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.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Of Garbas and Baroda

Experimenting with a new app I downloaded on the phone which lets me post to the blog directly. Please forgive the following garbage, which appears by way of testing.

The missus and I made a quick dash to the charming little city of Baroda for the weekend to check out the garba scene at the invitation of some kind friends, the said garba being a religious dance which involves going around in circles.

"Sounds a bit like the bureaucracy", you are doubtless saying to yourself, and on a metaphorical level, you wouldn't be far from the truth. For instance, it consists, as far as I could see, of taking a few staggering steps in one direction, spinning about on an axis as if contemplating what to do next, turning around as though admitting that the initial direction was probably the wrong one and taking the next few staggering steps in the exact opposite direction, turning around and repeating the cycle. Which is a lot like how policy is made in this country. However, when all the backs and forths are netted off, the general motion is in one direction, again like the bureaucracy which somehow manages to miraculously achieve progress, albeit very little. (The direction, by the way, is counterclockwise, which is very rum, I thought, because there is a devi in the center and these gyrations thereby constitute a parikrama. So how did it come about that it is the wrong way around? Any way, deeper thoughts than my feeble thinking apparatus can accommodate. Back to the res)

Baroda, it is said, has the finest garbas in the country, and while I'm not a connoisseur (having witnessed a grand total of one garba in my life) it IS a gorgeous spectacle. There were several thousand people dressed splendidly in over colorful ethnic wear. "The dress is called a chaniya choli" the missus explained "and don't stare like that"

At the moment of going to press, we are shopping. This burg seems to consist entirely of shops selling garments. Sigh. I fear for my solvency.

Will post a little later.