Music…for the Bourgeoisie and the Rebel July 29, 2008Posted by astralwicks in Blogging, Culture, Family, friends, india, Memory, music, People, Personal, Places, Writing.
Tags: all my music, Amin Sayani, Binaca Geet Mala, College, dance music, hostel life, House & IDM, Memories of Jamshedpur, musical journey, Naushad interview, rock and roll memories, thank you everybody, wonder years
Music – how it came and stayed.
Mother – mom is a singer. No, she doesn’t sing for money, is not a radio or a TV artiste. She just sings because her mom or my grand mother used to sing and used to sing very good. So does my mom. So, from an early age, actually as far back as I can remember I have heard songs. Devotional Carnatic songs can be heard in my house from 7 in the morning.
When we were kids it used to be even earlier. Now with age, sleep patterns have changed although the singing thankfully has not diminished. Thyagaraja, Annamacharya, Vishnu Sahasranama and a whole lot of theme specific, not to mention, songs from Telugu films – songs voiced by Bhanumati, C.Janaki, Sushila, Ghantasala (probably the greatest male playback singer from Andhra, if not from the country and I am not kidding) and others.
Father – can’t sing at all, but is a serious, very serious fan of the Golden Era of Hindi film songs, which means from 50 to 58 in his calculations. According to him even the 60’s represented a collapse and R.D. Burman was a corrupting influence. So, his contribution is in the form of the radio that he played every morning, evening and night. He still does the morning routine.
I still remember the 7.55 A.M song played on Radio Ceylon – it is always a K.L. Saigal number. I am saying is, but probably times have changed. His favourite was, is and always will be Naushad. Years later when I interviewed Naushad I told him about my father’s obsession with him. The great composer wrote a letter to him in Urdu. I said he can’t understand (he once used to in the 1950’s but with no use, forgot) Urdu anymore, so he translated it into Hindi. That piece of paper has been laminated and kept under lock and key back in Jamshedpur.
Similarly Vivid Bharti used to be another frequency that he used to visit on a daily basis for a long time. He discontinued it and we (my sister and I) picked it up – for the latest in Hindi film music.
Last but not the least – Binaca Geet Mala. The most popular voice on the air-waves. Amin Sayani’s ‘Bhaiyyon aur Behnon’ a friendly invitation and the countdown – a template to all future hosts that kept an entire nation on its tenterhooks. It briefly changed its name to Cibaca Geet Mala during its last legs. I suspect another change too but have forgotten what it was. I also remember a Sony 90 minute tape that was given by my uncle – a compilation of all the hits from 1952 – the years Baiju Bawra won to the mid 80’s – a tape that is languishing in an old trunk in my parent’s house.
So, it goes without saying that if my parents’ were devoid of any musical obsession – I would have been a philistine – of all kinds.
The Radio – so all this music came to us in the house on Radios. We had a huge brown Marconi – named after the very man. It had valves inside – towers that blinked when you switch it on. I was fascinated but couldn’t understand what they did. The Marconi had a glass panel in the front with names of all the Station names. So when you tuned by turning the knob, you could travel from Chicago, New York, London, Paris, Russia, Johannesburg, Turkey, Delhi, Ceylon, Tokyo etc.
It was a fantastical experience as kids! One was transported along with the changing sound waves and the corresponding language to all the different places of the world – sitting right in front of the radio! It was a world tour without moving. Can I get excited like that anymore?
The Marconi is a mummy now, wrapped and preserved – nobody having the know how to mend it.
With time things became smaller and mobile and a National Panasonic served us in the growing up years from the 70’s. It’s still in use and my father loves Japan. It was again a Panasonic tape recorder that took us to the next level of audio experience.
Festivals – all festivals Durga Puja, Lakshmi, Ganesh, Id or the local festivals of Jharkhaand (then Bihar) meant that music would be blared 24 x 7. We unfortunately heard the worst, growing up in the early 80’s, leaning heavily on Padmalaya and Jetendra films, but on good days, some playlist orchestrated by a connoisseur, some good songs of the earlier eras – 60’s or 70’s (50’s was too old even then) could be heard. Independence and Republic day had an established song base that one could not deviate from. It was during these festivals that ‘Jhankaar Beats’ was heard and a judgment passed by the crowds.
People – we all have our uncle or aunt or friend who introduces us to something. I had Rajendra – a couple or more years elder to me, old family friends. From him I was introduced to the world of western music.
We had diaries before the computer. In these diaries he used to maintain a catalogue – of all the music that he had. . This was also necessitated by the fact that pirated tapes sometimes only had the tape and nothing else or tape with wrong information. So, when you laid your hand on any information then it made perfect sense to write it down for posterity.
1 of the first artistes that I followed was The Boss or Bruce Springsteen, courtesy Rajendra, who till date swears on him and the E Street Band. Nebraska, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Tunnel of Love and more…sometimes when he used to run out of money and had to buy his tape – he used to run to me. Similarly the flute wielding Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull was a thrill of teenage years. And Michael Jackson.
Nobody could escape his influence those days. After the ritual hindi film song playlist at most of the festivals the night was reserved for MJ. The pandal was and is made right across my house – not more than 20 meters and most of my elders from the locality would be slightly tipsy by then. By 10 P.M, MJ would be put on and then a free style dance session would begin. There was this one guy Vasu who used to move like glue. He seemed a Bad boy from the ghetto with a Yamaha for company. He would dance and we would watch mesmerized much to our parents’ chagrin, but…
Music Station – and then there are seminal changes. Changes that make you cross and enter the beyond from which you never come back. Music Station was such a place near my home in Jamshedpur. It was (yes, it no longer exists) a cassette shop run from a garage (how perfectly rock-romantic!) by Sukhdev Singh or Debbie as he calls himself.
An artist, painter and a proclaimed Deadhead. He had the world of rock in his garage. Everything that one has ever heard was represented in that garage. You could check out the tapes, their history in Rock Handbooks placed at a handy distance and order. He had Sony 60’s and 90’s. It was custom made recording with Xerox copies of the original sleeve design supplemented by a small sketch or comments just to make it personal. Every 10 or 15 days the collection would be updated and a small flier would mention the additions.
It would not be far fetched to say that at least 2 generations of rock music aficianados from Jamshedpur have learnt their A B C’s from that shop. And this is not your regular Magnasound catalogue available everywhere. Here you would get the Dark Star version played at Glastonbury on Valentine’s Day in the year 79 (that’s just an example – so please don’t start looking for such a version) or all the music from the Monteray Festival of 67…the peak of ‘Summer of Love’. You get the picture.
And it has never been the same.
College – the wonder years for me. Lots of rolling on the grass, bunking classes, playing cricket, all day music sessions and during the festival season a whole lot of headbanging even when they were playing Pink Floyd! We were in all honesty dazed and confused. The diverse milieu made me listen to metal, thrash, funk and soul, got me in touch with people who had listened more and knew more and shared more! I have never listened to more music than those 5 years at Hindu College. Not to forget Indian Classical music because of Spic Macay and Bangla Rock because most of my friends were from Calcutta.
For almost 3 years I only listened to a mix of The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, REM, Led Zeppelin and Velvet Underground.
Nouveau – I never thought that I would move beyond The Doors, Grateful Dead, Rolling Stones, Tull, Led Zeppelin, REM, Van Morrison, Velvet and company. Not in terms of leaving deadwood behind but to discover something new. And then the computer happened.
The computer had made its mark by the 2000’s in India. Napster was everywhere and piracy was not understood. Free Love probably became free music and downloads became the staple. 1 click and you had it. Friends who had access started downloading new music with a hint of electronica, something we could groove and dance to. And we had fun. Dance sets one free I had heard and indeed it does.
I discovered House, Progressive and IDM – similar, dissimilar and evolving – I am still on the journey.
Many thanks to all.