Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Lucy in the sky with Darbari Kanada

A lot of people do not choose to attach a genre to their favorite music simply because of a seeming disparity observed sometimes. "I just like to listen to anything good that my friends bring to me". Cool. My girlfriend once told me that she has an eclectic taste in movies. She likes Big Fish, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, Sweeney Todd and The Nightmare before Christmas. I suggested to her that she probably would like the Corpse Bride too, because she just described every trademark Tim Burton movie this side of Batman (Interestingly she had never bothered to check on who the maker in every one of these movies was). The point is sometimes it can be fun to explore what common thread links your taste, just so you can explore better on your own and find new treasure.
However some threads are a bit more elusive that just a surprise common maker. I have always identified two broad genres to define my primary taste in music - heavy metal (with its allies - grunge and punk) and carnatic classical music. Yeah, Metallica and MS, Nirvana and nadaswaram. There is something of a superficial disparity in the matter but I insist that it is not difficult to pick up the general equation to this. I will use the Chala Nattai raga as an example in this.
Here is a standard carnatic classical piece in Chala Nattai. Ilayaraja has been a genius in the use of this raga here and here. A. R. Rehman added some Oscar glory to this (and this) and world audiences noticed. Some more work from "machans" Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy gave them stardom. Finally some talented youngster came up with this and we have hit mainstream psychedelic rock. So what has really changed beyond the beat and some mucus in the voice?

What was psychedelic rock when Black Sabbath and Led Zep started was derivatized to metal after gaining blues rock influences. A decade or so later Grunge was created. And that, is the linking thread.

Waitaminnit!? Am I daring to reduce pure carnatic music to something that people listen to while smoking pot? Is that all carnatic music is? Psychedelic rock? No. But it is definitely psychedelic! And that is what I am talking about. Every so-called rock song composed by Ilayaraja, who had such profound carnatic influences in all his songs, has been a bluesy psychedelic rock piece.

So, fellow explorers, stereotyping (if that be the word for it) may not always be a bad thing if it allows you to identify and understand some fundamental links in the theory of music to make one a better listener. Listening to music is after all, an art.


Q said...

Nice, Bala. I agree 100%. Listening to music is an art.

firstmonsoon said...

I struggled with this last week while updating my Facebook profile for the first time in years (I had a lot of time and was physically incapable of doing much else :P ). I shall keep your last sentence in mind.

Q said...

Dude, I <3 Corpse Bride.