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...!"


Kris said...

Ahhh I am quoted :)
May Peace Prevail!

Bala Venkatakrishnan said...

may happiness follow...!