Tuesday, October 29, 2013

In which son compares Pink Floyd to Mallikarjun Mansur

I've been a big fan of Indian classical music for as long as I can remember.  The wondrous, fascinating, sophisticated world of western popular music never made sense to me, for which reason I was often the butt of ridicule in my college days, and the object of puzzled looks thereafter. My main grouse, as I have mentioned in another post, was that I could never understand what the devil the chaps were saying (Metallica, GnR and Michael Jackson were my main nemeses). The other problem was that I found it, rock-pop-rap music I mean, musically shallow. The same melodic sequences, it appeared to my untutored ear, were repeated song after song, and the rhythms too, for that matter.

The  younger son has been working hard to change that perception. He's a big fan of rock music these days. He used to be a big fan of rap, when he was younger, but nervously changes the subject when reminded of this. He now listens to Pink Floyd, and has taught himself to play some of their songs. I'm the captive audience (his mother resolutely refuses to listen to it, though that has more to do with the fact that he has to study for his IIT entrance exams than any lack of musical interest on her part - she rather likes it, I suspect) and he usually begins with an "Annie, listen to this". The current favorite is a song called Shine On, You Crazy Diamond.

I proposed, in a moment of ill conceived jocularity, that, since we are all scientifically inclined here, we rename it with the more precise "scintillate, you mentally disturbed metastable carbon allotrope" but he just glared at me, and I soon discovered why. The back story of the song is that it is a tribute to the founder of the band, Syd Barrett, who went insane. The lyrics are indeed moving and the music is intense.

I grudgingly admitted this to the son. "Very different from the usual nonsense you listen to, isn't it?" I remarked

"Annie, this is the real thing. I want to become a musician" he said.

"Well, you can start doing that the moment you get into the IITs"

The lad made a harrumphing sound and continued. Presently, his music skills appeared to fall frustratingly short of his expectations and he decided to make me listen to the original.

The song is intense. There are long, moving passages of guitaring and virtually none of the frantic demonstration of twanging skills that is so common in rock music.

"It's Mallikarjun Mansur level" he told me, nearly knocking me off my feet. The late Mansur is one of my favorite singers and I was amazed the lad knew enough of him to make comparisons. He's never shown much interest in Indian classical music.

"In what way?" I asked him

"Floyd songs are different from the others. They never play fast licks just to show off. Just as Mallikarjun Mansur never sings ultra fast taans just to show he can. And yet, their music touches you in a way that just can't be described"

I gazed at him in speechless wonder as he paused the song and tried to play a passage again. I would never have suspected him of knowing that Mallikarjun Mansur's singing had that unique soul touching quality. An irritated "Naren!" emanated from somewhere in the background. The missus, expressing her ire at the absence of  parental exhortation to academic exertion. I absently told the lad to stop playing his guitar and start solving those calculus problems.

But my heart was not in it.


Murali Satagopan said...

Nice post. Total bonding moment I see. :)

subramanianls said...

One is never too old to appreciate Pink Floyd or for that matter Mallikarjun Mansur.
Music is Universal and Elixir to our existence!
Nice Post, thank you Sir !

Karthik/SK/wimpy/SKimpy said...

For a long time I too never 'got' what the big deal with 'western music' was. Same thing - thought it to be musically shallow and same thing repeated over and over.

And then I discovered pink Floyd. And then iron maiden. And led zep.. The world wasn't the same again.

You should listen to led Zeppelin's live album called 'the song remains the same'. It's like an Indian classical concert. Lots of improvisation. Something that can be described as Aalap. And then Moby dick is like tani aavartanam.

narendra shenoy said...

Led Zep is another one of his favorites :)

narendra shenoy said...

Thanks, Subbu!

narendra shenoy said...

:) Thanks!

The Cloudcutter said...

Your son has great taste!

rkramadh said...

Ah, the one and only MM! Indian classical music is indeed unique although I enjoy world music/western classical music without understanding it like Indian music.