Friday, November 20, 2009

Welcome to my Bloodstream

Hullo there!

Okay, so if blood makes you squeamish...tough. I'm using it in the metaphorical sense.

It's more about music really.

It's amazing how we are the only species on the face of the earth who can consciously create music. If there ever was magic, music would be it.

I like writing about music and how it drives me. This is not about album or artist reviews and all that jazzy rock 'n' roll, it's about what lies beneath. It's not the notes and beats themselves, but what inspires them, and what they, in turn, inspire.

Nurse! Syringe!

Is there Rock in Delhi?

Here is an article I wrote over a decade ago....

Rock in Delhi is certainly dying. Me, being a hardcore rock fan was considered weird by most of my classmates and schoolmates.

Rock is considered uncool and shunned by most people. As rock is mostly sung in English (Except for the new Hind-rock which has come out recently it can't really be called rock, maybe soft-rock but definitely not rock.) and I don't listen to the more popular dance and Hindi music I was given the label of Angrez. (Not to mention that I can't speak Hindi very well.)

Rock is what I call real music. Note-Everyone has their own opinion on what real music is. This is just my opinion. After all, I live for this stuff. Real music, real talent, real emotions. (Unlike most of these boy bands who have all the music and lyrics written by someone else for them.) The music called rock almost always has a meaning. And good rock normally has a deeper meaning than Come on Barbie let's go party. And it normally has more subject matter than what boy bands use i.e. love, sex, baby, girl etc.

Yes, rock does have love songs. On the whole they are very poetic and stirring but rock also talks about heartbreak, tragedy, fear, death, destruction, humour, insanity, pain, euphoria, poetry and philosophy. Most people think that rock is just some guy with a guitar singing his woes. Totally wrong. That guy sitting at the guitar is singing his emotions, not just woes. If he's not singing he is just sitting there playing for the sole reason that his soul feels good when he plays. Rock is the music of power and freedom and in Delhi eccentricity can be included in that list. You might not have noticed but most peace and tribute concerts and charity concerts involve rock bands in the majority. I mean Woodstock was all anti-war and pro-freedom and love, wasn't it?

These days is the time of techno where songs can be made on a whim with the use of computers in a matter of hours and their only purpose is to keep you dancing whereas a rock song takes ages to make. It involves first the concept, then the lyrics and the music writing and then hours on hours of arduous practicing over and over again until you get it just right. Then come the recording. So much more sweat, heart and emotion goes into each song. A true labour of love for music that is. Rock songs have more purpose than to make people dance. Most rock songs aren't meant to be danced to in the first place. And to add to it all, who will remember techno in ten years time? But rock will live on forever.

Ever since the fifties Rock 'n' Roll has been ridiculed, abused and attacked by people who can't understand it and most of all can't handle the constant change that rock keeps going through. When Rock 'n' Roll first came into view people thought it to be an outrage and couldn't understand this revolution in music and deemed the most light hearted song the work of the Devil himself. Not so for the younger generation which welcomed it with open arms.
A lot of children (my own mother was one of them) were banned from listening to rock but slowly their freedom returned and rock grew stronger than ever.

The sixties and seventies brought along the flower children. A tremendously large group of youngsters, revolting against the Vietnam War by having unprotected sex, doing drugs and drinking. Their motto was, in a way, "Peace man, pass the joint." And a lot of them converted to Hinduism for a reason I haven't been able to figure out yet. Something about eternal peace, love and a higher state of consciousness. To that I reply, "Say what?" Hence Woodstock was born with a gathering of thousands to a concert the world would never forget. Rock spun around into a whole new religion. Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, The Doors and such like changed the world of rock into something spiritual, philosophical and poetic.

Up till today rock has been blamed for anything and everything that happens to this ridiculously silly world. Kids start smoking, blame rock. Kids are free, blame rock. People are eccentric, blame rock. People do drugs, blame rock. People kill other people, blame rock. For example, after the Columbine High School Massacre (where 2 boys came to school one day and started shooting kids before shooting themselves) who was blamed? Why, rock of course. Specifically Heavy Metal band Marilyn Manson and a German Industrial Metal band called Rammstein. They were thought of to be the root cause to the massacre because their music is loud and violent and the culprits listened to them. Think about the guy who went up on stage and killed Dimebag Darrel of Pantera, arguably one of the best metal guitarists of all time. It was the music, right?They probably wouldn't have done this if they listened to opera or something, right? Wrong. They were deranged morons. They would have done it anyway. The truth is half the world, including me, listens to them ( the metal bands, not the killers of course. So do my friends. You don't see us running around pumping people full of lead. Hell, I can barely hit a fellow let alone kill him. Why are they accused? Because they're different, because they rock! Little do most people know but these people have families and kids of their own. All they're doing is expressing their emotions and empathising with other people in the best way they know-making music.

There is also the misconception that all rock associated people are high on drugs most of the time. There are actually a lot of bands that are very much against drugs among other things like pollution, nuclear warfare and war in general. R.E.M, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam and Rage Against The Machine are some of these bands. The Smashing Pumpkins actually sacked their drummer after he was found to be doing drugs. Pearl Jam, on the other hand, has recently come out with a video called "Do the Evolution" which is about the arrogance and hate the human race harbors for its own kind. It's a very powerful and sarcastic song in a way. The have also contributed to No Boundaries-A tribute to the Kosovar Refugees with two songs. Most of these bands including U2 also contribute greatly to Greenpeace and take an active roll not only in concerts but also in marches etc.

All in all we might be eccentric but we do have a heart. Why don't you go out and buy a rock album. Be it Anthems or be it Pink Floyd. Put it into your deck, put the volume up so that you are surrounded by the sound and listen, really listen. Feel the music, feel the lyrics, feel the emotion.

It worked for me. I hope it does for you.

I do admit, though, that rock has definately grown in Delhi since then. More and more people are getting addicted to this stuff. Concerts and performaces pepper the city these days almost every week. Crazed fans start moshing at the drop of a hat... and yet, this is just the beginning. One has to admit, the crowd is still very immature when it comes to this genre. Don't get me wrong, we all like thrashing about and headbanging but there is a limit to the madness. These days all these guys want to listen to is death metal and new age metal, some of which is good and most of which just ends up making no sense whatsoever after a while. Most of today's bands end up doing covers with much left to be desired in the creative front. However, even this trend is beginning to fade with the advent of original bands making their own music, much of which is still nothing to write home about. But it's a start. It will take time to mature out of the Metallica-Megadeth-Maiden Madness and the Slayer-Sepultura Sickness but I think we are on the right path. The crowds will mature and it will bring forth a new era in Indian music, the era of creativity, originality and recognition of the labour of love in every song.

Organic Music

Their music is alive. It evolves, gives birth, strives to survive and displays the intricate system of connections that is apparent in a living organism.
This is Tool, a band that formed in Los Angeles thanks to a string of coincidences, as have many bands. There's nothing unusual about that. What truly sets them apart from other bands is the music they have given birth to- something truly unusual and wondrous. It fills me with awe every time I listen to them.
Most other bands have a tendency to simply putting songs together over riffs and drums and put lyrics over them to put meaning into their songs. Tool does that too, but the music feels like an extension to the lyrics, so full of emotion that they resonate with the mood of every verse. Somehow they manage to make their songs so complex and complete, that they feel like life itself.
They started out making rather simple songs. They were crude, loud, filled with mischief and angst, just like a teenager going through puberty. Soon they began to mature. Their philosophy and style of music progressed and grew. Their songs still contained the intro-verse-chorus-outro format, but with so much more within.
The percussion has the beauty of a beating heart, softly throbbing into unusual beats and rhythms through the songs, not making its existence apparent, and yet, it remains the centre, powerful, a guiding rhythm, becoming its own unique identity of the music. The bass guitar wraps around the percussion, breathing life not only into the rhythm, but into the melody of the song, a pulsing harmony and a complexity that is ragged and beautiful at the same time. It permeates the song as the guitar flows with it, mixing and being guided by the bass with cutting rage and deep contorted pain which gives way to haunting beauty of notes that would echo through your soul. The vocals speak the darkest and clearest truth of humanity and life itself with soft lingering words, perfectly melting into the music with a gentle flow of notes with rare strength and control.
Each song weaves together all these elements with an ease that hides the intricacy within like the skin hides our muscles, organs, bones and the soul that makes us who we are. To truly understand them, one must peel aside the obvious and peer into the myriad of sounds, instruments and thoughts that makes the song whole. They usually start slowly and build up into the full strength of the song and flow into the chorus and impossible variations that fit so perfectly together. It opens up to you completely and then suddenly, softens into a melodious interlude and then, as if it were some sort of creature, peering at you from the shadows, the song poises itself, its muscles tensing, its pulse building, until it pounces on you with an explosion of sound and serrated violence. You can see it in its full glory as it rises to an unbelievable crescendo as it ravages your senses…and then….silence….
Each song is a life on its own. Each album is a new world waiting to be discovered. And with each album, comes evolution.
Of course, the creature needs to feed. Tool's music takes influences from many quarters but only keeps its essence and not the sound or genre. Their music has taken influences from heavy metal, psychedelic rock, rap metal, progressive rock, jazz, electronic and many others. They somehow manage to take these influences to make their own music grow with its own identity intact. And yet, so many bands have been influenced by Tool and have reproduced their music under their own identity, but never truly as powerful. But that in itself is a new birth. Perhaps they too, will evolve into something unique and precious, a new life that will inspire wonder in others and will be cherished.

Tool's music challenges conformity and changes the rules of music in ways no one could have imagined. There are many who aren't comfortable with that. It opens itself to the harshest ridicule and criticism and still survives. Each album has a unique identity of its own, incomparable to any other piece of music ever created. Every album of theirs is revelation in its self.
This music is alive. It took birth and has matured through adolescence and adulthood, it learns from others and through its own mistakes. It thinks and inspires thought and new philosophies. It evolves with every song; the complex weave of every element comes together as pure music. It is inspired, it feeds and reproduces. It has a soul. How else can someone describe a living thing? It's as human and as complex as you or me in the form of music. Not only is it organic music…its humanity itself.