Some random midnight thoughts about music

My brother-in-law knows 5 languages. He can fluently speak them, with nuances and twangs intact. I haven’t envied anyone more.

I once had a client who knew about 9 Indian languages, and he was so bloody fluent in all of them. The first thing that occurred to my mind was ‘Wow, he can watch movies in all those languages, without worrying if the dvd had subtitles.’ Or he can now bond with so many more assholes at bars, singing their songs as passionately, without missing out on the feeling of knowing what the fuck he was singing.

So when my Bengali friends are tripping on some bengali music, my reaction is ‘I want to know what that shit is, why the fuck am I left out?’

Then I’m thinking…well here’s what I’m thinking…

Here’s a little confession. My mother tongue is Tamil. I admit, that I’m not the best of Tamilians around. (Ask Chennai boys what they think of Bangalore Tamil boys.) Nevertheless, I am one. So, there are these two songs in Alai Payuthey that I totally trip on. ‘Kadhal sadagudu’ and ‘Endrendrum punnagai’. I have heard their hindi versions too, ‘Aye udi udi’ and ‘Oh humdum suniyo re’. I understand every single word of the hindi version, and honestly most of the words in the tamil version go above my head. But I know that the sound of the tamil version, just the way the syllables fall on my ears, is insanely more magical than the hindi version. And exactly the same way, ‘Dil se re’ has a tamil version to it, and it sounds like shit to my ears.

And when Ilayaraja’s Geetanjali, released, my cassette conked and dragged because I must have played  ‘O priya priya’ and ‘om namaha nayana’ more than even the sound engineer of it.  I don’t know a word of Telugu. ‘O priya priya’ was later made in Hindi too, and it sounded like crap to me. And yes, Geetanjali had a tamil version too, which I honestly never bothered to listen to.

I own the craziest collection of punjabi music, because I just love the sound of it. I don’t understand a word. Now I know a bit more, because I’ve asked around, because it makes me want to know what ‘gur nal ishq mitha’ really means. Apparently it’s ‘love is sweeter than jaggery’ or ‘mera laung gawacha’ means ‘my nose ring is lost’. I want to meet a person who knows the meaning of these lyrics. And compare notes with him. Did he enjoy it more than me, just because he knew what the words meant?

The songs of Metallica do something to me. The mere sound of it. I have now bought a book that explains the lyrics and context of every song. I’m reading it for academic knowledge, but it makes no fucking difference.

Apparently ‘Enter sandman’ is about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Crib Death), when a baby dies inexplicably in its crib.

Apparently a sandman is a chap who sprinkles sand in your eyes, to induce sleep, and get you rid of nightmares and give you beautiful dreams or some such stuff.

I had never heard the word ‘sandman’ till that song arrived. Yes, but it made me want to know what it meant.

I listened to it an entire night when my landlord asked me to vacate my previous place because my neighbour had a problem with me. That track made complete sense to my emotions that night. The lyrics are totally senseless for a situation like that. For you. Not for me. How do they make sense? I don’t know. It’s beyond logic and analysis.

I know no better by now knowing what Metallica really meant.

When Rahman was composing for ‘Lagaan’, he asked Javed Akhtar to give him a word that sounded thunderous, and Javed said ‘ghanana ghanana’, which means nothing actually. Yes, that part does sound thunderous.

music

So which now brings me to the point that I’m baffled by. A huge crowd walked out of Rahman’s concert at Wembley, because he sang some 12 tamil songs, a language that they don’t understand.

It wasn’t some karaoke night. It was an AR fucking Rahman show. I pity the assholes who had all the money to shell out for the tickets, but left behind that part of their anatomy that could really feel his music.

They needed words? Words in their mother tongue to really feel it? If they need to understand what ‘nenjukulle’ really means for loving it, well here it is, ‘nenjukulle’ literally translated means ‘inside my heart/ chest’ (which is still not accurate). Infact the sound of ‘nenjukulle’, the way Rahman has asked Shakthisree to sing it, is the more accurate meaning of the word than this crap.

If one fucking tweet said ‘Hey heard this beautiful sounding song that Rahman sang today that went something like ‘ninjakullai or nenjikillaaa…or something like that..and it sounded so awesome..anyone there who can tell me what it means..dying to know’, you would have had a million guys going all out to tell you what it means. That would have been much nicer. But anyway, that meaning is futile. The real meaning is the sound of it.

And to all those who feel that they are being broad minded or broad hearted to accept ‘why this kolaveri di’, despite it being in tamil…apart from the words ‘kolaveri’ and ‘di’, the entire song is in English you assholes. (I don’t know how this makes sense for this argument, but somehow I think it does). Nobody realizes it, that they are loving it because of the music. And they think they are strangely connecting to a tamil song. ..but no. There is no tamil in it.

I can hear a million people echoing together ‘kun faya kun’ at any concert, the exact part in a hindi song that noone really understands. And when the hindi part happens, everyone kind of mumbles something. But the fun is that the most non-understandable part of that song is also its most beautiful part.

I’m not demeaning lyrics. But those words are lent to music and not reserved for poetry. Because the writer knows that there’s only so much words can do. Music can give it a meaning that it never had.

My father doesn’t know a word of hindi. But he still keeps asking me to play Rafi’s ‘Chahunga mein tujhe’, from Dosti. He has never asked me even once what those words really mean. But every time he hears it, he’s moist eyed, and says ‘Rafi’s voice is like butter’.

I now realize, music is not just about the words. It’s about the sound of those words.

And mainly, music is now the only thing left to unite us. Do not drag that too into this muck of languages. Please leave it alone. There are enough things like language alone, religion, states, countries etc working overtime to make that boundary thicker.

Please leave music alone. It was invented to make the world a more beautiful place.

I hate whatever I have written here, because I am not able to exactly express what I am feeling. But that’s the fuck up. This isn’t music.

PS: Ignore spelling, grammar, construct, repetitiveness etc because it’s too fucking tiring, boring and irritating to keep editing it. 

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A day with Jim Morrison

P1060692I was standing there staring at the board in front of me ‘PERE LECHAISE CEMETERY’. A burial ground for the rich and famous in Paris. I was still wondering how I ended up being here on a hot tuesday afternoon. An arrow on the board pointed out, ‘YOU ARE HERE’.

And I was thinking to myself “WHY?’

Everyone in advertising dreams of going to Cannes, atleast once in their career. And almost everyone when they do go, also end up extending their trip to cover more of Europe in as less Euros as possible. We were no different. Rajiv and I.

Rajiv, the only servicing guy who managed to make himself worthy enough for this trip of a lifetime. But Rajiv is more like the creative types. Sees good films. Listens to good music. Reads good books. And mostly speaks good english. Appreciates good food. Has an enviable collection of music. And has posters of inspirational people on his bedroom walls. For him it was genuine interest. For me, it was more of an occupational hazard for being in creative. I have always wondered why we needed to expose ourselves to such great pieces of work, for doing the crap that we do. Otherwise, maybe we’d be feeling much nicer about what we were doing.

Rajiv, for the way he was, it was a perfect way to spend his afternoon. And for me and my fucked up luck, this seemed like a perfect way to spend mine as well.

We had arrived in Paris the previous night from Cannes. And thrown our luggage at a cheap hotel, since this part of the programme was not being sponsored by the office. The only good thing was that we no longer had to bother collecting every single bubblegum bill or make the French understand that we needed food bills for the booze we drank. We were here on our own money, and all we had to do was blow it, without keeping a tab. And in Paris, all you need to do is take a cab, the metro, have a cola, some peanuts and take a piss at a public lavatory, and yes you’ve blown it all.

We made grand plans of taking a detour to Norway and do whale hunting, or hire Harleys and take off on some beer trail, or go to London and pile on some unlucky friend we had spotted on facebook. After all the google searches. After all the free reading up of lonely planets at bookstores. After all those advices from lucky art directors who had managed umpteen trips to Europe to shoot some undies indoors “Oh you must visit Cinque Terre in Italy, it’s breathtaking’……we were now at a cemetery, ya breathtaking of a different kind I guess.

All it took was one call from the office “There’s a pitch, so the two of you better get back to office.”

Ok, they were kind enough to grant us 2 more days.

So here is how we spent a good part of one of those two precious days in Paris.

It was Rajiv’s idea. Like this one visit would make up for all those places we didn’t.

I was here only because Rajiv woke up about 15 minutes before me. And blamed me for ruining his day by waking up late. And he took complete advantage of the guilt I was going through and tricked me into this. Before I knew where we were headed, I was bundled off into a metro and we were here…in front of a cemetery.

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A little gate lead us into this exhibition of graves. A big board that resembled a BDA site allocation at the entrance gave us a rough idea of whose corpse lay where. We stood there, staring at the board trying to locate Rajiv’s favorite dead men.

“Jim Morrison is here.” he pointed after studying the board for about half an hour.

“Oscar Wilde is here” he pointed at the other end of the board, after staring at it for another 29 minutes, leaving just another 8 hours and 1 minute for our flight back home.

“Who is Oscar Wilde?’

“What the fuck are you saying? You don’t know Oscar Wilde?” Rajiv asked like it were the first question in the copy test for any copywriter.

“Ya, I have kinda heard of him. He writes, right?’

“You are pathetic dude. He is considered as the God of playwrights and poems.”

“He can’t be God, now that he’s here.”

“It’s not funny chooth.”

“Ok. Don’t get wild.”

“I told you it’s not funny.”

“Hey relax bugger, that one was not a joke. It just happened.”

“Shut the fuck up”

“So he wrote poems!!”

“Ya. Poems. Any student of English Literature ought to know his poetry by heart. He’s that fuckin great.”

“Ok” I tried to look as ashamed as possible. Rajiv had become a different guy ever since he’d stepped here. This should have ideally been an excursion with his classmates of English literature. But destiny had made me his companion.

I took a snap of the board so that we could use it to navigate our way through this morbid maze. And we proceeded in the rough direction of where Jim Morrison was resting. Detailed maps were on sale for 20€, but not worth it for locating a couple of dead men.

I had heard of Jim Morrison. I knew two of his songs decently well enough. ‘Road house blues’ and ‘Riders on the storm’. Oh one more…’L.A. Woman’. They were nice. I liked the first one more than the others, maybe because the local bands played that more often. But I knew that I do not qualify as a true fan unless my favorite number of his is something that nobody’s heard of. I had a rough idea of how he looked. I had seen his pictures on the walls of many advertising folks. A skinny shirtless chap who had just one picture of his in circulation, where he looked like Steve Tyler from far, with maybe a smaller mouth and of course younger. Somehow to me, most people with long hair looked like each other. I knew that he was an important man to like if you were in advertising. Even the most cynical of them found him deserving enough to be included into their drunken discussions.

But all this information wasn’t enough to make me feel for him. Now that I was here, I had to make this visit purposeful for myself. I decided to become his true fan by the time I reached his grave. I plugged in my ipod and started listening to every other number of his. Ya, the ones that only get picked up in shuffle, and last till you manage to reach the skip button. I had no time for it to grow on me. I had to fall in love with it instantly. It was getting difficult. You know…I had a (I hate the pun but)…..deadline. I kept skipping to get a quick update of his discography. Most of them sounded good. Or maybe at that time, I just had no option but to make them sound good, for my own good.

Appreciating English numbers is an occupation by itself. First you spend time in figuring out what the words are. Then memorise them. And since they don’t necessarily believe in rhymes or a regular meter, it’s that much harder to remember them. Then after that, you practise them and start to like them more. Eventually you google the lyrics only to find out that whatever you’ve been singing all along, is all wrong. You then undo the lyrics in your head and rehearse the right ones. And since you have spent considerable time and effort, you now try to understand what they actually mean. But each of them come with a unique context. God knows what! There’s a hell lot of trivia attached to every line. You then research the context and try connecting the words with the context. It still makes no sense, because it’s mostly written by the writer when he’s smashed on weed. So you need a good dose of it yourself to get closer to what the damn thing actually means. Somewhere you give up and get back to your initial interpretation of what this was all about. I know that this may not be true with most of them, but with me it’s mostly like this. Maybe I’m trivialising it, but yes, it is all about the trivia. Hindi numbers have no such problems. They are either about love or not finding love, and in case you get stuck, all you probably need is a legal drink. Nothing more.

Rajiv walked ahead purposefully scanning every epitaph on the way. And I was trailing behind getting acquainted with the man that I had to mourn for. I really wanted his death and his music to affect me. I had to get a rush when I see him lying in his grave. Because I knew Rajiv was going to get it. And his day will be made. I had to make mine too.

I decided to become a Jim Morrison fan after returning. A late Jim Morisson fan maybe. Coming to think of it, I don’t even know where they buried Kishore Kumar.

On the way I saw many other graves of kings, queens, mathematicians, actors,  dentists and archeologists and taxidermists and other miscellaneous french people who seemed to have graves, sometimes as big as a three bedroom bungalow.

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There was one bombshell who’s statue towered above the rest, appropriately drop dead gorgeous. One look and I immediately felt sad that she was no more. I was wondering why it should take such an effort for Jim Morrison. In my head, Jim Morrison still seemed to be the most famous celeb in that place because he was the only guy I had heard of over there. So I assumed that he’d have had the grandest cremation out here.

I fantasized his grave to be the showstopper. One that the others would die again for. I imagined a huge statue of him, welcoming you with outstretched arms, with huge speakers around, belting out his numbers, and hoped that one of them is Road House Blues so that I could sing along. I was losing it, but was imagining it in the best possible way just to keep myself motivated.

Ya, there was Oscar Wilde as well. But Morrison seemed easier of the two. Even if you don’t understand it all, you could settle with just liking the tune of his song.

We had now walked for about 3 hours. We had no clue where we were going. I kept referring to the snap in my camera, but it was as good as searching for Kakinada in the world map.

But Rajiv kept walking in a particular direction like Morrison’s spirit was calling him. The cemetery seemed endless. It looked like every famous man in the world who was dead, was buried here. I was wondering if there were a lot of creative clashes among the spirits at night. They would feel so helpless that they can’t even kill each other over it. I derived a little moral of the story for myself ‘No matter how rich and famous you may be, at the end of it you die.’ I decided to craft that better after getting a lowdown on Oscar Wilde.

We saw no human being or rather no human being who could speak English. The only ones who knew, were probably six feet under. So we walked like zombies hoping to meet someone who could lead us to the grave of grave importance.

We rarely met anyone on the way. And even when we did, it was useless. If they had the 20€ map, they wouldn’t know English. And if they knew English, they wouldn’t have the map.

But Rajiv looked like he was prepared to die searching for his grave. At every pit stop he’d give me anecdotes of Jim, just to create a mystery around this dead soul.

“You know Morrison used to pass a bowl among the audience where they could do anything in it like spit into it, piss into it, pour beer, tap their ash or do whatever they pleased”

“For what joy?”

“And he would drink it at the end of the show.”

“Why would he do something like that?”

“Fucker. That’s how much he loved his fans.”

Just like Morrison, even I found this hard to digest.

I had bought a little guide to Paris and peeked into it to see what all I was missing, sitting here in this burial ground. Thankfully there was nothing in it that I was passionately attached to. But even if there was, I could do little about it. I had no clue how to get out of here. And the only way to was to have shelled out 20€ at the beginning. I was trapped in the middle of a million crosses.

After meandering here and there, we finally found a tribe who also happened to be searching for Jim’s Soul. Thankfully they were the ones who valued their time a lot and had invested 20€ for this search. So we hung around like friendly tourists and followed them wherever they went.

And in a few moments, we managed to reach where Jim Morrison lay peacefully. Until then.

It was nothing like I had imagined. He was tucked away into an obscure corner. An insignificant looking grave with the inscriptions “James Douglas Morrison’ with a few dried up roses on the marble, and some assorted cigarettes tossed around by his fans, for Morrison to smoke up incase he woke up at night.

There was another big monument of an unpronounceable French chap that blocked half the view. You had to kind of lean over from the side to get a glimpse of his grave. You could barely read the inscriptions on it. Rajiv put on his zoom lens and took a gloomy picture in grey.

I felt cheated. I had walked the whole afternoon. This wasn’t enough for a 3 hour old fan. I started doubting his popularity. Surely his fans could have done something better after all the piss that he drank. But Rajiv looked composed. He shut his eyes and murmured a prayer. There were three other fans around him, who did the same. Between their meditations, they kept looking at each other. Noone was sure that having coming here all the way, what were they exactly supposed to do now. They took pictures of each other. In all combinations possible.P1060674

Rajiv asked one of them, a funny looking oriental guy, “You’re a Doors fan?”

I paid attention to the reply only to know if there was another idiot who was here for the same reason like me, ‘just like that’.

The chap placed his hand on the chest and said “Truly brother. Truly. Jim Morrison all the way.”

And leaned over and loudly sang a verse of his number and screamed ‘You rock dude….you fucking rock’. His voice was so croaked that I could almost see Jim Morrison turning in his grave. He then pulled out his cigarette pack and casually chucked half a dozen sticks on his tomb to pay homage.

I looked at Rajiv to see if he would follow suit. It was a challenge to his fanaticism. He took out a pack of Gold Flake Kings and dragged out seven sticks. But then it was the last pack. He took a good look and decided that he needed it more than Morrison, maybe. He waited till his challenger turned away, and quietly slid back 5 into the pack and quickly tossed two for Morrison. He was emotional, but was Indian for far too long to get carried away.

With this, I thought the condolence ritual was over.  But no, we just hung around. Like people at a funeral, who just feel obligated to hang around. Nobody seemed to be wanting to leave. Like Morrison might just rise again and start giving them a posthumous performance.

So we waited like unsatisfied fans who refuse to leave even after the rock show has come to an end…hoping that the singer might suddenly get back on stage and scream ‘You want more.”

The moroseness of the situation was getting to me.

“Shall we go?”

“Wait man!!”

“For what?”

“Don’t be so insensitive dude. Hang on.” Rajiv barked back.

“For what? He’s dead man.”

Everyone around me glared at me like I killed him.

Rajiv walked around behaving in a strange manner. I then noticed carefully. The guy was actually humming a song for his idol, who lay beneath the stone, deaf. For a second I wanted to swap places with Morrison. We had spent over 4 hours in this stupid graveyard. I was getting sick of this. I had just 2 days in Paris. In fucking Paris. The only way to come back to Paris meant winning a Cannes. Every minute was precious. I didn’t know where to go. But I atleast knew that i didn’t want to be here anymore, listening to a madman closing his eyes and singing back a song to a man who wrote it. It was like torturing him back to life.

I waited patiently for about half an hour waiting for Rajiv to finish his cover versions.

“Ok. Let’s leave.” Rajiv announced finally parting himself from the departed, and walked away from the scene as fast as he could.

“Where now?’

“Oscar Wilde.”

“Do you really really want to go? Do you actually love his poems so much? I mean, can I not just gift you an entire collection of his poetry or whatever else he wrote.”

“You can go wherever you want to but I’m going to meet him.”

He made it seem like the two of them were going out for a beer.

“Ok man. Can you tell me a poem he wrote….like a kickass one. So that even I feel like meeting him.”

“OK, have you heard of Athanasia…..

O that gaunt House of Art which lacks for naught
Of all the great things men have saved from Time,
The withered body of a girl was brought……”

“What does that mean….?”

“It means……..” Rajiv lead the way to introduce Oscar Wilde to his latest fan.

By the way, Happy Birthday Rajiv.

Halli daariyalli….evening hothinalli

It happens often. And it can drive you crazy. Atleast it happens to me. You suddenly remember a song, and then you want it badly. So badly that it can drive you insane.

It happened to me again.

From somewhere out of the blue, an old kannada song called ‘halli daariyalli’, started to haunt me. A song that I vaguely remember seeing Kokila Mohan dancing in some jazzy dinchak outfit. A song that had made my new ‘Dyanora’ color tv proud, some years back.

I kept tossing and turning last night in my sleep, trying to remember the song fully. I woke up singing the same tune. I could not take it any longer. I needed it. And needed it really bad.

I tried googling it with no luck.

Then I youtubed it. And i found this interesting clip. Though it isn’t the original, I must admit that the dude out here has done quite a brilliant job of it. So watch it to get an idea of what this post is all about.

I had no clue which movie it belonged to. But I could bet that SPB was the singer. 

So, with this limited knowledge I first went to the neighboring music stores, Planet M, Music World, Calypso and a few others. Unfortunately, noone knew what I was talking about.

And then I remembered this unique tiny shop called Totalkannada.com located in the basement opposite Pai Vihar, Jayanagara, a shop completely dedicated to kannada movies, music, books and other “Jai Karnataka Maate’ paraphernalia. 

This was my last resort. I was going half mad. And I hoped and prayed that I find it there.

As I entered, a salesgirl was sitting at the counter. A simple young kannadiga girl, who was almost dozing off to some old kannada melody on the speakers that was apt for a sleepy afternoon like this. There was another lone customer loitering around and messing up the alphabetically arranged Vcds. 

One look at her and I was convinced that she would have no clue either. 

With full anxiety, I leaned over the counter and whispered adding the customary ‘maydam’ before every sentence to sound as authentically kannada as possible….

“Maydam, ondhu haadu hudukutha iddini…..(I’m searching for a song) …….halli daariyalli”

She turned down the volume of the speakers that was playing ‘Namoora mandaara hoove’.

I repeated my request ‘Maydam…halli daariyalli’, with an irritating eagerness that I didn’t care to hold back.

She turned the volume further down and closed her eyes to concentrate on getting the tune of my request.

I impatiently waited for that one customer to clear the field, and then cleared my throat.

“Maydam …haadla..(can i sing it?)”

She nodded impatiently.

I looked around and broke into the song accompanied by a half-hearted jig, to add some excitement to her memory jogging process…..”Halli daariyalli……tan ta daan ta da taan ta da taan…” and abruptly stopped, wishing that her imagination would take over with this cryptic clue.

She gave me a look as if to say “Go on…don’t stop, it’s coming …it’s coming in my head…keep it going”.

So I took a good look around and continued….

“Halli Daariyalli……tan ta daan ta da taan ta da taan…

Thampu breezinalli…tan ta daan ta da taan ta da taan…

hmmmm hmmmmm hmmmmmm…something something and 

ooru inda bandanu Mr Maraaanu”

She showed me symptoms of having heard it before. Her eyes lit up and she started mouthing the words to herself. She closed her eyes and transported herself back to her ‘Dyanora or Solidaire TV’ days. 

I encouraged her further by again repeating all that I knew.

She jumped “Correct. howdu….ivaga nyaapka barthaayide…..Englishu Kannada mix maadi ondu haadu” (Ya…now I remember, it’s a song that mixes up English and Kannada words)

I was thrilled to bits and continued…’ya ya, haaruthide love birdsugalu…..’ and was promptly interrupted by some fool who walked in wanting some Darshan hits.

The imagination that we had built up till now was drowned the minute she slipped in the ‘Darshan Hits’ CD to test it. The sepia toned imagery floating in the air was ruthlessly spoilt by the garish garbage that belted out of the speakers.  

I casually asked that customer “Saar Halli daariyalli haadu yaav picturu antha goththa?” (Sir, do you know which movie is ‘Halli Daariyalli’ from?)

He meditated for a while and said with supreme confidence “Halli Daari alla adu…halli meshtru…..Ravichandran picture” (No …it’s called halli meshtru..a Ravichandran film).

I controlled all my urges to slap him. And let him groove to the irritating tune of his latest purchase that was blaring from the speakers.

Thankfully, the guy was happy with what he was hearing, and he soon exited leaving us alone to resume our exciting search.

And the salesgirl promptly returned. 

I took off from where we left.

“Correctu madam….English Kannada mix…haaruthide love birdsu galu…oduthide cowsugalu..”(love birds are flying and cows are running)

“Hero yaaru gotha?’ She asked frowning hard.

“Seriyaagi nyaapka illa madam…Kokila Mohan anusoththe” (Cannot remember clearly….I think it is Kokila Mohan)

“Haan…” she jumped in excitement and promptly returned with a Vcd of the movie ‘Kokila’.

We quickly poured over its contents.The Vcd also contained a listing of all the songs. But no, this number did not feature.

She was visibly dissappointed with her ineffeciency. And I was visibly happy that she was taking such a keen interest in this.

We both agreed that it could only be SPB who could have sung this song.

She kept humming the tune to herself, as she rummaged through dozens of SPB hits looking for this number.

I picked up a bunch of illayaraja hits hoping that I’d find it in them. I always felt it had a very ‘Illayaraja’ flavour to it.

But we both failed in our searches.

She then picked up a big fat book, a kannada cinema encyclopedia and began searching for it. 

After about 20 minutes of pouring into it, she lifted her head and looked at me strangely.

She studied me carefully.

Obviously there was something running in her head.

And then she said in a nervous whisper “Actually nam bossige gothirathe. Andre ivaaga nidde maadtha irthaare!” (Actually my boss would know. But he’ll be sleeping right now).

She was mentally weighing the worth of this deal. Even if she did identify the cd, it couldn’t be costing more than 30 Rs. Was it worthy enough to spend a phone call? Or risk disturbing the owner at such an untimely hour?

I could sense the dilemma going on in her head. 

I put on the most desperate face I could. 

She pondered for a while and thankfully decided that it was more important to please me than worry about the deal and her boss.

She hesitantly picked up the phone and punched the buttons.

I could see the tension on her face.  

“Sorry sir…..ondhu customer bandidhaare…halli daariyalli bekanthe…yaavu piccharru antha goththa nimmage?” (There is a customer searching for halli daariyalli song here. Do you know which movie it belongs to?)

There was a pregnant pause. She made unpleasant faces at me, imitating her boss’ mood at that time. 

She tried to sound her polite best as she responded to him “..’Muniyana maadri’…..andre adralli Shankar Nag alva…haaan….correctu…….Kokila Mohanu idaane…thumba thanks sir” (Oh Muniyana Maadri…but isn’t that Shankar Nag!….oh ya right….even Kokila Mohan is in that one. Thank you sir)

She hung up and bit her tongue feeling happy that she was done with the difficult part. She rushed and reached out for that Vcd. And ran through the listings.

Yes. The song did feature.

She handed over the vcd to me and said “Boss kopuskondru…parvaagilla….nimmage haadu sikkthalla!” (Boss was wild. But it’s ok. Atleast you found your song).

I grabbed it and was all set to rush back and listen to it. 

But she held me back for a few minutes, frantically rummaging through a few other Cds. I was getting impatient. I had dug out the exact number of notes needed for the transaction, to make it as speedy as possible.

She finally returned with a compile of SPB and held it out to me.   

“Saar. MP3 nu sikkthu…beka? Beri 25 Rupayee!!” (I also got an MP3 of it. Do you want it? It’s only 25 Rs!!’)

I knew that she was doing this only to justify the deal in her own head.

And I could have paid anything for such sincerity.

halli

 

 

 

 

So here it is……I later found it in on youtube….Now that i know which movie it belongs to.

 

Thanks to someone, who’s so passionate about their job.

Dog is a DJ – Part 3

Life moved on. My life was filled with music, even when I wasn’t behind the console. I had gone crazy grooving to imaginary music all the time. The tracks would continue reverberating in my head even after I went to bed. I would put my head below the pillow, but I could still hear Ricky Martin scream through it ‘Here we go Ole Ole…Cup of life…’.

I was on my way to the pub one evening. I stopped at the signal. A man wearing a yellow helmet and a parrot green shirt perched on a pink Lambretta stopped right beside me. Two eyes blinked at me from inside the peculiar helmet to get my attention. I looked hard but it resembled nobody I knew. The man took off his head gear to unveil the hidden emotion. It was the senior waiter at the pub, smiling end to end. I had never seen him in this fashion. His dark grey blazer had gone to the laundry for its annual wash, and he was looking liberated in this make-shift costume. His wife sitting behind him replicated his smile.

“Not coming to the pub today” I yelled.

“No. I’m taking off today….Ha ha….I know that the manager is not coming in tonight, so I’m gonna celebrate.” He yelled back speeding away in his Lambretta that rattled a celebratory tune to his freedom.

“The manager is not coming in tonight….the manager is not coming in tonight…..THE MANAGER IS NOT COMING IN TONIGHT”

This echoed in my ears till the meaning fully sunk in. It meant that the night was entirely mine. I mentally lined up all the heroes who had remained unsung in this venue. Tonight, the walls will bounce back tunes that they’ve never heard previously. Tonight, the woofers will freely kick bass till the windows rattle. Tonight, the tweeters will hiss away all their caged potential. Tonight, the bouncers will get an increment. Tonight the bartenders will ache with pain. Tonight the bar will run dry. Tonight the loo will stink. Tonight belonged to me.

It was a Wednesday. I knew that the crowd will gather in no time. I started getting ready with all the arsenal to knock them down.

‘Mother Russia’
dj

The electric guitar penetrated across the speakers in the room. At an inconsiderate volume. A guy at the snooker table missed his shot. He flung his cue in fury and walked up to me.

“Do you mind. We’re playing here.”

“Do you mind. Even I’m playing here. And that too, after a long time.”

The Nirvana chick shrieked like was struck by a bolt of lightning. She downed her tequila in less than a second and spun round and round, adding surround sound to her shriek.

I kept her spinning with Burn and Carcass and Megadeth and every other rejected request of hers, till she ran out of winding.

Soon the pub was full with people jumping around like the floor was electrified.

I was waiting to unleash the incorrigible Indians on them, and get them dizzy with orgasm. The thing with Indian music is that it can accommodate any lack of dancing talent. You suffer from no embarrassment because anything you choose to shake, is already certified as a worthy move by some Bollywood character. It never demands committent to one dance movement. Fly a kite. Spin a top. Put your hands on your hips and gyrate. Flip a dosa on the tava. Tap your bum. Lift your hand and look at the ceiling. Everything is a certified Bollywood move.

It never expects rhythm. It never expects grace. It needs no technique. And above all, everyone knows the lyrics. Knowing the lyrics and singing along is a dance step by itself. Atleast the lips move in a choreographed fashion.

I was waiting till the alcohol drowned everyone’s self consciousness. And when I knew for sure that the crowd had warmed up to stupidity, Tom’s diner “ta ta da da tata da da” suddenly blended to…………”ku kuku ku kuku kuku…….hai chori………”

The waiters turned around to check if they actually heard what they heard.

“Choli ke peeche kya hai…choli ke peeche”

In one single stroke I had knocked the ‘town’ off Downtown, and replaced it with ‘market’.

This happened at a time when the song you heard at a pub or a club was not the same you heard in the car on your way back home. Bollywood was frisked right at the entrance, leaving you with a choice of music as limited as the space in that paper napkin.

This track opened up a dyke which flooded me with requests. Requests that could put a dance bar to shame.

Two young surds walked in and gleamed with joy when they were greeted by familiar sounds. They looked at this new glamorous platform to exhibit their dancing prowess, that they so far had wasted on old chachas, kakas and buas at some baraat.

They pushed their way to the centre stage and broke into a bhangra. Mid-way, one of them rushed towards me and said
“oye….yeh sab chhod yaar…kuch bhangda shangda bajaaa oye..”

I slipped in ‘Gur nalo ishq’.

And they picked a random waiter leading him to tables like he was the dulha on the horse. They shook their shoulders and bent backwards till the crowd felt tipsy.

The Mauritian entered ignorantly doing his regular step. And suddenly stopped when he found his rhythm missing. He looked up to cross check if it was the same pub. Hopes of his favorite daddy track went up in a puff. He waited till the vibrant bhangra beats submerged his cynicism.

He sent me a paper napkin.

“Screw Puff Daddy tonight. Keep this going Bro.”

Bally had prolonged this track adequately. The energy spread to every member in the hall. Soon everybody circled around the two bhangra boys clapping and urging them to go on. The Mauritian was feeling left out as his subtle grooves went unnoticed against the Bhangra boys’ thunderous moves. He realised that tonight demanded more of him. He stepped up his steps, by making suitable modifications to his hip-hop routine. And dived right in the middle to join the party.

I was enjoying myself. And was busy cuing Daler to take over from here.
Something seemed to be hindering my progression. It was a shiny metal object blurring at the corner of my eye.

I turned to shoo away the disturbance, and froze mid-way.

It was the manager pointing a gun at my head. I could see rage in his eyes, with flashes of myself as pulp. And spared one flash to the Lambretta waiter in a similar condition.

The Manager’s appearance was scary enough, and this suspect toy in his gigantic hands triggered off my involuntary functions.

Robotically, my hands reached towards the corner where Nat King Cole sat. My fingers automatically reached the cd tray button. Nat King took position and slid inside on his mission to bring this madness to a grinding halt.

“O rabba lagna kise dooja ve…..unforgettable, that’s what you are’

The manager left the scene in a huff, letting my limited imagination to predict the circumstances.

I regained consciousness with a paper napkin ball knocking me down. It was the Mauritian’s cannon ball. I looked up and saw him between two heavily panting surds. They were staring at me with their hands on their hips with Nat King moaning in the background.

In a few moments I learnt all the abuses in Punjabi. The left over ones were tutored by the second surd.

That minute, I decided to end my career before my life. I started packing up.

And just before I left, I noticed the paper ball.

I picked it up to keep this one as a memorabilia of the hundred balls hurled at me, which I had ignored all these days.

Just out of curiosity, I unfurled it to investigate further.

Inside it was a crumpled 500 Rupee note with a writing on the napkin…

“You rock, Bro”.

Dog is a DJ – Part 2

It was about 4 months. The shine on the DJ badge had begun to dull, and this cool pastime started seeming like a job. I could spot the cracks in the mahogany around. I knew which waiter was putting on an accent. I knew half the cocktail recipes. I could see a face and guess the tracks that he or she would trip on. I knew who spends, who doesn’t. I knew which person would be footing the bill at any table. I knew the cats at snooker. I knew the bartenders. I knew the chefs. I knew the marksmen. I knew the cleaners in the loo. I also which CD belonged to which cover. I knew which CD had a scratch. I knew at which second the track in that CD would jump.

I started hating the songs that I used to love, and starting loving the ones I always hated. By the end of that, I could appreciate just about any genre of music under the sun. I had mastered the art of changing moods. I knew which song I could use to shift from hip-hop to rock or from a romantic song to a dance track.

I also knew that I played a big part in determining the waiter’s tip. I had often seen waiters fighting for the requests that came from their table. Great service would earn them a handsome tip. But a request that was played could just triple that amount.

I also realised that it’s important to keep the women happy. If the women returned, the men will simply follow.

I pulled along learning something new everyday.

But the hunger pangs was something that I just couldn’t bear. After many experiments, I narrowed down on one long track that could give me the needed escape to go grab half a plate of egg noodles at ‘Bob’s Chinees Cart’ right outside the pub.

An extended remix of George Michael’s ‘Fast Love’, that went on for 16 minutes and 42 seconds.

So everyday, at about 8 PM, I’d quietly slip in this CD and dash out. Bob had programmed himself to break an egg into the wok, the minute he saw my shadow elongate from a distance. By the end of the meal, I’d rush back just in time, with about 30 seconds of the track left and pass by dozens of dizzy drunks, who’d be in a motionless state of trance with George Michael running out of breath and words…..

..’looking for some fast love….looking for some fast love….looking for some fast love…….looking for some fast love….looking for some fast love……………..’

and dive to reach the cross faders…’all aboard…..the night train’…

..and settle down sucking the last string of noodle dangling from my mouth.
djmonkey

I had managed to keep the manager in the dark about my vanishing act. I also knew exactly when he was around. I had developed a code language with the waiters to find out the auspicious occasions of when he was missing. I knew which request evoked what kind of a response. So I’d hold on to the risky ones and play them only when I was sure that the tiger was not on prowl.

By now, I had started identifying customers by their favorite songs and their eccentricities.

There was the ‘Cocojumbo’ man, an old weary loner who’d walk in at the same time everyday, wearing the same hat, and sit on the same bar stool and order the same drink and lift his glass in my direction gesturing me to play the same song again. Cocojumbo. The minute the track began, he’d shut his eyes and listen to it till his Bloody Mary bled with pathos. And balance his head on the counter, by holding the bridge of his nose. I’d never seen so much melancholy in reggae before in my life.

Then there was the ‘Scatman troop’, a bunch of teeny Cottonians disguised in cool sweat shirts and jackets that unconvincingly concealed their uniforms beneath. They’d chuck their school bags to an obscure corner, split that everlasting pitcher and then their fingers to make a ‘Pepsi Can’ pose and try keeping pace with Scatman. They’d scat all the possible gibberish, scattering all the beer they’re holding and end in a dramatic fashion by knocking their fists and finishing together “Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop”. And do a quick scan from the corner of their eyes, to spot any prospective female fan of their do.

Then was the Nirvana chick. A short-haired, seven earring sporting wild feline. She’d wear tees that had huge hand painted logos of ‘Metallica’, ‘Megadeth’ and ‘Maiden’. She’d only request for numbers which had a minimum decibel level of a rocket launch, with lyrics penned by sadistic undertakers.

Can you play ‘Countdown to extinction?’
“No”
“Symphony of destruction”
“No”
“Skin of my teeth”
“No”
“Corporeal Jigsore Quandary”
“No”

After her initial requests of morbid head rupturing cacophonies, she’d unsettlingly tune down her ear drums to Nirvana’s ‘Smells like teen spirit’. And break into a headbang that had an unpredictable radius. She’d continue this war dance clearing the field around inaudibly questioning the machismo of the men around. They’d surrender by replacing their sissy pint beers with an extra-large of the hardest liquor in the house.

Then was the ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ dude. A young chap who wore shiny shirts with hypnotising patterns and tight denims. He’d simply lean over a pillar with a drink in his hand, watching a snooker game in progress. No song mattered to him. The only song that deserved a response from his limbs was “Kung Fu…”. Everytime the track changed, he’d get into position, hoping that the initial beats would mysteriously blend into his favorite request. And when it finally did, he’d make partners with the pillar, and slip into his role of Bruce Lee making drunken monkey, crazy horse, flying cobra and other Shaolin poses.

And of course, the strangest was this curly haired guy from Mauritius. He’d walk-in with this break-dance step that universally suited any tune that I was playing. And wink at me from his corner. A gesture that’s suppose to mean ‘bring my favorite track on’.

“Every breath you take”.

(He’d corrected the request after I goofed up the first time by playing Sting’s version of it. He scribbled specifically ‘By Puff Daddy’, the next time.)

The minute the track was played, he’d enact a Mauritian national dance to this tune. A step where he’d first vibrate his feet which then electrifyingly travelled to his head reaching every body part during the journey. This was followed by a random spin. He’d then freeze for a few moments and smile at whoever he was facing. He’d continue with this step, in a loop. By the time the song ended, he’d have staggered all over the place, displacing the maximum audience possible. And at the end of it, he’d crumple a paper napkin into a ball and chuck it at me. The first time, I was annoyed with his style of thanksgiving. But when this practice continued religiously, I dismissed it as an Mauritian way of showing appreciation.

To be contd……

Dog is a DJ – Part 1

Un Dos Tres, Macarena, CocoJumbo, Barbie Girl, Samba De Janeiro, Don’t Stop Move It Baby, No Limit, Mata Oh Ah Eh, I’m Too Sexy For My Love, Tic Tic Tac…..

There was a time when these numbers ruled the charts. Coincidentally, there was a time when I was a part-time DJ, partly responsible for making all that trash popular. Ok, not all of it was trash. Agreed that it’s not Dylan or Floyd, but you can’t make funny faces at each other and do some weirdo moves listening to them.

Downtown Pub needed a Dj. I wanted money. This simple equation started a relationship between us, and I stepped behind the console, with no consolation after that. It sounds cool, DJ and all, but the truth is far from it. Lemme just explain the fate of a DJ specially if he’s spinning at a pub, and not a club.

Firstly, the timings. 7pm to 12 midnight, seven days a week. One day off a month, and it cannot be a Wednesday, Friday, Saturday or a Sunday.
The pay is not even worth mentioning. But I stuck on for one year, because I loved it as much as I hated it.

“No Fusion. No Trance. No Heavy Metal. No Lounge. And most importantly No Indian, that includes everything Bollywood, Regional, Indi-Pop, Indi Rock, Indi-whatever even if it is UK Bhangra….ok…Apache is OK. (He is the only Indian who managed a license at Downtown). No personal favorites. Try and play as many requests as you can. Your job is to keep as many people happy as possible. But hello, as long as it doesn’t include any of the above.” said the manager who resembled a badly maintained mafia don. He even had the necessary make up for the effect – a black blazer, a hat and a long scar across his chin.

I had done a small research on the man, and had found out that he was the owner’s blue eyed boy, a privilege he had earned by giving a few black eyes to many scoundrels who had messed around with the decorum of this den.

He started off as a bouncer. And after a few bashings, he had bounced back in the role of a manager. And was given a free hand to deal with his staff, just like the way he had dealt with the hundred odd drunkards who had earned him this promotion.

“OK. That sounds cool.” I said taking my offer letter.

“And listen. Dont’ fuck around. I’m mostly good. But when I’m bad, I just don’t care. Break the rules, and I won’t mind breaking your bones.” He said adjusting the buttons of his formal shirt that were bursting at the seams. He gave me a wicked grin, like he was impatient to show me the side of his, I never wanted to see.

“No don’t worry” I said mentally picturing myself screaming for help like a stuck record.

“No drinking. No taking breaks during your time. Not even for dinner. Dinner is only after the pub closes. And listen buddy, if the music stops even for a few seconds in between, don’t bother coming back.”

“No don’t worry” I repeated, not risking any new lines.

“We have all the titles with us. And any new music you want….just give me a list every month, and we’ll arrange them for you. About 5-6 Cds a month is all you’ll get….” he added.

“What if I need more?” I said, trying to make it sound like I wouldn’t need more than two new cds a year.

“We are running a business. Not starting a music library, so stay within that limit. If you want more, bloody well buy them yourself.” He said losing his patience. And thought to himself, that a sample demonstration of his personality would help in cutting this conversation short, and spare him from any other silly doubts that I may have.

He suddenly bellowed at a security guard of the pub who was passing by…….’thevidiyaa…….vaada inge’….

He stormed out of his cabin, caught him by his arm and shook him to pieces. The previous night, he had noticed the guard leniently allow a customer of the opposite pub to park over here. He warned him in the choicest tamil slang as loudly as he could.

“Anything else” he asked, returning victoriously from the ring.

“No. I’ve understood it all.” I said studying his giant profile from close quarters.

“Ok. You start tomorrow. And don’t be late. Unlike other pubs, this one starts filling up the minute we open.” He said slipping out a whistle through the wide gap between his front teeth.

Downtown was one of the earliest pubs in the city. It was distinct because it had two professional snooker tables. And pretty well maintained ones, complete with dedicated marksmen. It also had one separate sound proof glass cabin dedicated to snooty groups where they could unbelong and have their own private conversations. These perks particularly attracted a lot of white skinned folks. Since, they already had a loyal crowd, the reliance on music to increase the population was comparatively lesser. So, the idea was to not change anything and let it remain as neutral as it can get. And my job was to make sure that I keep my contribution to the minimum.

But it was only about 30% of the the crowd who were the loyalists. 70% still remained a floating population of new faces, who came with assorted expectations, which provoked me to disturb this peaceful balance.

The manager had enough experience in this field. He knew that music was a necessary evil in the business. He also knew if this evil is not monitored, the crowd could go out of control. And he had little faith in his staff to handle that situation. So he had taken it upon himself to keep a strict vigil on the excitement level of the boozers. He’d constantly police up and down, and If he noticed someone shaking their head a little too much, he’d send a messenger asking me to change the track. And keep making me change it, till that head banger got his head back, steady on the shoulders.

And in case of emergency, he had identified a killjoy track, that had a special corner in the CD rack.

“Unforgettable’ by Nat King Cole.

This track was tested and proven to not have any unwanted side effects. It never failed in dropping the energy level to zero in a record four seconds. So it was used in cases when more than two tables echoed together….”Alice…Who the fuck is Alice” CUT TO “Unforgettable…….that’s what you are….” OR “It’s my life….it’s now or never…..Unforgettable…that’s what you are…”
He’d do this so discreetly and vanish from the scene, leaving me as the face of the music. So I’ve seen hundreds of pissed drunkards walking out, glaring at me with vengeance in their eyes, and leaving the music to complete the communication…….. ‘Unforgettable….that’s what you are.’

A drunk walked up to me swaggering and slurred…

‘Hey buddy….can u play….key to yorkshire.”

“I haven’t heard that.”

‘What the heck….you played it a few days back…’

“No. I did not. How does it go?”

“Key to yorkshire…key to yorkshire…key to yokshire…key to…. york…hic…shire….”

“Ok. You mean…..Free from desire.”

“Yeah man..hic..same shit. Play that ok….thanks. I’m on my last drink….so please play it fast….hic… buddy.”

‘Free from desire’ had this infectious energy that kind of got most of them to stand up and shake their heads. I was fearing that Mr. Nat King might be called upon again to save the situation. But the crowd seemed within the approved limits.

The party picked up again.

“When a man loves a woman by Michael Bolton” read the paper napkin before me. A request I was trying to avoid from a long time.

I was playing happy popular numbers, the crowd was having a good time. I didn’t want Michael Bolton to poke his piercing nose and voice into this mood. I flung the napkin to one corner and was busy cuing the next dinchak number.

“Dude. I just placed a request.” I heard a desperate squeaky voice. A young chap with pink chapstick, armed with a duplicate copy of his napkin.

“Ya. I got that. But maybe a little later….the mood doesn’t seem right.’ I said trying to look busy.

“Dude. Please…..please….please…..play this for me man. See there, that’s my girl.’ He said pointing to a chick in a red gown, who was one step away from falling in love, looking dreamily at an empty chair before her.

“I’m just gonna propose to her. I need this song man….I need it… like now.” He said fingering a red envelope in his jacket pocket.

I felt responsible for this union, and had to give in.

“Saturday Night…..Saturday night..”………..fade out….

….pierce in…..’When a man loves a woman….” blared a constipated cupid, bringing together two lovers at a far off end.

Bolton continued shattering the window panes…

“When a man loves a woman
Can’t keep his mind on nothing else
He’d trade the world
For a good thing he’s found”

The meaning then pierced through a section of the crowd.
In a choreographed fashion, they cleared the bill and trooped out.

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To be contd….