November 5, 2011

The Kingdom of Music: The Dewarists

Now, here's a post label that I never thought would find its way over here: music! I have often remarked (and indeed, it is pretty much the reason behind the name of this blog) that I have never particularly been a connoisseur of music - it is something that I can entirely do without and not particularly feel its absence in my life. Yet, I have been lately thinking that it is quite a blanket statement to declare so: after all, am I really that immune to music? There have been several periods/occasions in my life where music has been a solace and had the ability to take me out of myself and my thoughts and transplant me elsewhere, that kingdom of music. 

Sakar Khan, National Award winning Maganiyar artiste, playing upon the traditional Maganiyar instrument, khamaycha

During the Jaisalmer trip, I had to interview few members of Rajasthani hereditary folk musicians, the Maganiyars in their native village, Hameera, about 15km from Jaisalmer; we reached their home just before lunch and they aptly enough chose to answer my questions through an impromptu concert, first performing the  traditional Rajasthani song of welcome, 'Kesariya Balam' before playing a host of melodies. If it were not for the fact that we had to return to Jodhpur that day itself, we could have remained there the whole day, well into the evening, becoming completely immersed in the soul of their music. These particular Maganiyar musicians had been performing centuries-old musical legacies for many decades and within India and abroad and had been feted for their art: yet, in that moment, we were their exclusive audience and we in turn were captive, oblivious to all that surrounded us. 

                                                Maganiyar artistes performing in the show,
                                                        The Maganiyar Seduction

As we drove away from Hameera, the music still remained within the orbit of my thoughts, playing on loop in my head. What struck me that day was that the musicians and their musical heritage had literally woven the haunting, piercing notes of the desert winds into the fabric of their compositions...and even now, whenever I happen to listen to their music, I feel that I am in a desert of sorts, their music providing the most welcome antidote to any desolation I may potentially experience there.

Nevertheless, while the experience awakened an awareness within me as to what sort of music I gravitate to, it was the newly launched music-travel show, The Dewarists which reminded me that perhaps, the presence of visuals or a strong visual narrative and context nevertheless makes music much more accessible to me, strangely enough. In this particular episode, music-composer, Shantanu Moitra, who has composed for films such as Parineeta, and lyricist, Swanand Kirkire collaborate with Pakistan's first female pop band, Zeb and Haniya  in Bombay (incidentally, digressing unabashedly, the episode features them visiting  Bombay's Chor Bazaar and rummaging through vintage Hindi film posters - I was super envious as it's one place in Bombay which I am dying to visit).

For me, I significantly enjoyed witnessing the process of creating music: meshing of ideas, musicians jamming together, assembling lyrics, musical notes floating in the air, and the eventual streamlining of these disparate creative clusters into music. As a writer, I am accustomed to viewing creation and creativity as being an entirely solitary process and it was fascinating to see this journey of  creative collaboration. Yet, nonetheless, as I mentioned above, I still found it amusing that I found myself more thoroughly accessing and appreciating the music through a visual medium; for example, there is a lovely visual nugget in which Zeb and Swanand are writing lyrics, the visual juxtaposition of the Hindi and Urdu script. The performance and the song itself shot in the atmospheric Royal Opera House is arresting enough, its haunting notes long lingering with me...and yet, having been aware of how it was assembled, so to speak, made the journey even more beautiful.

Then, I happened to chance upon this:

                                                         Zeb and Haniya: Chal Diye

While the song is indescribably lovely, melange of the music and the incredible art, most likely, having taken inspiration from miniature art, was what made the song especially alive for me. Hearing the song, the words wing me elsewhere into a different space - and yet, as I see the song, I become aware of alternative interpretations and worlds it can belong to - and this multiplicity of interpretations is what makes this particular junction of visual and sound so exciting.

I guess, in the end, I am just a visual person, after all;)

Do you recollect a music video that particularly impacted your response to a particular song? It would be great to hear/see examples...!

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