I used to own a brown paper covered music book, that had the renderings for a novice carnatic music-learner. And a brown shruti-petti too electronically tuned for my music lessons. And then there were practice sessions with music sir, taalam types, raagams, tyagaraja ulsavams, singing for the sundal during navatrathri and attempts at music competitions ; a different life may be; now that i reminisce. The last time I sang was four years back on a contrasting hot day in the month of november in Boston, for a small diwali gathering. I had unearthed a bhajan I had picked up in school and decided to rake the tune. And since my vocal chords had forgotten to croon, until recently when 100+ minute drives leave – just me and my breathing for company. I sing aloud to break humdrum.
I began by dumping every song we downloaded or owned into the player, followed by audio books (the cell by stephen king caught me unaware on the drive and since I have said no to audio books!), and finally settling with ARR, sudha raghunathan, unni krishnan, yesudas and chitra. I almost always start the ride with MS’s hanuman chalisa that totally reminds me of SVCE on sundry early mornings and then move on to a lot of classical and carnatic renderings. I am, for having not continued my music lessons beyond varnam, have little clue about the particulars of a raagam et all, but have sung along, loving the aalaaps and breathless eees and aaas and moving backwards in time, as I drive forward.
So it is over the last few months that I seemed to realise the void created by lackluster music in our electronic media filled lives. My memories race to power cut evenings in the little street I grew up. My cousin Jo, is the most amazing singer I have known ( As a kid, I used to often hide her paatu book, when she would close her eyes to render a beautiful aalap). So with Jo and Pillus around, the power cuts and buzzing of mosquitoes on sultry summer nights would transform into anthakshari followed by singing mukesh and kishore kumar numbers, all scintillating into a brilliant musical night! Did you just ask yourself, when was the last time you played anthakshari? Yes! thats precisely the music-void I am talking about left by easy access to songs strewn on the web and our own players and pods playing it for us!
It is like, we no longer sing to kindle the music that filled our lives for all the years since we started to hear melody. On a grueling six-hour journey from NYC to Boston, five of us to keep the driver and the passengers sane, took to utilizing our data phones to contention! With 5 i-phones, we began searching for the songs we love and playing one after the other from youtube like a jukebox on a linklist. The songs ranged from 70s to 90s and across various languages; that is the closest I have gotten in recent times to a musical episode! And then of course some fast numbers on my ipod that help me run and the new-found old love for carnatic music on the drive.
Well, I sure hope to convert this party I have had with self, singing out loud as I drive alone. I want to throw an antakshari party without any music system blaring in the background, just so everyone remembers that they were willing to sing and remember lyrics and have a good time. Someday I hope I can separate humans from head-nodding-nanos, at least for a little while. Lets start with wine and end the night with many a croon, hums and drums! You are all invited! 🙂