Friday, October 14, 2005

ou sont les neiges d'antan?

You win, Ashanka. Only partly, mind. But I'm willing to be generous since its about music.

Susheela Raman is far from being unbearable. In fact, she's kind of cool. I still find her pronounciation too irritating to be able to coast along peacefully on the utter sexiness of her voice and the heady, very tasteful carnatic jazz groove. And the obligatory 'world music' bits are ridiculous. Maya, my world of illusion. My all-too-real foot!

But I can totally listen to her and not feel pokers poking my brain pokily. Or think too much of Tyagaraja (pbuh) spinning beneath the sands of Thanjavur.

I studied Carnatic music for close to ten years. From the age of five I went every Wednesday or Thursday to Devaki mami, five minutes away from home, who sat a batch of about eight of us down for an hour and a half and simply made us open our throats and sing. She possesses a dramatically fabulous voice - even as a child I always wondered why she was teaching us ingrate proles when she could have been hitting the bigtime, big time. I still don't know, but I'm very glad, since she chose to be a teacher, that she was mine.

People who discover I was taught always ask me, "So what level did you reach?" And I always have to say I don't know. She taught us a bunch of different things from the very beginning; we learnt to sing keertanam (like, classical songs, for any non-desis reading) simultaneously alongside the scales. I'm technically very ignorant, and very envious of everyone who isn't. So that is something I still mean to remedy.

After the first year or so, I never applied myself to class; I never practiced at home. This was both because and in spite of the fact that my parents begged me to. Every time I went to my grandparents' home in Kerala for the vacations I was expected to sing. Fierce resistance ensued, as is probably natural. Fifteen is a difficult age. So is fourteen, thirteen, twelve, eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven and six. (Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, kids.)

I never knew many people at school who studied Hindustani music, but there were a lot of girls around the place who sang at church and in their choirs. I was totally up for chorus singing, although I never really got English music at all, either, until I was about fourteen and the Beatles sprang into my life. The only time I actually had the guts to go solo in my school years was at a little inter-class singing competition. I was twelve and, like everyone else, I sang the theme from The Sound of Music. And, er, won.

In the middle years, there were always the fantasies of being a rock star, living to burn stadiums and shatter glass. (Random TMI: My imaginary seekritch best friend was always the moody solo blues star.) Extended periods of hanging out at rock shows in and around Mumbai followed, although the repression was a minimal motive, compared to how amazed and excited I was by the concept of live rock itself, and all the bands that play it. I mean - Zero, if you're reading this, I am still totally your fake groupie. There was Kaush and Bobby, Abhishek and the IIT gang to hang out at gigs with; and there was Vijay Nair, my obligatory celebrity pal, to act as crack-supplier, since he sneaked me into more shows than I could ever thank him for. I always think that the power and joy and amazement of rock is its capacity for wish-fulfilment. And screaming along madly with speaker-blasts can do that for you.

... I was going to say that winning that little school thing all those years ago? Never did much for the paranoia about public singing. Something vital always seemed to get lost between the desire and the, erm, requirements of performance. (And wow, that is straight out of the porter's monologue in Macbeth.) And it still does, every time. I guess music is just one of those languages I can understand but can't speak.

But. To rubbish whatever point this rumination might have had: I, in fact, gave my first public performance in years last night. I can't decide if this means I've grown up or not. If you were at the Waterfront restaurant in Hyderabad last night and caught someone in a pink tee-shirt and b0ikutt belting out an old soul chestnut in spite of an obvious cold - the gods meant for you to be there.

Also, won't happen again, sorry for the disturbance, etc.

Oh noes, this has turned into a confessional. I hate confessionals. (Unless you're Sylvia Plath, in which case - SYLVIA BABY! Always knew you'd stuck around, come to Hydy and we can get drunk and talk about Ted Hughes' eyebrows. Love, S.) I'm not going to listen to Susheela Raman again if she prompts me to vomit nostalgia all over my blog like this. I could delete this post - but hell, no. It's too long. Ol' Sush and the head cold must suffice for an excuse.

I was actually planning to laugh at one of my heroez, Jim Morrison, because even if he can sound great singing things about a young child's fragile eggshell mind, he's still ludicrous. But I've nearly exhausted my quota of tangents for the night. Here's the last one. If Will Shakespeare was a developer for Apple, he'd have written - iMacbeth. MWAHAHAHAHAHA.

I think that's funny. I really do.

Okay now, bye. Have a good weekend and all.

*goes away, embarassed, omg*


  1. guess music is just one of those languages I can understand but can't speak.
    Kanna, let me reiterate I'm an unabashed admirer of your singing. Apart from Leonard Cohen, your version of Hallelujah is the best i've heard. On Presley's 'you Were always On My Mind', noone could hold a candle to you even if they tried to.

    Hmm, singing in front of an audience?? Dubs did that at Jazz By the Bay in Pune!!

  2. I wish i was there to hear you sing!

    *unhappy face*

    I'm sure you're jazzing up boring 'ol Hyderabad with your voice...and of course, that sparkling wit and that marvellous Boikutt.

  3. I refuse to sing in public. But...visit Delhi and sing?:P


  4. @kausha: thank you, bebe. you know i'm your biggest fan as well. very amused at your baby brother turning rockstar, though. what did he sing?

    @kate: i wish you were here too! come no plizh? together we'll REALLY jazz up this place. or, you know, kill it.

    @aisha: sure i'll come, just gimme some time. one of you has to promise to shelter me, though.

  5. you've sung Hallelujah?? me wants to hear!

    your decade of Carnatic training pwns my six years of Hindusthani classical, lady. i suppose i'd be paying more attention now, for some reason i had only air between my ears at that time and couldn't quite appreciate what i had...