Friday, June 17, 2011

The Sounds of Music

Funny, its not until I stepped out of India when I realized two things:

1) The music repository that we have, on average, is huge.

2) Our music classification, if we include the likes of 'movie' music, is rather odd.

Let me elaborate on the first, first. The overarching circle here is the Hindi Movie Industry music (seriously, I am starting to find the 'wood' affiliation a bit annoying. Bolly, Tolly, Molly? What are they? Bimbos in the villains lair? I insist on Hindi film industry). Mom was and is an avid listener and makes bashful claims that my name was inspired by one such song. With a name that translates to 'dream' thats pretty much any song between 1977 and 1986. Then comes the state-based affiliation (Tamil, as it would be for us). For the longest time the songs were only melodious to me, the real meaning of the lyrics outside the grasp of my colloquial language skills (seriously, the lyricists sounded like they belonged to royal courts based on the songs alone). However, it was still music. Then came the influence of "English" songs which usually started with the safe 'Sound of Music' and then progressively and now embarrassingly graduated to the likes of Samantha Fox (there, i said it) and Madonna. And then comes the Tambram influence (oh yah mom. you are gonna see me use the word Tambram quite a lot here. So stop reading already). Tambram basically meant you were born with an innate affiliation to carnatic music. While the sibling wisely pointed out that most songs involved vigorous nodding and sounds but very little words, he was doomed to a summer of learning to drum the mridangam. While I can re-chant some of the songs even 20 years later, I can never tell if it came from the HMV audio tapes that we were subjected to every morning or because I liked it. So, on an average at age 5, the cross-bred AMC is exposed to 5 different types of music. Thats huge--simply because the differences are not only in language but structure and form too. Now, a quick cumulative analysis to late 1990s indicates a staggeringly large number of musical influences. (backdating it, the musical influences span decades because the Hindi movie songs of the 60s are just as relevant to my music collection as is the Elvis and the Beatles. I was not born during any of these times!).

As for my second point, the classification of the music I listen to (As 'movie' music goes) was something I definitely dwelled upon when trying to fix a Pandora station. We classify these types of music based on emotion, did you ever think about that?. A cursory look at my audio tapes of the 80s would render this:

-Old Hindi sad songs
-New Hindi sad songs
-Old Tamil happy songs
-Optimistic songs
-Romantic sad songs
-Tragedy songs
-fast songs (now its based on tempo, I presume)
-new romance
-old romance
-crazy songs (??)
-Songs about kids
-kids songs (whats the difference?)
-dad sad songs
-Relaxing songs (huh??)
-mom puja songs (This is the one me and my brother taped over with an audio version of one of our fights. Complete with sound effects of slapping and screaming. The audio footage also includes mom walking in on us and whacking our butts. No sound effects this time)

This is exactly why a Pandora won't get my music affiliations (I now have hip-hop added to the mix just incase I missed 'anger' in my emotional music repository). And my playlists will always be titled based on emotions, not music types (So Lady Gaga is going to sit next to remixed Dum Maro Dum).

Turning up the sound on 'Johhny Johhny Joker' under my 'peppy numbers' playlist.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Chronicling Surviving the Great Indian Middle Class Childhood

and missing it!

I always envy those who were born in one city and lived their entire lives there. Case in point, Sunder the spousal unit. His entire life revolved around a few streets each was punctuated by a well-known or notorious panipuriwala. He has what is commonly referred to as langotiya yaars, which somewhat translates into 'underwear friends'. Its a common term to refer to teh fact that he knew his friends since they were running around in underpants. Now why this term is never used for the female population confounds me. Presumably females do not refer to anything underpantlike lest they be considered unladylike.

Anycase, I envy these purebreds. Let a chance stranger standing in line at Starbucks ask me 'where i am originally from' [possibly after I have complained the 100th time of the complexity to placing orders when all i had to say was 'coffee' where I came from]. My typical response is 'India..near Bombay to be precise'. Which worked wonderfully if the damn globalization of everything had'nt happened. Chances are 10 years back I would say Bombay and all I had to hear was how the listener's friends uncle was from Bombay and was inviting him often but said listener was worried about the heat. It made for a quick end to the conversation where I would nod head, move it sideways to indicate the foggy SF weather was no match for what mumbai heat would be like and would proceed to pick my 'coffee' and leave.

Not so now, the listener most likely has made a trip to 'Bayangalooor' twice as the head of whatever it may be in his company so wants more precision to my response. 'Pune' I would say, absolutely not expecting him to know of it [and he wouldnt]. But if he be an Indian, he would now say 'oh you must have seen how much Pune has changed now right?'. To which I politely respond that I only studied in college and worked a bit in Pune. 'So where do your parents live?'. The now famous 'Bangalore'. "oh you speak Kannada?". Well, no. See my parents are originally from Chennai and they wanted to settle there but eventually moved to Bangalore because they were wrong about re-liking Chennai and son was in Bangalore. "oh. so you are a Chennaiite?' the person now asks confused. "I was born there!" i say brightly. But I basically schooled in Ooty and another town near it [Coimbatore--which you will know of only if your dad was a cotton vendor]. See why I envy those who were born and dwelled in the same city for years?

However, wherever I am supposed to be from in India, what has not changed is the uniformity to being brought up in the Great Indian Middle Class. The languages change, the cuisines change but there is a startling sameness to this sandwiched group and what it meant to me as a child. So here is my attempt to chronicle being brought up both in diversity and uniformity in the 80s, 90s in India.

Reflexing my digits to get accustomed to writing more than bullet point lists