Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, September 28, 2006

Musical woos of a teenager

By Estel

I feel, and I'm pretty sure most people in the world would agree with me, that music is the backbone of our sanity; the others will agree that it is the backbone of our insanity, too; just look at the headbangers.

Now before all you punk rock, metal, heavy metal, thrash metal, death metal, psychedelic [lemme know if more of them crop up] fans fly off the handle, I didn't mean it in a bad way. I've been to a heavy metal concert in Sweden with a few of my friends and, although I didn't get a single word the dudes screeched into the microphone, I kinda liked banging my head along as well.

Personally, I'm an omnivorous music fan; I listen to everything from Backstreet Boys to Coldplay to Eminem to Linkin Park to Iron Maiden to Robindrosongeet to Shakira as long as they sound good to my ears, although the last one I like mostly for the eyes. I don't really fancy the boy bands anymore as I've heard their songs too many times and have outgrown them.

But “I want it that way” by the Backstreet Boys, demands a special place in my heart. It was the first English song I ever heard. I heard it back in the mid-nineties, when boy bands and audiocassettes ruled the teenage world and my cousin's Walkman was an Untouchable, and it swept my 7-year-old heart away. Funny, I now have an iPod and it's at the bottom of the list.

Anyway, the title is about the musical woes of a teenager. Well, it goes a bit far back than the teen years. It started when I first landed in Sweden at the age of ten and didn't even know who the hell Christina Aguilera was.

The girls were horrified [no wonder none of my girlfriends lasted more than a month], but recovered a little when they found out I knew who Britney Spears was. Her continuous stream of singles strongly held the teenage awe back then. The boys didn't care much about music. Some did, but most cared more about ice hockey and football.

It's in Bangladesh where I confronted serious music [read rock music] fans. When the guys in my class asked me what I listened to, I said all the above and added Britney Spears, just in case.

It totally backfired. I suddenly understood that this was the kingdom of “Cradle of Filth” and “Children of Bodom” [incidentally, the concert mentioned above featured this band]. Mentioning Richard Marks, Enrique Iglesias [who someone pointed out recently, in this very magazine, was a smoochy singer of love ballads. I quite agree] or Sting would be committing social suicide [which Britney already took care of], whereas mentioning Guns'n'Roses, Limp Bizkit, Nickelback, Sum41 and Blink182, some of my rock favourites, is a very good idea.

Don't get me wrong, I ain't a hypocrite. But sometimes, you just gotta go with the flow. I've had enough of musical ridicule back in Sweden, though it persisted, to some extent, back here, too.

I have a guitar, which I salvaged from a friend's basement at the end of my stay in Sweden. While in my friend's basement, roaches had used it as their temporary [or maybe permanent] breeding ground.

The result was that there were roach poo and eggs in it, which rattled when the guitar was shaken. I didn't dare pour water into it to clean it out in case it got damaged.

Anyway, I thought I would join the school music club. The guys could maybe teach me how to play. Though the guitar savvy boys admired the nylon strings, they stated that my guitar was a Hawaiian guitar, not Spanish.

As none of them knew how to play Hawaiian guitar, all that it was good for, was the part of a very large “jhunjhuni”. As you've already understood by now, I have absolutely no idea about guitars. They told me to get it converted. Just can't bring myself up to spending the money. In the end, most people are better off listening than playing.

But all through the many songs I listen to, from the craziest to the corniest, none have captured my soul more than the Baul songs. I'm certain that most of you who follow the deshi music scenario have heard Habib's remix albums. But nothing beats the real thing. Nothing beats the Bauls who speak of God through their songs.

Imagine a very large dhankhet [paddy field sounds too pompous] stretching between two villages quite far apart and all you can see are the clusters of trees. The dhan has already been harvested so it seems like a football field of giants. It's a misty night in the middle winter and the full moon is riding high. You are sitting in a circle; a candle and a few agorbati bought from the local shop [which has no toothpaste, only Bidyut Kalo Nimer Majon and the most expensive cigarette available in Gold Leaf, not Benson] in the center.

As the dotara, the mondira and a small drum, not much bigger than the average CD bag kicks in, and a coarse voice starts to sing and the field seems to stretch beyond the horizon; you seem to be sitting in surreal night of lost ages, listening to the songs written by people long dead and you wonder at how the broken voice of an old man can hold so much melody; it is then that you realize, you don't really need electric guitars to get high on music, don't need crazy drums.

You feel utmost bliss. You feel at peace with the world, one with the universe. You forget your worries and feel like you can be friends with even the worst of your enemies.

They say you glimpse God. I, however, see the face of the love of my life. I seriously doubt whether I have attained enough spirituality to glimpse God. I can't explain the feeling to you. It's a mixture of joy, sorrow, life, and, of course, love. Who cares about sanity or insanity? Music is the backbone of life.



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