroine): Most Indian directors are male chauvinists to an extent and females rarely get the credit. So the introduction song for a heroine is drastically different. I suppose the lyricist is almost never paid for the song and submits it as a bonus. The central theme of the lyrics tread around butterflies, love, garden, flowers, rainbows and rain in no particular order. The song is to signify that the actress is a naïve debutante with no career ambition and sees the world through her rosy armada sunglasses
  2. Love song:  Usually sparks begin to fly between the hero and the heroine approximately after 20 minutes into the movie. The premise of the song is usually when both of them run into each other->their respective paraphernalia falls to ground-> their eyes meet-> they fall in love. It’s either that or when the heroine decides to smell her pillow before sleep. And social scientists still wonder why teenage pregnancy is high in our country!
  3. Success song: So often the hero becomes broke before the interval and needs a favor from lady luck to progress. Instead of logic and reason, directors resort to a song which explains the rags to riches story in a matter of 4 minutes and 32 seconds. The hero is shown to make low risk, high yield, low capital investments which vomit profit almost immediately. This song targets the unemployed sector and wishfully hopes to motivate them. If things were only so simple
  4. Break up song: Needless to say, I hate melodrama over break up’s as evinced by my earlier blogs fourteen and move on. But the music panders to the love lorn convincing them that their mental emasculation is only a proof that their love was true. Pop culture considers reminiscing over your ex as catharsis, I call it hazardous emotional masturbation.
  5. ‘Event’ful music: The premise is usually wedding, engagement or birth of a child where 50-100 strangers dance in sync. The song can either be out in the open or in a closed environment like a ballroom. Where people dance in slow motion and the hero plays the ensemble through a lonely piano

Obviously the above list is not conclusive but it pretty much demonstrates why filmy music still rules the roost in my country. And as I hit the age of reason, I pretty much found the situation too forced and hence transcended into world music. The transition isn’t dramatic and was mostly inquisitive in nature.

I thought of penning this article when we were assigned to create a global play list to welcome international students. Many genres were frowned upon and I read hateful vile comments on YouTube and Facebook arising just because someone happened to like a certain type of music.

Despite my distaste for a few genres I still feel music can unite people. There is conclusive proof through the work of John lennon, U2, Nusrat ali khan, Pt Ravishankar, AR Rahman, Beatles and Dixie chicks to name a few. I feel if Kurt kobain, Elvis Presley, John lennon, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix lived today they wouldn’t hate on the beibers, Katy perries and Nicki Minaj of the world. Ok, may be not Nicki Minaj .Music may not solve world problems but it can make people forget their differences for a while. And that is no mean feat to achieve. So don’t hate on others just because you feel that the music is inappropriate.

I prefer to keep my cynicism in music to myself.

Listen and let listen.

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2 thoughts on “Sound of Music

  1. Some Jibes:
    Hear Hear! …. Tsk Tsk! …. you forgot Hans Zimmer! THE Zimmerman! 😛 (oh and Howard Shore too! – and Clint Mansell for his one-trick-depressing-pony!)

    On the post:
    You ought to have given some examples of the 5 types of masala songs for pardeshi readers. I gather you have assembled a rather eclectic and colorful bunch of disparate acquaintances. Note for future: Give examples and concrete youtube links!

    Also, about music being subjective – every damn thing is subjective. But to suggest that just for the sake of keeping everyone happy …. that “Oh baby” by Bieber (a teenage mush song of the worst hyperbolic kind) has the same quality as “Fade to Black” by Metallica (a despairing echo of existential crisis performed with a wrenching ethos) …. is sycophantic slavishness of the worst kind. Some forms of art are indeed better than others. Subjectivity exists. But it does not preclude the formation of a partially ordered set implying a hierarchy of rank and quality and potency in art-forms including music. Whether and to what extent such hierarchies can be quantified is another question. But “Fade to Black” has much more gravitating depth than “Oh Baby”.
    (POSET: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partially_ordered_set)

    That’s the same reason that listening to Clint Mansell’s “Lux Aeterna” or Hans Zimmer’s “Gotham’s Reckoning” creates melancholy and authoritative terror …. and listening to Henry Mancini’s “Pink Panther” tickles the funny bones. Different music has different timbre, different mood and different purpose. And in those, the above examples, while being subjective from a quantitative sense, are undoubtedly hierarchically superior to their Beiber counter-parts.

    Oh and the hint you dropped about your “hitting” technique – touche dude touche. Nice touch. Many fish might be caught with an admission as “aww” and “cute” as that! 😛

    On your writing:
    But good post, good work. You muse and contemplate on fairly mundane stuff but always manage to keep it grounded in your own individual uniqueness, grounded in reality and fairly entertaining. You also have a flair for self deprecating humor, which is great. Your writing has more personal ethos than mine for sure – mine is more of a socio-political fugue with a hint of personal quirks. Yours is much more absorbed in your own conceptions and your own trappings – which makes it more appealing and definitely more human.

  2. second link for the song – not an Alaipayuthe song. Thought I should tell you, in case…
    Alaipayuthe songs – Amazing!

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