I have been a little late with my posts the last 2-3 times for a variety of reasons, all unhappy. As usual, I prescribed myself an insane cocktail of the music drug to combat self-doubt and physical pain. There was Ali Farkah Toure and there was Jay-Z, Bach and Metallica, Pat Metheny and Zac Brown Band, Public Enemy and Deadmau5, Porcupine Tree and Don Williams, Bollywood and Wagner, Jagjit Singh and Dream Theater and after a near-eternity, a return to the music that I had a daily dose of as a child.
My grandfather – my mother’s father – was a musician; a practitioner of Carnatic music, which is one of the two main branches of Indian classical music (the other being the Hindustani form). I grew up listening to a lot of Carnatic music piped through radio. Then I branched out to other genres as part of a sub-conscious bid to establish my own identity, however nebulous. I would still listen to Indian classical but for a number of reasons, more of the Hindustani form than Carnatic and in the last couple of years, even that became a thing of the past.
Perhaps not strangely, while my quest for an ‘identity’ moved me away from it, a search of a different kind has brought me back to my musical roots. I do not yet know what I’m looking for – perhaps I never will – but this search has yielded at least one motherlode of unfettered joy.
I’m a sucker for live acts, class jam bands that take to even studio sessions like they’re on stage. Indian classical music – and I’m not saying that this is exclusive to it – is geared completely for live performance. Years of technical grounding combined with necessity to improvise produces virtuosos from the folds of this form of music. You’ll find some of the greatest, yet least heralded jam acts of the world in this lot. That’s not a guaranty though. There’s much that’s not right here but it looks like new blood and some wise heads are making sure that much garbage is being washed away. Like Arun and Akshay with their attempt in Manhattan at the Cornelia Street Cafe to bring Indian classical music to a global audience http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/article2623121.ece. Like http://www.sangeethapriya.org/homepage.php that hosts hours of recordings submitted by members (from what I see, it seems restricted to Carnatic music. You’ll need a Yahoo! or Google a/c to login and download). Like the sublime Dr. L. Subramaniam, the master musician that I used to turn to whenever I found myself spitting cynicism at some of the doings in the Indian classical music community. Not surprisingly, his music is a vital ingredient of the endless cocktail that I’m sipping from these days. I don’t mind if I still haven’t found what I’m looking for and I won’t even care to know what it is I’m seeking if on this journey I keep stumbling upon gems like this.