Monday, 17 July 2017

Here's to hoping for better music

Do u think "pop" is called so, because it is exactly that? Like a soda pop it fizzes, and you enjoy it for the moment, but it does not enrich you, or leave a lingering sensation, or keep you hankering for that feeling, or to go back to it, or to make you feel that way, maybe justtt once more, unlike a good wine, whiskey or even a well prepared meal.
Sadly, all our music is going increasingly pop. Like Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree fame said in a recent interview "Well, modern pop, as in really mainstream, to be honest, I have a problem with most modern pop.." and goes on to compare how modern pop is really R&B.
Bob Marley had a virologist concept of music; he believed that the only way to cure racism was to inject music and love into people's lives. Now, try and imagine if you had to bring this concept to life, with a song of "now". Take any U.S. Billboard Top 100 songs, do you think it would cut it? If you injected the currently chart topping number, "Despacito", which practically sings about how a man is attracted to a woman, and what are the various steps he would carry out to "profess" his love for her; it would not even cure homesickness, leave alone anything else.
There is no background to this story, nothing moving, nothing groundbreaking, just good old plain objectifying women; one of the easiest plots to make a song/video/movie, practically any form of entertainment. For obviously, there is nothing more interesting in a woman, than her body. Thank you media, for keeping us reduced and stalled to that tiny image, that we have been trying to fight and shake off, well for since as long as we have existed.
Of course, most of the population listening, rhyming, chanting, dancing to that tune has no idea what the song is about (honestly, neither did I), but are just happy with how the Spanish words sound exotic, and how the music is well balanced to those syllables, that's it. Which in some ways is worse than the earlier concept. Music is more than beats and words that are more like rhythmic sounds. It is supposed to be like a good book, which haunts you and makes you think and ponder and chime, posing the untapped potential to change you, for better or for worse, however so slightly. Definitely, something more than keeping you occupied while you are halfheartedly doing something else, or even worse, to lull out distractions.
Another thing that really bothers me about the ongoing pop is the stream of peppiness that you are made to choke upon. In a world of pop, no one is ever sad, depressed, or even just "OK", they are all upbeat and dancing to the joy and miracle that is life. Ugh. I may sound grouchy, but even for the uninitiated or even the most happy-go-lucky people, this has got to be monotonous.
U2, the musical phenomenon that has been around for more than some people's lifespans, I think perfectly sums up the divide between the two musical cultures. He said, “Pop music often tells you everything is OK, while rock music tells you that it's not OK, but you can change it.” 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Bolly femmes stop letting us down

For the gender that has been immortalized by the phrase, "We are just friends", "Woh mere bhai jaisa hai", "He is just an acquaintance", Bollywood females, of all the cliches to not to stick to, they chose this one, which in my opinion is more than rather unfortunate. Let's go back a few years into Bollywood, for I have really not paid attention to the humdrum that this industry has been spewing out of late.

The classic breath of fresh air of a movie, when we were drowning among the "me too" movies -Wake up Sid, it showed the perfect platonic friendship, and showcased multiple such relationships. To the uninitiated, let me help. Ranbeer Kapoor, the son of a millionaire, who is not interested in helping out his father's business or completing studies or actually anything, he just exists, doing nothing, except for photography. One day his dad throws him out, at which point Konkona Sen Sharma (KSS), who was an acquaintance, took him into her 1BHK and they helped each other out, usual good house mate stuff. Cook for each other, take care of household chores, pick each other up when needed. At which point the writer thought this is a good moment to inject a potent dose of oestrogen, and out of nowhere she starts falling for him instead of her boss, Rahul Khanna (like WHAT!), who was too polished (if there is ever such a thing!). And she creates a fuss, when he does not reciprocate; for him the roof has practically come undone. At this point, the writer's pressure to make it a "love story" is more than eminent, and somehow magically Ranbeer also starts falling for KSS. KSS who is a story writer for a magazine, dedicates her first cover page story as a love letter. Good thing the movie ends there, for the next scene would have shown her getting fired. For if I was the boss, I would have fired her and the editor, who let this smut pass as a magazine cover story.

Next, Jaane Tu..Ya Jaane Na, this sweet platonic relationship is forcefully turned into a love story, for "dost ho thik hai, shaadi kar lo" and both of them when taken apart only meet A-holes. Since its Bollywood it has to be extrapolated to ridiculous levels, so Genelia D'Souza's new partner had to slap her once they got into an argument, to which the guy who never lost his temper, got mad and furious and does something extremely....forgettable. Oh! Bollywood, crack out of your cliches, sometime, anytime soon.

I think I have proved my point, I do not reckon synopsis of various other non-movies is going to drive the point any further along. Cinema means production of films as an art for public entertainment. The time has long passed when the concept of movies, that had been passed on from previous generation film makers is found acceptable by today's audience and is more than stale, it is the literal equivalent of the sides of a bread loaf, and we are not having it.
We, as audiences have matured, and do not need to be told love stories to believe in love (they are no longer the equivalent of fairy tales), or the chemistry between two individuals - we know it first hand. The only movie, that I feel had recognized this and was not Kashyap dark, was Dil Chahta Hai, which made us, the audience, part of the journey of the life of three friends, and whatever happened to them was almost secondary to the story.

Thank you Farhan Akhtar for that. Maybe you can also remember how to redo it, and teach a few of your peers while at it. Maybe one of you can do a movie about modern day women that is not steeped in love and hormones, drinking and drugs or dancing and frolicking around, just real angles, things that we, modern day women can relate to.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Language: Thou art a true beauty

I grew up in Calcutta. Naturally everyone around me was either born with music, literature or some form of art in their soul or stuck around long enough to imbibe and feign the part, till they actually started to reckon with it.
Throughout the years, we came to grow up with Rabindra sangeet, nazrulgeeti, Michael Modushudan Dutto and other great laureates and their endless works.
As I grew older I found that most of their works were translated to English, either by the laureates themselves, or as a befitting homage.
As a curious child, I rushed to read and compare and explore. I was devastated with what I discovered. The text, the beauty and the magic that was attached with the original work was gone and robbed, and only a besmirched shadow was left behind. I concluded at a young age of 14, that language has a beauty of it's own which can never be mimicked or the heart of it can never be copied into another language. And prized it as one of my truest discoveries.
A decade or so later, I discovered that I have the joy of running in my spirit. I meet wonderful people through this front. But, I digress.
I met an expatriate via running, and she was trying to get a hang of people's names around me. This lady introduced herself as "Bahar". She further explained that it means "the season that flowers bloom". Which I thought, at that point of time, a beautiful way to describe the same.
Running gives me a sense of tranquility, and things that my subconscious otherwise doesn't have time to think about gets way. And, something similar happened. I pondered on the phrase, "Aap aaye, bahar aayi" and I realised the full blown meaning of it and I was stumped, so much so that I forgot I was running; till someone overtook me.
I realised it means, "Your soul bears so much warmth, that the flowers sprung into full bloom to resonate with your soul."
I'm yet to learn how to handle the depth and gravity of "that" statement. I'm still pondering as to how for decades I've said and heard it, and never wasted a second to assess how deep it sounded.
I was always prejudiced about translated prose and their meanings being lost. This time I was so wowed by it I couldn't think of anything else.
So 14 more years later, from the last time I had an epiphany, here I stand, corrected.
Life, you amaze me.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Flawed hoomunss

"Ram earns Rs. 2000 per month. His house rent is Rs. 500 a month and his saving is thrice that of his miscellaneous expenditure. How much is his savings per month?"

Even when all these numericals seemed daunting, I still thought that not only was he earning meagrely wages,  but also he was living in a really cheap apartment. Now all, old, grown and as wise and matured as an oak tree I still feel the same. But I digress.

Coming back to the point,  I originally started writing this article with. We all started out with math, especially in a bengali household like mine; pretty much everything took a backseat. If you don't know math, in the words of Ygritte of Game of Thrones famedom, "You know nothing, Jon Snow!"

We all cribbed about maths at some point of time or the other. Till it seeped so much into our souls we didn't even know or notice it. To the point we heard our grandparents and parents equating maths to the quality of life we lived, "So and so good things are happening, I must have done something good in my previous life" and mostly the other pessimistic way round.

I don't know who first got inspired by the idea of karma and established that good things happened to good people and bad things happened to bad people. For if the world was that just and with that strong a sense of retribution, everyone would come around to doing good for a very simple reason - selfishness. 
Man is a self preserving creature and self harm is the last thing on their minds. Centuries have passed yet this archaic emotion of "What goes around comes around" seem to be unharmed, untethered. I do not know or understand how. This should show that human logic in itself is flawed,  yet we think we are logical beings capable of logical thinking, I say far from it. We are still those cavemen chasing around animals, hitting it with a bludgeon, bang on it's  head and not caring that it causes the animal pain: for we are selfish. 
There is no concept of carry forward, like a balance sheet. Good deeds don't ensure you good things in the long run or the next life, it pretty much ends there. You do it cause you like how it  makes you feel, and not because you are a part of a grander scheme of things. 
Life is a one act show and it's not fair.
Bite the bullet, grit your teeth and accept it.  

Thursday, 12 March 2015


I saw this TED-talk video that said, "We met on a bus. I have to get off at the next bus stop so you have time to tell me just three things about yourself. What do you tell me?"

That really got me thinking. What are the three things that would really define and sum me up as a person? It is so difficult for we spend so little time in introspection and so much time in retrospection. The lady went onto say how we often define ourselves by the bad things that we have overcome. Which is such a pity for we do so many other things, on the daily that are such a better measure of who we are; but we blind ourselves by our hardest of times.

So I took upon this challenge. Everyday I went to bed and woke up with this question "three things"..."three things". And it was so difficult,  for every time those hardships were the things that blinded my vision of "me". And I had to tell myself several times, "I'm better than this; I'm better than things that have scarred me".

It took me several weeks to answer this very simple question. I finally stumbled upon it.

1. Dog lover
2. Fitness enthusiast
3. Fashionista

And these are the truest traits of me.

I am a dog lover. The street dog (Bhola) is the one who greets me when I get back from work, I'll whistle and he'll come running from wherever he was gallivanting. Everytime I go for a morning run, I hope to run into the two golden retrievers at the corner of my house (Butter & Chilli). And every dog I see on my way I whistle at them who promptly look back at me that makes me sport the most natural smile; and of course  curse every dog owner to hell, mostly out of jealousy.

Fitness enthusiast. A (wo)man is truly to be judged by the company she keeps. I somehow got imbibed and enriched with the running culture off late and I've never looked back. In the 2.5 months this year I've already ran more than the totality of last year.

Fashionista. It does help to get fitter to look good in swanky new good clothes. Also, helps you develop a sense of fashion and allows you to sport one.

I am..for I am the only one who can play my part to the dot.

Friday, 16 January 2015

2014 : The Year that was

This last year passed by. I can't believe 2013 happened, and 2014 got over and we are already here at 2015 - half the first month down to the first year, technically.

I remember being so infuriated at New Years' Eve that I refused to go out or celebrate, which is an unfair interpretation because I'm not big on the NYE hype either way. I remember being mad at the fact that I had nothing to reflect for the last one year - personally or academically.

A long chat with a friend made me realise that I did stick to my goals last year:
  • I did become a more satisfied person - I still make lame jokes and laugh at them harder than anyone else, but they're less filled with fake guffaws
  • I did get more fit - I went running for longer distances and more number of times than I've ever had in my life, and I dropped two dress sizes

Things that I didn't plan last year but I'm glad they did happen:
  • Got further and close to my best friend time and over again - totally worth it
  • Rediscovered an old friendship which I didn't know mattered or existed, at all
  • Got back to my joy of zapping 'em digital brains, FPS style
  • Started reading more, definitely more
  • Found music that I thought I didn't like, to learning to love it - John Mayer, Porcupine Tree
  • Realised "Why Nexus?" is incorrect and "Why not Nexus" is correct
  • Learnt Surfing and loved it
  • Got overwhelmed by camping and stuck around long enough to learn how to handle it, big fan now
  • Realised no loss can cripple or even alter you as long as you have the will to move on
  • Found that you make friends at the oddest of places and they are still just as much precious
  • There is something that every person can lend to enrich your life and make it better, definitely better (as sappy as that sounds, it's true)
  • Became more opportunistic, it's not a bad thing - It's a wonderful thing
  • It's easier to let go simply cause it's tiring to hold on to. 

Friday, 31 October 2014

Music is DEAD

Off late I was talking to a friend about how the 70s were the time when all music related revolution took place, and thereafter it just died. Today we are still living off what the greats created. Most of our playlists are still crowded with Bob Dylan, Black Sabbath, Scorpions, Pink Floyd, Beatles, and it's likes.

I liked how my friend zeroed into the root of this problem. He said, "Parents during our times or our grandparents time didn't spare the rod and when we did something terrible we were reprimanded. Nowadays parents have gone too soft and society has too. Suddenly hitting your child is frowned upon. That is what used to make us tough. Now they're 30 year olds singing about boy troubles, love at first sight and unicorns that poop rainbows."

And I couldn't agree anymore.

I heard a few recent hit singles and let me quote Katy Perry (or Slutty Perry) from "This is what we do" -

"Yo, shout out to all you kids, buying bottle service, with your rent money.Respect."

Then I remembered another song, "Starships" by Nicki Minaj -

"And I ain’t paying my rent this month, I owe that."

I was astounded as to the number of hit artists who condone wasting away their rent money for glamorous lives. Since when did being irresponsible become commendable and socially accepted?

Or did we just run out of things to sing about that drastically?

Bob Marley used to sing about revolution, John Lennon sang about world peace & unity, Michael Jackson raised his voice against apartheid. These are people who used music like WMD and invaded hearts, souls and minds forever. Now, it seems like the pop artists aren't even trying. They have all the attention in the world but their heads are too far up their butts for them to care to use this for something worthwhile.

When did the artists of our time think it was okay for them to not  be inspired? To not sing about things that concerned them, us, the world? How come not a single artist's music inspires us? Or has a deep message embedded.

U2 used to release all its tracks and all songs had two meanings - the obvious literal one and a deep spiritual one. That's the amount of thought and effort that used to go into creating music, creating something joyous, to create something that would move you..from within.

Like Meatloaf said in an interview, "Most of it isn't music anymore, it's just good looking faces with a great pair of tits."

Then again there are some bands that are trying to show that our generation can still create good music. The likes of Alt-J, Arctic Monkeys & Black Keys are definitely mellifluous but will they make a mark or be swept away into the deep ocean by the tides of time; only the distant future can reveal that.