Thursday, October 11, 2012


Pardon the unintelligible title. These days I seem to be perennially pressed for time. But there are certain things one just has to write about immediately? (not ?, it should be . Ah, screw it.)
Have you heard of a band called Turquoise Cottage. Probably not. Because it isn't a band. It's a bar. My brains are addled, my mind is muddled, my words are scuttled, forgive me please.
It's a nice place. Dimly lit. Old movie posters, newspaper cuttings and rock 'n' roll memorabilia on the walls. Rolling Stone magazine covers - good shit.
The drinks? Dunno. I don't drink.
Why not? I don't like the taste of alcohol.
Am I nuts? Bite me.
I performed there once. Months back. It was much the same then, unsurprisingly. A lot more smoke though.
You see interesting people there. Korporate Babas and Bengali rockers and wannabe Pearl Jammers and moustachioed gentlemen who look like they spend their days on a yacht, puffing a pipe (I kid you not) and then going up to play some Dylan on a classical guitar and harp.
Ah, that's right, I didn't mention the music. Strange that, since that's the first thing that hits you, much before the smoke and booze and nautical Nelsons blowing (smoke) in the wind. There are these speaker stacks which ensure your eardrums are half-perforated and a drumkit that takes care of the other half. People go up and perform, the green and blue and yellow footlights flashing in their faces as their friends aim their cameras and flash in their faces and slutty chicks go around flashing them with sweat-stained faces. Okay, I made up one of those. pick whichever one you want and except (nope, nope, accept, 'scuse me, my brains are addled and... yadda yadda yadda) the other two to be the Gospel Truth, world without end, Amen. Ah, crap, I lifted that from one of the texts I'm doing in college. Oh, that reminds me, I'm doing English Honours at Hindu. But that's another story.
This story's about a night at Turquoise Cottage. I performed there once. I played a bunch of classical pieces and rounded it up with Blackbird. Paul McCartney. Genius. I got some positive feedback. Good to know. I wasn't even nervous or anything: usually my knee starts trembling like a junkie going cold turkey (John Lennon. Genius.). Not that time. The mood was too relaxed.
But I digress. this story isn't about that night. This story's about tonight.
Have you heard of L For Vendetta? You will. They're mindblowing. Completely insane. Three of them are my friends, so you can take that with a pinch of salt if you like, but you're better off trusting me. They're effing brilliant.
I have a shitty memory for names so I'm just gonna use first names. I know, I know, I just told you three of them are my friends, but it's not their names I have trouble with, I clapped eyes on the other two for the first time tonight but hell, was it worth it. Clapping my eyes I mean. Painful thing to do with your eyes, they're not like hands that way. So I'll stick to first names, just to be egalitarian. I know, I know, I'm intentionally misusing big words to make myself seem smart, I could have just said fair, but this is going to be some stream-of-consiousness crap, so I gotta keep even the pretentious bits.
So, the lineup.
You have Leonne. Drummer. One of the first-time-clapees-by-me. Seems like a nice guy. Cool beret. Double bass. Blew me away. Almost literally. I swear my shirt started rippling at some point.
Then there's Abhilasha. Again, first time, so don't expect any sharp insight from me or anything like that. Amazing voice, lotta sooooooullllll... I don't really know why I did that. What I mean is her voice soared and fell like a 747 flown by Johnny Knoxville. Also, she can do a pretty uncanny airhostess voice which considering what I just said is actually pretty appropriate. Plus she had a sore throat, but she sounded amazing all the same, so extra points there I guess.
Now we get to the old-timers.
Rudraksh. Need I say more? I keep putting up links to his blog. I'm not going to do it this time though. Too lazy. Check out my earlier posts, you'll find it.
Awesome vocalist. Can growl like a robotic T-Rex (which I've always mentaiaajkakj...crap! Maintained. There we go. Maintained is what Hendrix's guitar sounds like on Voodoo Child, so thats a helluva compliment). I always tell him that everytime he growls, babies start crying in Bhutan. He laughs, but I think the joke's getting old. Screw it, I hardly get a chance to use it anyway. We used to hang out a lot in school. Now, well, he's got a life and I've got a Chinese oppossum gnawing at my brain, so yeah. Anyway, he's grown a beard. Makes him look tough. Says he can comb it. Me, I have next to no facial hair. Girl says it's causes my testes don't secrete enough androgens. Probably true, but not exactly the context in which I'd want a girl talking about my genitalia (genitilia?). I ain't bitter though. I'll probably outlive the universe because of it.
Okay, onwards. Gavin. Ooooooold friend. Nephew actually. Long story. Awesome bassist. I overuse the word awesome. Screw it. He is. Plays over and under the fretboard. Clarence lives, I tellya. You either get that or you don't. He's got this great strap. I'm not gonna describe it. I'll let you imagine it for yourself. Or maybe you could hunt him down and ask to see it. Tell him I sent ya.
Moses. What can I say? He was named after the wrong Biblical bloke. Looks like Jesus. Plays like shit. I mean that in a good way. The best way, I mean. Seriously, he's kickass. Poor guy's gonna die at 27, I just know it. I'll miss him. We were on the same quiz team once. We were both pretty good. We won. Booyeah.
So, yeah, they came, they played, they conquered. God, such a cliche.
Met a few old school chums while I was there. Cheered and clapped with the rest of them. Left with a huge inferiority complex. Happens every time. It's when you see a band like that up on stage, performing their guts out and loving every minute of it as strangers and friends cheer them on that you know that's the only thing you can be really good at and be worshipped for. Really. People don't scream in movie theaters. If they do, they're usually dumbshits. You don't headbang to a painting. You sure as hell don't memrize the words to the Gettysburg Address. Or maybe you do. Good for you if you do. Guy's gotta have a hobby.
But yeah, musicians have it great. I just wonder if they know how great they have it. I spent the entire time meeting a few new people and trying to get them to like me. You know, jokes, anecdotes, sarcasm, the usual gimmicks, generally trying to be as big a phoney as possible. Usually works, but at the end of the day I always feel like I'm left on the edges, watching everyone else standing around in the centre, packed so tight there isn't room for one more. Gives me a better view, but God, it's lonely. Not that I'm complaining. Or maybe I am. Maybe the perception of social exclusion will make me a better writer, but I'll still never be a musician. Oh, don't worry, I won't stop playing, I still love music. But I know no one's gonna pay to watch me play. It's cool, I'm numb to it. But the good thing is it helps me recognise the musicians when I see them. L For Vendetta? Yeah, they'll be big, if they play their cards right. Mark my words and remember the name. Too lazy to put up a link. Just google it. And listen. And watch. And love. I'll be here on the sidelines, chronicling chronicling chronicling. At least I hope so. If not, they'll play at the funeral, so it's cool. They promised.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mazdoor: A Ballad

Just a short introduction. It might be better if you read this after you've read the poem, but I leave that up to you.
A ballad is a poem meant to be set to music, which is why I've posted this here instead of on my other blog. Also, the rhythm of this poem came after listening to Join Together by The Who.
I might also mention that My Medicine by The Pretty Reckless was also playing on my mental jukebox, so that may have influenced this as well.
The idea for this poem took shape while I was helping my father with his rooftop garden this evening. An hour or so of shifting flowerpots, drawing water from a desert cooler tank with a bucket and bending my back over a fifty or so plants got my body aching and my mind whirring. I decided to write some kind of ode to manual labour which I originally wanted to call Roll Up Your Sleeves. Midway through, the tone became a lot darker and I found myself talking about something I never thought I felt this strongly about. I still don't think I do.
Since this is more of a song than a poem, I've included what you could call a chorus which was inspired by Grovel, Grovel from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, a musical I was part of 7 years ago.
The title comes from a chapter in my junior school Hindi textbook, Katha Ras, which may have been written by Premchand (that one chapter, not the whole textbook) and may or may not have been a subconscious influence in writing this poem. Here it is, without further ado:

Roll up your sleeves and make some inroads
Into the work of the masses, it's time to lift loads
And dig up the earth, now put your back in it
I bet sweat's streaming down your spine now, isn't it?
Digging the wells is all very well
But if we had something to fill it with, now that would be swell
But you gotta make the best of a bad situation
So roll up your sleeves and join the celebration
Of the weight that you know you're gonna have to carry
As you make your own way down to Mr. Stone's quarry
With a song on your lips and a hammer in your hands
It's time to roll up your sleeves and sing along with the band
(As they hum and sing):

Dig! Sweat! Toil and carry!
A hot meal on my table and a wench for me to marry, (now sing):
Carry! Toil! Sweat and dig!
Gotta keep my neck from the noose and my finger from the trig.

Now the taxman's gonna tax you and the beggar's gonna beg
You're gonna fall down the stairs and break another leg
And your blood's gonna boil and the gods will curse your soil
But the digging don't stop until you say you've struck oil.
Your wife is gonna leave you and your husband's gonna die.
The dog will run away and your kid is gonna cry.
So if you haven't got the money, and your brain ain't all that big
Might as well roll up your sleeves and start to dig, dig, dig
(As you start to sing):

Bleed! Sweat! Cough and stumble!
All that weight upon your shoulders' gonna have to make you humble, so
Stumble! Cough! Sweat and bleed!
You've got a lender who's a spender and a family to feed.

Well you can curse, you can spit, you can laugh or you can cry
Big fat tears in the night or you could ask them why
They can sit and watch and need you and perhaps they might feed you
But you know that you won't otherwise they might beat you
With the stick that you carved or the hammer that you forged
They can spit in your face or they could knock aside your porridge
Because even though your skin may be harder than their bones
It's the owner's right to beat the howling dog that he owns
(As he shouts and sings):

Weep! Wail! Beg or complain!
But the one thing you can't do is run away from all the pain
Complain! Beg! Wail and weep!
My whip is mighty heavy and your life is mighty cheap.

So you crouch in the mud and you take all that you can
But in the end, like any other, you remain a mortal man
So you stand and you turn and with murder in your eyes
You wrap your hands around his neck and you cut him down to size.
He may beg you to spare him, but your ears can't seem to hear
So you squeeze and you squeeze until the frantic, feral fear
That he felt slowly fades from his oh so glassy eyes
As he falls down at your feet and now he's dinner for the flies
(And the lawman says):

Die! Burn! Writhe and twist!
Your name is boldly writ on old Lucifer's long list, so
Twist! Writhe! Burn and die!
For you'll be hanging on the gibbet while the sun's still in the sky.

Although the trigger's far away, the rope is all too close at hand
And all the beggars, taxmen, rich men, workers, all across the land
Come to see you and your family, grief and fear writ on their face
Watch trembling as the hangman's golden garland takes its place
As the wood benath your feet falls and you fall towards the soil
All you wish for is another world where you won't have to

Monday, May 21, 2012

Solemn Raindrops

There are different kinds of beauty. Some people say there is no single truth. So, if truth is beauty and beauty truth, why not extend the same courtesy to beauty?

When I started this blog, my intention was to write about the songs I hear and love, the songs that I download onto my mp3 player and listen to over and over again. But after a friend of mine beat me to the draw, I was left feeling at a loss. What do I have left to make this blog unique?
I have since decided to turn this blog into a more accomodating one, still dealing with music but not just one type of music and not just in one way.
Part of the reason for doing this is the acknowledgement of the multiplicity of beauty. Rarely do I say the word 'beautiful'. But that is not to say I refrain from using it altogether. Sometimes I may see something or hear something that affects me, but only momentarily. No matter what Keats had to say, a thing of beauty need not be a joy forever. There is music that I like but that I wouldn't want to put on repeat as I do with songs by the Beatles. That isn't to say their music isn't just as beautiful, or any more beautiful. It's just... different.
Why don't I want to relive the experience? Because like a drug it loses its potency, its effect with use. Some beauty cannot endure. Its influence is instantaneous. Even its memory may not last. While My Guitar Gently Weeps is a sturdy sort of beauty, powerful, enduring. A video of a man writing a familiar adage in simple yet exquisite copperplate handwriting is more subtle, more fragile, more ephemeral. But in the moment that it is seen, it is... electrifying.

Why do I talk of such things?
About a month ago, I was on facebook, chatting with a friend, a kindred spirit when it comes to our passion for music. He shared a link. Nothing unusual about that, we do it all the time. Take Me Somewhere Nice by Mogwai, a band I had never heard of. This was the link.

I had heard such music before. But it had never moved me in the way this piece did, inexplicably. It was nothing like my usual taste in music. I didn't download it and I probably never will. This isn't something I would want to listen to repeatedly. Even the second time had none of the magic as the first. But that night, there was something about it.
Perhaps it was its barrenness. It was an empty musical landscape at first, the guitar, the strings, the percussion, all very nice, all very pleasant, but merely ornamentation, the mountains hiding the sunrise, the trees framing... what exactly? I didn't know. But there was a vacuum. A void. This was seemingly filled later, much later, by the lyrics. But I didn't listen to them. Or I didn't care. For although they seemed to define the song, they were not its substance. Simply more instrumentation. The human voice uttering sounds not words. Sounds that were supposed to support the soul. But the soul was missing. What a pity.
What a pity... I felt a stirring. I had heard great music before, better music, more emotional, lusher. But this one wanted completion. I had never felt what I felt in that instant, nor could I describe it. I felt as if all I needed was the slightest push, a spark to ignite the words left unuttered, unformed within my breast. It sounds ridiculous, it sounds fake, it sounds overly grandiose, but it's true. Is this what inspiration is?
I told my friend, hurry, I told him. I could feel the emotion slipping away just as the vocals began. I asked him to say something, anything. A stimulus. Two words. Adjective noun. That was all I needed. I knew it. But I also knew it mustn't come from me. It couldn't. The emptiness had latched onto my mind. Alone, I couldn't breathe life into it. I needed a stimulus.

Solemn Raindrops.

Why did he say that? Why would he choose those words? I don't know. But they worked. The feeling was almost gone, I had to tug at its trailing threads, trying to recreate it. To some extent, I succeeded, but it still felt artificial. Forced. But then maybe there were no words that would capture that elusive emotion.
Perhaps that was the point.
Perhaps by trying to define the emptiness, by trying to fill it with my words, I had corrupted it. Defiled it.  A paradox. I tried to appreciate a hole by filling it, destroying it. But without doing so, how could I know it?
So I am satisfied. What I wrote is not inspiring. It is not beautiful. It is rudimentary. It is meaningless. But it's still a reflection of something that felt important, so I knew I had to keep it, preserve it, I had to share it. And as poetry is music without a tune and as it had been inspired by music, I chose to share it here, long after it had been written. I always delay this kind of thing. Perhaps it's for the best.

Oh, why are these solemn raindrops falling from the sky?
Have the gods learnt how and when to cry?
Have they come to their senses while all around them the world in madness waits?
Floating in space
With lilies in their eyes and a parchment at their lips
Understanding nothing but the language of seduction, with swaying hips
Sending shivers down collective spines
She sighs
Another day will do
Just not today, for today is mine
Just not today, for today is thine

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dear Sir or Madam, Will You Read My Blog?

Because it sure as hell is going to take me years to write, so I'd appreciate it if you could take a look. If you got that reference, you're in the right place. If you didn't... all will be revealed. In time.
I've never been one of those guys who can just let music play in the background. I remember this birthday party I once had, years ago, when I was less than ten years old. I put on this casette to play and got supremely pissed when everyone wouldn't just shut up and listen. My dad had to convince me that people might prefer to talk or eat or, well, do something rather than just sit around listening to a casette from start to finish.
Since then I've gotten used to people ignoring the music that I can't help but listen to. Not just hear, but listen. And that's why listening to music is a bit of a private exercise for me. I prefer to just let the various strains, the various lines of music wash over me. I prefer to keep my mouth shut and my ears open. Sometimes I'll listen to a song and then play it back, this time just focusing on the bass line, the next time letting the drums dominate the song. I let the words create images in my mind and try and create images that become a part of the melody, just another instrument. If I do this right, I get that shiver down my spine, that feeling of... aptness that I only feel when sound and image complement each other to the point where the one immediately brings back memories of the other.
I know other people have felt this. Think of the last time you watched a movie and felt the soundtrack swell inside your head untill it becomes an integral part of the scene. That's when you're plugged in. That's when youre connected. And that's what I want other people to feel.
I still love to share music with my friends, to tell them what to listen for, to try and control their experience so that they could feel what I have felt. Unsurprisingly, not everyone appreciates that kind of control. i'm not sure I would either. All the same, I do want to share my experience; I do want people to know what I'm listening to.
And that's why I made this blog. Long ago, I was listening to Jessica, an amazing instrumental piece by the Allman Brothers' Band. Though there were no words, I could see what the music was telling me. Sometimes it was like a bird soaring over a bridge; sometimes a car driving along that bridge as the sun bursts into existence. I'd never felty anything like it. I knew I had to share it.
So I made this blog. I wanted to describe my experience as I listen to a song. I wanted people to know what it's like. Unfortunately, because of my studies, my hectic work schedule, my responsibilities, I haven't been able to post anything. Whenever I felt that sense of internal harmony with a song, I was away from my keyboard.
But one day, I'll be able to write about what I feel as I listen to The Who, Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts, George Harrison, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Johnny Cash; all of them!
One day.
Till then, this is a litttle teaser. When I finally do start filling this blog with y thoughts, they'll mostly deal with songs by The Beatles. You probably would have already guessed that. But as I mentioned earlier, there will be others too. I won't be writing from an academic standpoint. Nor will I be writing from a critical standpoint. I don't have enough knowledge about such things to attempt them. Instead, I'll write about the music I love from an emotional standpoint. I'll describe the feelings every true music lover feels when he hears a familiar tune.
Just wait. It'll happen.
Until then, farewell.
Oh, and yes, I do want to be a paperback writer.