Friday, May 10, 2013

Smells Like Teen Spirit or Yesterday!

The strains of the sitar break the dawn as Ravi Shankar’s dhun transforms a sleepy flower people into a mesmerized ovation – his fingers flying on the strings like a hummingbird.

Watch him here:

Monterey Pop
Who could resist the charm of this musician with his dreamy eyes and intoxicating smile? My espresso always runs cold as I watch him build up the crescendo.

Music gives us strong associations – to people we love, to places we have passed through, to warm hearths and kitchen aromas. For me, there are some musical pieces that always echo one or more of these.

On hot summer days, as we ate dosas from around the corner of the boys’ hostel, Gulzar’s collection of Fursat ke Raat Din had a soporific, hypnotic effect. Assignments would stop mid-way to make way for romance. This had to be followed up with the tempo of Pink Floyd or Eagles for the Rotring pens to move faster to make up for lost time.

Many years before that, Radio Calcutta would air Suchitra Mitra or some other stalwart’s renditions of Rabindrasangeet between 7.30 am and 8 am. Ma would hurry us up from behind the toaster and as the 8’o’clock Bengali news bulletin started we would make a mad rush out of the door to catch the school bus.

The first signs of “cool” was Nazia Hassan’s psychedelic “Aao Na Pyar Karein” and the rest of Disco Deewane. ( Listen to her here Aao Na). The songs created visions of shiny disco balls even in broad daylight. Sunday mutton curry and rice was followed by dance sessions to these – Dil bole Boom Boom!   ( Boom Boom)
And then in the teens there was Beatles. One of my favourites was Norwegian Wood. Initially it intrigued me with the sitar track. And later the lyrics kind of epitomized a beatnik lifestyle – sexy, naughty and destructive. Who did not want to go there?

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me
She showed me her room, isn't it good, Norwegian wood?
She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere
So I looked around and I noticed there wasn't a chair
I sat on the rug, biding my time, drinking her wine
We talked until two and then she said, "It's time for bed"
She told me she worked in the morning and started to laugh
I told her I didn't and crawled off to sleep in the bath
And when I awoke I was alone, this bird had flown
So I lit a fire, isn't it good, Norwegian wood?
Somehow the teens were the least inspiring food-wise. So I have NO food recollections with this one! Odd.

In a time in between, Cliff Richards came across as handsome (!!) and his songs hit the right notes. All this rapidly became uncool later. But I have to say, in retrospect, Lucky Lips and Summer Holiday were fabulous – like warm popcorn – crackling and salty.

Watch the movie track of Summer Holiday here. Its hilarious.

And the girls screaming for Lucky Lips here :

The list of favourites is endless, as with everyone. There was a time when I loved techno (still do). Somehow Robert Miles reminds me of German cheesecake and Riesling, not necessarily paired together. Maybe because I first heard this genre in the German clubs. We had a dress code for techno-club nights – dungarees and T shirts – to allow maximum cross ventilation when hot and sweaty with dancing!!

Today when I hear Bob Dylan or Simon and Garfunkel, I am reminded of exam preparations, radio nights, power cuts and the fragrance of the Hasna Henna blooms outside the bedroom window. In Bengali the flowers were called that, our mali called them Raat ki Rani.

Here is a vintage unplugged rendition of one such. Don’t miss the introduction by Art Garfunkel.
Sounds of Silence

But what brings all of this together is Rabindranath’s “Purano shei diner kotha” – a song of nostalgia, of friends parting and coming back together. Its chord based melody is supposedly inspired by Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne. The two compositions are steeped in memories, joy and tears. A rough translation of the Rabindrasangeet is here below.

Old times' tale - how could they be forgotten?
Lived through our eyes,
Words spurting from our hearts - sweet memories
Come once again ... to the embrace of the soul,
Sharing joys and woes, gratifying our hearts
We gathered flowers in the dawn, swayed on the swing,
We sang songs and played the flute beneath the bokul tree
Alas we parted then, who knows where we went...

Now that we meet again, my dear friend, lets embrace.

And while Auld Lang Syne has been sung by many iconic singers, I love this Scottish soundtrack of Sex and the City and the ongoing montage of friendship, separation and celebration. Never fails to make me sob stupidly in front of the telly.

Auld Lang Syne

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.