Wednesday, April 21, 2010

the journey

I remember exactly how our household back then used to sound - I always picked up the background noise. Lata and Kishore played in the mornings, alternating with MS Subbulakshmi. Both my parents being music buffs, a lot of subconscious listening went into our childhood. I was introduced to ABBA/Cliff Richard/Carpenters by my mother. My dad listened to a lot of BMK, and I remember downloading his thillanas one day at hostel because I suddenly pined to listen to them. Strange what you grow up on never leaves you. Michael Jackson was so much a part of our everyday lives that I still sing the same wrong lyrics from a permanent etching into memory, a reason why to this day I say mos-cow. I don't think I could ever forget the cover of that Dangerous tape, and the white ribbed plastic that made it easily identifiable long after the paper peeled off.

I owe many many hours of happiness - the kind of happiness that does not require and cannot be shared with anybody else- to a little black tape recorder that offered the discovery of and escapade to another realm. I never felt like I needed anyone - I was content. I think as we grow older we start looking for other people to make us happy.

I got gifted piano instrumental cassettes on every birthday- most of them being Clayderman. After that I moved on to Yanni and quickly tired of his arpeggioed style. I hadn't much exposure to jazz/blues- so most of what I played was old 60s and classical. I'd pick up songs at home, spending hours at the keyboard, and then go back to piano class the next day and try it out. Nothing compares the wood richness of heavy-keyed piano sound.

My brother started listening to different kinds of music when he was at school - I would curiously listen to his tapes - Bryan Adams, Deff Leppard (letsgetletsgetletsgetletsget "drunk!") , Duran Duran, Eagles, The Beatles, Knopfler, dinchak party music, Silk Route - they all featured on his playlist. Clapton, Pearl Jam, the Smashing Pumpkins and Simon and Garfunkel were introduced after a while. Ah, to have an older brother. He also opened my window to jazz (how could you not have heard Take Five?!). Sweet discoveries of Brubeck and Chick Corea followed.

Long after CDs were around, I still bought cassettes and stuck to my faithful black cassette player. We exchanged cassettes at school and I listened to friends' parents' old ones - ranging from old country to blues to classic rock. We were extremely lucky to have access to the Internet. I spent hours crawling the web referring to my ‘pop hits of the 60s’ handbook and downloading as many as I could with a dial-up connection. I used to listen to Yahoo Radio back then, when YM was awesome (and they still had Doodle!). Brilliant stations, brilliant songs. A lot of the music i got was through a personal journey of hunting online and retrieving. Zz Top, The Doors, Cream - all were painstakingly downloaded. Digital Dreamdoor was my bible (and to my great delight, introduced me to ELP!).

Harmony fascinated me. All my friends were in the school choir (both those who sang and those who lip-synced) and we'd get together every break, singing songs from printed sheets of lyrics. Of course we sang a lot of boyband songs, but what the heck. Singing in church was an experience - the organisation of the choir was brilliant and I loved how all the parts would come together finally and echo in all their fullness.

College opened up many many new worlds. Grunge and metal: Kamelot, Pain of Salvation, Maiden, Pearl Jam, Temple of the Dog, Dreamtheater, etc. DVD collections arrived one day from Bombay - in it I found entire collections of progressive rock and fusion. Alan Parsons, Yes, Asia, ELP, Rush. The amount of time I devoted listening to those bands I cannot fathom now - I don't know how I had the time to listen to each and every song, find the ones I liked, and find favourite bits in those songs (I love this part!). I got to meet some amazing musicians who changed my life. I listened to different guitarists for months, before I comfortably settled on Satriani for his grace. Dave Matthews Band, Steely Dan, Jamiroquai, Bobby McFerrin, Shakti, Prasanna, Floyd, Extreme, Fleetwood Mac, Mr Big ; King Crimson, Tower of Power, lots of jazz - everyone had something to offer, a band or song to suggest till it became as much a part of the listener as the offerer. After some time, all of us at college had the same collections in our hard disks- some of them who would be misnamed forever. The newer Jamie Cullums, John Mayers, Jack Johnsons. Zero, Motherjane, TAAQ- there was no dearth of fresh music. The college bands, the others that came and went at fests. Acapellas, acoustics, live shows, a bunch of friends sitting and jamming.

Of course, bus rides always had interesting music too - Remo being my all-time favourite Tamil hit!

Sometimes I feel like I belong more to these songs than they do to me. I know where I'm living my parallel life.