Friday, October 26, 2007

Good Music

Taste, in music and probably anything else for the matter, has to be one of the most personal things that one would have. So personal that it would be easy to ruin your mood by just saying that THAT thing you like sucks, and I would be no exception to that rule. Music is my best friend - the one that selflessly yet perfectly turns me right up when I am down and amplifies my good mood to euphoric levels. Just like everyone's next door neighbor's tomcat, my taste in music also happens to be unique (forehead-wrinkling-unique to quote an old classmate of mine). Though I do really enjoy heavy metal (a very strict sense heavy metal that would NOT include death metal but would include thrash, grunge and their related variants), my first love is Indian light music and classical music - both Hindustani and Carnatic.

My passion for Indian light music, probably, has developed over 18 years of a nothing-but-bollywood childhood. However, my liking for classical music has taken form quite late and evolved a lot over the years. Same for metal - I discovered Metallica (who dragged me into metal heaven) very late (not until mission impossible 2 came out) and until then I could see only Jatin-Lalit, Anu Malik, Ismail Durbar, Uttam Singh, Nadeem-Shrawan, a fair host of indipop people, Strings, Euphoria (though I had not yet fallen for them entirely) and of course, A.R. Rahman (probably all the tamil music I had heard until my undergrad started were of his creation).

Carnatic music, however, was on a parallel track because of my formal education in it - though it was barely anything more than a subject. But, somewhere in 1999, I started treating it with a little more of respect and started actually listening to it properly. I think my mom (she liked carnatic more than heavy metal then... and it has pretty much stayed that way) was responsible for it - every morning, as I used to leave for school at 6 a.m., she'd be watching a performance on TV and would often make me guess the raga. I always went wrong at the start but I picked up in a while and actually managed to atleast hum the right swaras of the raga and sometimes an aalap even if I could not remember or place the name.

That slight bit of seriousness grew on me. I heard more and more and liked it more and more. It was finally topped by the realization of a whole host of unlikely Indian movie songs that subscribed to ragas. Rahman and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy seemed to top that list of music makers with a lot of classical effects and seamless fusion. The fusion did a lot to me, but I loved pure carnatic too!

A few months down the line I finally realized my ideal music store:
shelves of metal gods - metallica, AC/DC, Nirvana, Black Sabbath
others - U2, Nickelback, Black Lab, Seal, John Williams, R.E.M., Oasis
Indirock - Euphoria, Strings, Fuzon, Kailasa
fusion - Rahman, Durbar, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Prasanna
Carnatic - Kunnakodi, Santhanam, Mandolin Srinivas

There were some generally loved music pieces and artists in all of these genres that I could not bring myself to appreciate but that did not concern me either. I had found enough and more to relate every emotion to. Sometimes lyrics did something but it generally was the music that entered and electrified every nerve of the body. Each form had its own unique effect and relation.

I am sure that most of those effects are known to all of us, so I'll mention just two of my favorites.

The first one is the effect of the reethi gowla raga. A very simple yet powerful raga it is, with a lot of unique notes. It had a sense of deep confidence and conviction and positive thought in it - an effect that would make me take its notes and meaning very seriously. It was the Aahadaha - the contentment factor, that spoke of a deep belief, a love, a heritage in its extremely convincing Gandharams, Madhyamams and Nishadhams. It was the raga that would open me up, and draw me to express the insides of the blue. The effect I needed when I was bottling up or when I felt shut to the rest of the world. An effect that would bring a smile; a smile that would read - equilibrium, peace and fulfillment. An example of this raga is this beautiful piece on the guitar. Another, very popular example of this amazing raga is a scarecrow song from the movie Mudhalvan. The music of the Rohirrim from the Lord of the Rings movies overlaps heavily with this raga.

The second effect is quite different but yet powerful. The desh raga is what I would use to relate to home and a lot of its associated elements. Desh was the music of patriotism, of a magical sense of belonging, of national integration, of inspiration, of peace, of past sacrifice and yet, of promise, of hope. This raga hosts, what is probably THE most popular song in India and still, all people may not know its name. It is the raga of the 'Vande Mataram' (the original classical one; not the versions from Rahman's album, or Lata Mangeshkar's or Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Ghum or Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani ) - a raga that transcends all lines of classical, folk and regional music. It was the music of purity - a highly concentrated form of the effect that touching ethanol has, i would call it. It was the music of rejuvenation and spirit. My favorite bhajan is my favorite probably because it is in this raga. Rahman's work on it in 'The Legend of Bhagat Singh' was beyond genius. In one form, it was energetic, with a power infusing beat, and spirit and courage. In the other form, joined by a host of other ragas including Suddha Bangala, Abhogi and Arabhi, it was of hope at a time of despair, of sadness, yet of an assurance for the future. Here is a titular example.

To quote Krishna - "Hail good Music...!"

Friday, October 19, 2007

Electric Blue!

One fine morning, Clark woke up and headed into the bathroom for a shave. Suddenly it happened - crackling blue streaks or electricity burst out of his eyes. Lois was stunned, as was the man of steel. After a series of further intensifying unfortunate events, he transformed - into a being of pure energy - a vast energy, that could not be contained. Cadmus and Lexcorp then came up with a containment suit in white and blue, with a new 'S' emblazoned on the the chest and thus was born a new avatar - Superman blue.

Though it was said that this condition was, but a natural evolution of his powers, it came with new powers that were totally unrelated to his classical ones, the biggest change being that he could no longer have powers as Clark Kent. As superman he was apparently dissipating out of the real plane of existence. When he concentrated hard enough, he returned to the real plane of existence as Clark, but minus his powers. To use his powers he had to transform into superman. However, if he were to get injured as Clark, he could transform into superman, dissipate and reform - and this would completely heal him.

The classic lowering of the glasses to see through could no longer be done. In fact, supes no longer had his x-ray or telescopic vision. Instead, he could now see all wavelengths and spectra. He quickly adjusted to this though and still used his super-vision to generate something like a heat impression that he could see.

He was now like a energy absorbing coil with sparks flying all around. Instead of bouncing bullets off his body, he now let them pass through his body - as if he held no form. However the bullets did melt off as they passed through him and he could still protect those who were fired at.

Could he still fly? Apparently not. In his initial transformation, he was losing his ability to fly. Now instead, he could change his physical form and transform into a bolt of lightning and travel at the speed of light (and maybe more). He could reach the supervillain by just making a call and traveling through the phone - like electricity. In some situations, he was actually able to teleport at will. Much faster than a speeding bullet yes.

He got a lot more creative with the electrical side of his powers. He could now scan through computer records by just passing sparks through them. He could become intangible and phase through objects. He could generate high-energy beams, tractor beams and electron beams - not just from his eyes but at times from his palms too. He was able to even change his form, just like spiderman's symbiote costume. He could manipulate magnetic fields, even generate them at will and he used that a lot to his advantage. It seemed that he had the ability to manipulate matter at a sub-atomic level, and the scope of his electrical powers was limited only by his imagination. A big change was that he could now absorb not just solar energy but any kind of energy - it fact it could overload him at times. Excess energy could also cause him a lot of pain. He did have his super-strength and maybe even his super-breath, but the former was not used much and the later, not at all. He preferred to zap his villains instead of punching them out.

His hairstyle and appearance changed dramatically. He no longer had that trademark curl careening over his temple. And he was thinner than ever before - a build that would make him resemble nightwing more than superman. The upper part of his costume bore a fair resemblance to Jor-El and the the other Kryptonians' shiny white outfits. The cape, the leggings and all of his traditional gear were all gone. The 'S' was bigger and had a more futuristic look.

He was still vulnerable to kryptonite and magic though. He was once beaten into unconsciousness by the 'Shahganowahna' - a magical form taken by a native indian fellow using a special rock that granted him the power.

These drastic changes were too much for many a fan and there was a lot of protest about it. But Seigel and Shuster chuckled those away and gave superman blue a lot of room to showcase his talent. In a lot of ways, they allowed the man of steel to use his energy-based abilities to best his villains - sometimes a lot more easily than his previous encounters. A good number of blue's critics converted and blue gained some respect. After decades of complex and convoluted storylines that described his every detail and explored every possibility with him - including death, he finally faced evolution, a new horizon - atleast thats how I took it, since there was no other choice.

And then Hank Henshaw and the Toyman came along...and gave us a devil-may-care Superman red to join the serious and somber Superman blue..And after some 'philosophical discussions' and 'deliberations' the classical supes returned...

Superman blue was lost I thought... A big event like this would not be repeated I thought... But DC cared. Strange visitor was created two years later - making blue a more permanent figure! Brilliant!!!