Thursday, 28 January 2010

Let the music move you

On my repeat playllist: Roobaroo (Roshani) (face-to-face with light, Persian)
Film: Rang de Basanti (Paint me Yellow)
Singers: A. R. Rahman, Naresh Iyer

Released: 2006

The music purists may scoff, but for a non-Hindi speaking, Indian-born Indian, I am quite thrilled at my slowly burgeoning love affair with Indian music - popular and traditional. 

While a complete novice, and largely still a commercial music freak who relies on translations, the Indian composer's ability to take what could sound utterly naff in the English language and turn it into exquisite musical poetry, is something else. 

Especially when you think about the fact that many beautiful scores and songs are for the sole purpose of being paired with yet overtly fantastical cinematic plots of fluttering saris and fluttering hearts. And that the purportedly fantastic technological skills of India's movie industry are called into serious question in disjointed, awkward editing that even a novice editor would cringe at. 

I return to the words - minus the pretty frames of pouting divas and chest-shaved heroes, to the sentiments of fate, change, self realisations and universal love, and to the otherworldly voices that continue to emerge on a global stage, bringing their words and music into the collective conscious. 

Therein lies the power of prose.  Therein lies a world capable of eclipsing the steel clawed domination of American and English commercial music cultures to bring forth another kind of song and another kind of singer. 

India's evocative musical soul still remains barely known beyond the lynchpins of Ravi Shankar, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and now, A R Rahman. Yet it appears to be an industry that continues to evolve with a flourish, riding no doubt on the wings of a richly traditional and much trawled musical history, but with height and depth and sideways movement that speaks of a musical evolution reflective of India's changing times. 

It is much more than Jai Ho!, yet it also is; there is a sense of spirit and of transporting oneself in the moment wrapped in a captivating voice or a set of chords, as India's biggest tipping point to global pop status Sonu Niigaam recently proved in a Singapore concert I had the pleasure of attending. Or, how a set in a fiercely independent (and cool) music dive like Blue Frog in Mumbai speaks of a deeply established affinity and understanding of how alternate music incarnations can move people, how collaboration can be acute and subtle yet large, in the context of the development of sound. 

That ability to rise with the music, to forget oneself in the moment and move with the groove is nothing new to India or Indians. That music is an ecstatic ride - be it for love of another, for Godly things, for the pure pleasure of sound creation and feeling is widespread and firmly shared across the country. To my head, it is ironically the single thing that eliminates Indian's perpetual wrestle with class and status. 

Appreciation of music and music cultures are not confined to India, obviously. Yet hers is a special sort of communion with melody and words that, having personally witnessed in my associations with her,  warrants a close, deeper look, because the ears, they are a-opening across the globe and the time, is now. 

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