<%-- Page Title--%> Slice of Life <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 127 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

October 24, 2003

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Fodder for Soul

Richa Jha

“The latest album of REM please”, I said at the music store. This was the fifth shop at Rifles Square where I was trying my luck. I was almost certain of the response yet again.

“Aryan, for you apa? O yes, we have their greatest hits”.
“No no, not Aryan, REM”, I spelt it out for them just as I had done at the previous stores. “Sorry, we don't have it with us”, one of them said politely. Just then another person walked into the store and after a brief word with the earlier sales person, added, “I'll show you this chamatkar anthology we have prepared, we've named it 'M-osome'. You may not know these hits, but bhai will love them. Take it for him, there are songs from Metallica, Megadeth, and Iron Maiden.” He figured there was a 'bhai' in my life because I had my little one in tow.

“No, no, I am looking for this specific album of REM.”

“Apu, There are plenty of new things in the market. You may not know this other kind of music”, he said stressing on 'other', “but in these days of Linkin Park and Ramstein, is bhai still stuck with REM? Who listens to them these days?”

I wanted to say aloud, “I do”, but let it go. I could also have rattled the names of at least 10 different alternative and grunge groups he probably would have no clue of, but I let that too pass. I was in a good mood.

It was obvious that to them, if it was anything other than pop and Hindi movie songs, it had to be for the husband, the brother, or the boyfriend. People find it easy to work from within neat preconceived and stereotyped generalisations. We all do it, don't we? We associate different 'types' of musical inclinations with different categories of people.

Frankly, I have not quite cracked the principle behind 'understanding' music. Does music have a language? Yes, and no. Words make a song what it is--memorable and eternal. Notice how suddenly a certain song starts making that much more sense once you know and appreciate the words. As children we may have hummed several tunes with jumbled words, but the day we understood the lyrics, they became indelible, didn't they? As a carefree teenager, the world around me suddenly became complex the day I read between the lines of a Buffalo Soldier, an Imagine, a Rock Island, or a Roxanne.

But, on the other hand, clichéd ats this sounds, music does have a universal appeal, and no language barrier can dilute the pleasure of listening what else explains the mass appeal of The Ketchup Song? Or Khalid's Didi? Remember Uska Dara in the 80's? A Vanessa Mae's violin, an Ian Anderson's flute, or a Joe Satriani's guitar needs no accompanying words. It is the instrument that does the talking (and quite literally so, if it happens to be Peter Frampton's guitar remember the mind blowing 'Do You Feel Like We Do?')!

Take the case of Hindi music or the English rock / pop for that matter. How many of us actually follow the lyrics? While it may be fashionable to say, “Oh I love music, and I can't live without it”, how many of us have ever taken the pains to learn any song beyond the main refrain? The internet may be a great resource, but it rarely gets used.

My child is yet to start speaking in correct complete sentences. Yet, he hums his nursery rhymes (with actions to match, and context to complement) as if they were his first language! I wonder if it reflects a larger, more general truth about the adults. That while most of us may be born with two left feet, singing is something that comes naturally to us. Just as the good far exceeds the evil in this world, the passable singers in this world overwhelmingly outnumber the few tone-deaf individuals. But even this rare species practises the art in their showers.

Concluding this piece on a general observation, at any large social gathering, all it takes is an impromptu session of antakshari for people to shed their inhibitions. By logical extension, it is always easier to get a large group to agree to a round of antakshari at a party than to get them around to playing any other game. It's spontaneous and it lets you be yourself while you have the security blanket of a group. But above all, it's about the shared experience of music that binds us all together.


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