WITH MUSIC

Music bends the course of civilizations. Music moves perceptions and changes the course of language. Music starts conversations. With yourself. It reaches deep through your futile sense of understanding and tugs at your heart. And somewhere at the back of your head, the streams of music from your earphones converge, and release clouds of ‘wonder’. And as it grows on you, for those few minutes, your eyes see you. Over the sound of the music, runs a montage of your most vivid imaginations, a roll-out of ‘what-if’s, ‘should have’s, ‘if-only’s and ‘who-am-I’s.

Music stays. Sometimes as silence after the song. Music brings ecstatic rushes of memory to some of those who thought they had lost all of it to age.

Music inspires appreciation – one of the few differentiating features of humanity left.

Music inspires belief, or suspension of belief.

To some, it causes the choreography of a dream, to others; a revision of forgotten ones. You look so beautiful, staring into oblivion, your oblivion – which overflows with wonder, satisfaction and the nonchalant attitude, that the world wouldn’t end if we didn’t pay attention to it for a few minutes, plugged in the earphones and let ourselves loose on a 3-minute trip of freedom.

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Baby, you make me sing!

It is amazing how a little human being with tiny feet, pink cheeks and hair like strands of silk, can make a singer out of anyone.

The beauty of singing for a child is in its spontaneity. You have no idea whatsoever of what you’re singing; you just start ‘la-la’ing off to make the baby stop crying. And when it seems to work, when the frown is gone, and the eyes shift focus on to you, or close peacefully in slumber, you suddenly realize that the gibberish you sang was really a tune. And you sing it again and in loop. Right then, at that point, you become a singer. No matter how harsh a voice you think you have, when the baby in your palms will start to cry, you will sing. And that song will be the most beautiful, because you will have no idea of where the song came from, and you will want to sing it again and again, just to re-experience the joy of having relieved the divine little being of its restlessness.

Madhumathiye: When my voice spoke to me

I heard this song from the movie Sakhavu months before it got its final form – and right then, I knew that this was going to be a challenging, but heartfelt song that savors a simple, timeless love story.

What I did not know, was that I had 7 lines to depict all those emotions in. 7 beautiful lines, penned by the brilliant Shabareesh – the lyricist behind the warm and embracing album – Anuraga Karikkin Vellam.

7 lines to depict the elation, the deep admiration and the unbreakable promise that a young revolutionary woman made to her husband, the leader of the revolution.

This was to be the song that, if you looked deep inside, beyond the struggle, the determination, the patriotism, you would find at the bottom of her heart.

And so, I considered this song to be another incredible opportunity to express – little did I know that it would also stir a realization within me.

This song was to be more challenging, because my dear brother wasn’t going to be there to record me. So, of course, there wouldn’t be retakes in 10 different styles, and I wouldn’t know which ones would sound good to his ears.

The first recording was thus, a very nervous and overwhelmed attempt – and my friend and chocolate flavour-enthusiast Shreekumar was the live navigation system for the session. And Prashun was there to remind me to breathe and smile.

We recorded for about 5 hours – with a lunch break and some soul-searching debate around the studio’s snooker table.

Through that session, I learnt that this was something more than a melodious song – it needed more vibrance than that. And a wider vocal range.

But well, as it turned out, it did not fit in with the vision my brother had for this song. And realizing that I probably needed his supervision, he asked if I wanted to come to Kochi to do the re-recording with him.

And there it was – the tough decision. Should I give in to this need for comfort? Or should I go ahead and risk it again, do it without him around?

I stayed and took the risk. A few days later, I was back at the studio, and this time, my recordist was Rahul, the same guy who recorded me for Poyi Maranjo. We had quite a laugh at that time, but that story is for another blog post! This time, it was him and me, no Shreekumar, no Prashun, no Kannetan around.

The session began – and I gave in to my instinctive melody, picturing the love story in my head the whole time. The 7 lines were recorded time and again, since I was my own critic there.

When the lines went higher, my voice spoke to me. Breathe, it said. Don’t be conscious of the note, be conscious of the words and their meaning. Don’t focus on the result of this recording, just let it out and sing!

We recorded for about 2 hours, and at the end, I was really hoping this had worked.

And, as it turns out, it did!

My voice had spoken to me in this song: it had told me secretly to explore my voice more, to forgive myself for all the songs that I won’t end up singing because they are too high or too low, to focus on building with what I have. To spend more time realizing the depths my own craft. And to take a step out of the comforting sun and test the rains for a little while.

This exceptionally beautiful song comes with one great lesson – that vulnerabililty and struggle is not be feared, but to be embraced, and eventually, something beautiful and self-affirming comes out of it! Much like the story that this song depicts. Thank you, Shabareesh, Shreekumar, Prashun, Rahul, Praful and Kannoto for getting those beautiful lines out of me!

And hope all of you, my listeners, enjoy the song!

Maybe you are not needed

‘But they need me.’

is, many-a-times, a good enough reason for us to stick around doing things we don’t really like, with people who don’t really value us.

And yet, we insist on continuing to assume that role, just a little longer, just until the dust settles, and then we can let go and find ourselves. Because we are the managers, teachers, the parents or the likes with ‘great responsibilities’, and though we wake up everyday imagining a different life for ourselves, we somehow decree that ‘now’ is a bad time to take the next step towards it.

Well, maybe reassess. Maybe your school will still have great teachers on-board to care for the students. Maybe your subordinates do not need your exaggerated effort to keep them together. Maybe your successor, no matter what role you pursue that your heart doesn’t, will do much better than you do.

Not being needed gives you the freedom that you need to walk away. That makes you dispensable – and indeed, available to the things and people you love.

Well sure, we worry all the time that we might look like quitters. But what do we see for ourselves? What would you like to be?

 

 

 

 

The year of showing up

Don’t show up three times, and people will stop asking.

I haven’t shown up for an awful lot the recent years – not to the gym, not to my team’s outings, not for a few friends’ weddings…and the fine is too huge!

2016 was about realizing how just very few people really miss me, and crying a little bit about it. But then it dawned on me: How’ll they miss me if I’m never there?

I’m sure we all say no to a lot of things, we have our own priorities set. But when one or more of the forts of friends, family or the personal self is crumbling, it is surely time to re-assign the priorities.

2017 is that year for me. I have seen forts cracking in their pillars. Forts of personal, professional, financial and social forts. (Yes, ALL of them.) I need to renovate a little – by showing up, by catching up with lost opportunities I still miss today.

And showing up doesn’t mean being everywhere – it means showing up for what or whom you care.

It means being there for those few people, to whom your presence has no substitute.

Wine and the other shine…

Tonight when I come home, darling…
we’ll switch off everything, save the darkness…
Two glasses of red wine,
your glowing eyes and mine,
will go searching in the skies..
For stars in disguise..

Then we’ll talk about the passing of life…
and how everything fits in perfectly fine…
Two more glasses of red wine,
your embrace and mine…
and we’ll beautify the skies..
With the stars in our eyes..

And the roots danced..

I rode to work in a vintage Indian chariot today.
Or at least, that’s how royal I felt in the cab.

The old cabbie was no extraordinary driver, the cab wasn’t a luxurious sedan, nor was the weather any better than yesterday. Continue reading “And the roots danced..”