Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pink Floyd :post zero

Let's talk about Pink Floyd.I know, you will stop me and yell," what is left there that's not been told about this band yet ?". 14 years after their last studio album, still every five minute a freshman in one of the zillions Indian colleges starts looking at life as a mix of weeds and magic (forgive me Federico) after having his first taste of comfortably numb/Another brick in the wall. Every low-brow college band still has to churn out one of Floyd's handful of hits and that to at the cost of enduring scathing taunts of audience comparing the lead guitarist's work with old Dave. Every die hard fan still hopes someday and perhaps a few years before FBI captures king Q, Floyd will cut an album together, not as a trio but being the quintessential quartet of an era long gone. Some intellectuals still go ga-ga over Floyd's early works, almost swearing by the dead lava of Pompeii, Some rich kid's new Fender don't get its due salvation if Comfortably Numb ain't covered in it,Some wannabe poets almost cry every time they utter " Remembering games and daisy chains of lust/Gotta keep the loonies...etc". So, if you are an Engineering grad from India and never heard of Floyd then dude from whichever planet you might have landed it was certainly not Mars. Pink Floyd ,to that IT-clubbing, onsite-whoring,fast moving populace, during their college days,was equal to 'mindblowing' muzic to be enjoyed with Paran da's Panch takaar Puriya( sachet of weeds bought for a few cents) or with Old Monk rum while sitting in a dim lit room. They don't need no education on Pink Floyd. No, Sir.
Be assured, my constant reader, this ain't another fanboy's warm hearted tribute to that arguably best band ever.This is about a story of growing up. Growing up with some wonderful moments of a millennium long gone, growing up in a new millennium with its collective share of angst,worries and changes that will someday make me sit in a deserted US office and realise how does it feel to have someone in my head other than me.
Maybe this is the story about salvation. Salvation that never came. Never came the Hollywood way, the way it came to Forrest Gump, to Will Smith in pursuit of happiness, to Tim Robbins in that Morgan Freeman movie. But Pink Floyd single handed-ly showed me that first flickering flame of salvation. Salvation from the conformed way of accepting reality, conformed way of enjoying musing by being bound to a definite genre, conformed way to live life. Ironically almost 11 years later(2009), when I try to finish this long overdue piece, all those Floyd's songs sit on top of my desk and watch a very much conformed soul whose band has started playing altogether a very different tune. Now Pink Floyd lives only in a drunken pure 'Bengali Aantel'(intellectual) party. Now all those nights, the same nights which never slept without listening to "Us & Them"( at least "Have a Cigar"), go to bed thinking about another vacant day gone by. Now Pink Floyd plays, in my ipod, in a cold winter-fucked highway, in a long journey to downtown, in a nauseating plane journey to new york... the modern marvel of technology that made restoring and preserving of any amount of songs inside its binary labyrinth offers me every note, every chord change, every genius of Floyd in its entirety. But do I listen? Do I remember? Do I feel the pangs of divinity that water's pen brought? Do I?

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Theme called "Bombay Theme"

Roja was out.1992. The hindi dubbed version with lyrics by P.K.Mishra. Roja created a ripple. A ripple in the psyche of the hindi-muzik loving mass. Till then the torchbearers of '80's were doing a mass production of Hindi Songs which by sheer brilliance of certain Lahiri and Malik always ended up sounding like thanksgiving day tunes by Cacophonix. people told me that there were guys like R D Burman, Kishore Kumar, Naushaad etc who created magic, gave Hindi movie lovers gems and so many good things. But, I can confess to you ,my constant reader, that in those days when my teen age ears listened to them it could not distinguish between apples and oranges. And I listened to the Naddem-Shravan, Anand-Milind, Anu Malik clan till then. It was my ignorance or their brilliance that I always mistook an Anand-Milind tune as a Naddem-Shravan one and vice versa. For Anu Malik it was different. Most of his 'original' tunes were sung by him and his voice has always chosen to sit somewhere between Bob Dylan and Luciano Pavarotti with right amount of mix n match. I still can not forget his 'My Adorable Darling' from a movie called Main Khiladi Tu Anaari.
These stalwarts of '90s and some of the coming-back-for-more kids of '70's( read Laxmikant-Pyarelal) gave us some OST which blended with the movies so mellifluously as if playing Notting Hill for SAW 4 or even better"Playboy Playmate of the year's" theme in Harry Potter's opening credit. And back ground score? Holy Cow. Out of respect and love for each other these composers always liked to use the same sound sampler borrowed from the same library (did anyone say Hollywood of '40's ?). So, if a mother is crying it will always be the same violin chord sounding exactly as AnuMalikian as Anand-Milind can 'create'. For entry of villain same Synth,for tragedy same chords, for fight scene same beat, same pedals...wow, that's what I call mass creativity. By mass, for mass.
And Roja came out. silently. well almost. Polygram published the casette in a red cover with a very small mention of the composer's name as A R Rahman. And then? India listened to "Dil Hain Chota Sa". Frontbenchers' listened to "Rukhmani Rukhmani",Lovers' listened to "Ye Hassen Badiyaa". And there was a ripple. A movie with the music that is there not just for the heck of it but to blend with the narrative, to make us emote and even to remain with us as a never ending story when the show is over. When was the last time, Hindi movie lovers witnessed that?(Gulzar's Parichay?)
Our stalwarts took no notice. A black, short,flabby boy from (oho! of all the places tht South-India) Tamilnad who made just one OST to win (that was an accident) a national prize was just not worth of their attention which they could better use ripping, err...creating another three-months-to-last gem.But the boy stayed. somewhere in a then tiny recording studio ,with a crap name like Panchatthantala Recording Inn, that boy was busy creating another OST.
That OST came out in 1994. It was called 'Bombay'. And one fine morning, India, with her newly found passion for FM radios, listened to a magic called "Kehna Hi Kya". And what a magic it was! Chitra put her soul in this song. Rahman blended Kawali with Opera. With minimal use of instrument a song came out to make whole India hope for a better tomorrow in the area of hindi music.
Along came the movie. A not so brilliant but poignant portrayal of human love in the time of riot. For the first time in my life I discovered that a movie can let go its soul to rely on a piece of music. For a layman like me it may be labelled as 'Theme' music but that very theme as a piece of music was very conspicuous in earlier Hindi movies by its absence. And how did Rahman educate us with the concept of theme music! With a tune that I believe from the bottom of my heart can stop any riffs, any wars even after 14 years. I listened to it in the tape but could not grasp its effect till it bursted in celluloid. The burning roads of Bombay, the hopeless faces of common men, the hope and desperation of the protagonist and the final ray of light....how, how can a man capture it in a musical piece with a playing time of about four minutes? Was it God who played thru Rahman, was it humanity that transcended into its utmost display. Till date I have no answer. I doubt, even Rahman may not have the answer to himself. Bombay Theme is and will remain as my ultimate medicine to tranquility. In a world where chaos has become my constant companion,the opening flutes and reminiscent of a 'kirtan' still talk to me of a life where man can be at peace with himself to cherish and enjoy something sublime. Something that the filter of pop culture can capture once in 14 years, in 100 years. And it remains...and it remains...

Monday, April 9, 2007

Every Grain Of Bob Dylan

I always had a disdainful relationship with this Jew. I am talking bout late nineties. We, a bunch of high school kids, were just waking up to a new kind of music(which would take a little time period of ours measured as 'life' to set in)and exorcising ghosts of MJ and the clan.the music was called 'Rock'. It started,as it used to start back then with Bon Jovi(or Bryan Adams). Howling for a 'baby' with heavy beats and a two-minutes-to-die-for guitar riff...that's how Rock came to us.Most of us did not understand even full lyrics of a single song(The blessings of Internet and azlyrics.com would come later)yet chanting the chorus like "you give love a bad name" thousand times was the coolest thing for us to be different. Getting a cheap imitation of a "Gibson" where the big 'B' is replaced by a 'V', having a hairdo like ..well, Alec John Such(that's all you could afford in India then with 10 rupees as your weekly gain) were next steps. So it was our big time entry in rock heading towards EXIT:GLAM ROCK in route 666.

That progress from Bryan Adams to Bon Jovi to Van Halen would come to an end on my eighteenth birthday when I would order in the local music store and would buy an album called "The Wall" by a crap-sounding British band, Pink Floyd(Actually it was suggested as a complete "Bucks-on-bucks" by my then newly met friend, Arani Basu). The rest, as they say in the cliche, was history and a few metric tons of 'Grass'. What followed next was a life long enchantment for that obscure,dysfunctional British Band and an effort to sniff the socks of their contemporaries like Mr James Morrison, Mr James Hendrix, Mr James Page (Wow so many James...but Mr Blunt does not feature in this list).
So, my constant friend, by the time Britney Spears lost her virginity for seventh time and covered "I love rock n roll" for her fourth album our consciousness was taking the joyride from pop rock to more 'serios' stuff.Zack De La Rocha sold us a platterful of hate for the big brother, Iron Maiden sold us the key to enter into the shrine of heavy metal,Nirvana sold us confusion,U2 sold us world peace or something like that,Tommy Lee sold us home entertainment featuring Ms. Anderson.
Mr. Rober Zymmerman(hereafter referred as Bob Dylan) was living in a distant galaxy from us.
It's not like we had not tried him. Taking cues from the revolutionary Bengali song writer Kabir Suman, who did a rendition of Dylan's "Blowin' in the wind", we listened to most of his radio hits.The situation could be described as, if you were a fan of Suman those days you would inevitably end up trying at least "Blowin' in the wind" and "Like a rollin' stone". The end result might vary but for me it was sheer disdain. I could not figure out that how can they allow a man with a voice like a love struck toad and tunes which seemed...well...not exactly like Pink Floyd ...even not like Butthole Surfers cut albums for such a long period of time? So I bought "Bob Dylan's Greatest Hit Vol 2" one day, could not go beyond the fifth track (which was "Chimes of Freedom") and eneded up overwriting it with immortal radio hits like "18 till I die" and "Who the fuck is Alice".
To cut the long story short, I stayed away from Mr. B-O-B D-Y-L-A-N.
As I reached a few miles in this century,I was happy to have my Rock talk for satan,sex,drugs, anti-establishment,alienation,psychedelia,suicide,homophobia,wars,psychopaths...everything except love.I myself tried to write all those stuffs which scream "death, acid, fuck,killing" in every other line. My dream was to have a rock band which will fuse Sanskrit with sinister. But somewhere , a little clown called 'time' was having a different plan for me. My days of growing up had come and the jester would not let me go without choosing my poor soul as his ball for juggling. So, somewhere in 2004 I found myself stuck in an air conditioned office, digging my days in an effort to stay afloat in the ocean of million faceless IT workers like myself. The joker was having a ball. My days of freedom were over, I grew into a man confused,downtrodden,burdened and addicted to agnosticism. With lots of complains going inside my head and another lot of existential dilemma, I found out that someone had snatched all my time for my intellectual exercises. Out of habit(and newly earned money) I did buy some albums of modern rocks or modern lits but they were left to rest in peace in my daily existence of dementia.
So, it was out of habit when one afternoon I started upon my second attempt to buy a classic rock album( By then I have written RIP for Floyd and neither NIN or Metallica was going to buy a land in 'Sunetro-Banerjee's-favorite-band' cemetery). I ended my search on a 3 disk-set called "Biograph" having the picture of a less grumpy and less avuncular BOB on its cover. Actually , the motivation for buying that album was , well, just one song which hit me in a hot afternoon while I was killing my time by pretending as a busy project trainee in Indian Statistical Institute's Neural Network lab. It was Debrup Chakraborty, my now disconnected icon of youth who while browsing thru http://www.bobdylan.com/ offered me a glimpse into another side of bob dylan. The song was "Every Grain of Sand" and the website allowed me to listen to the opening lines only. But, I got that feeling, the same feeling which Dave Gilmore gave me with his second riff in 'Comfortably Numb', the same feeling which Vincent gave me with his 'potato eaters', Camus with his 'Stranger',Allan Moore with his 'V for Vendetta'. Again to repeat the cliche "I was hooked". And then started the 'search'. I searched a whole three years to get the full song. I searched in Indian Market which was full with Dylan's hit albums like Greatest hits,Time out mind but not an obscure one like Shot of love( where the song originally appeared).
The search ended another hot afternoon when I lay my hands on "Biograph". I was tired and excited. never before I bought a CD just to listen one song and here I had three CDs containing fifty one howling from Mr Dylan and just one of my gem. You, my constant reader, may call it a shot of insanity, but I was like that.
So, I returned my home to listen to the full version of the song that eluded me for long. Along the way I picked up few others and I cried and I laughed and cursed myself for not feeling the oneness with Bob's lyrics, with his wounds, with his protests, with his undying love and lust for life for so long.I picked up verses like "there is no use in trying/ the deal with the dying" from "to ramona" or "If I'd lived my life by what others were thinkin', the heart inside me would've died.I was just too stubborn to ever be governed by enforced insanity,Someone had to reach for the risin' star,I guess it was up to me." from "up to me". The lyrics were on, his voice was feeling my head and long long time after Floyd I was getting someone to talk of my agonies and of my rejoices. So, at last the Jew from Minnesota did succeed to enthrall me and I am afraid that in my times of deepest pain which are coming back too often now, I don't have any place to go but to his voice and to his lyrics. You won me Bob.
And constant reader , if you are going to ask that what happened to "every grain of sand", the song for which i am supposed to write this blog,go listen to it yourself. After all we all need a prayer to hang on and to fall in love,once again.