I've been maintaining this blog (for better or for worse) over the last eight years. Over these years, its natural evolution has led it into becoming something of a niche place for discussion of music in general and Qawwali in particular. Rather than trying to return my existing blog to its pre-Qawwali eclectic roots, I decided I’d start anew on Tumblr. So if you’re interested in music, Qawwali and subcontinental culture, keep reading/listening/watching/commenting here. For all of the above and everything else under the sun, head on over to my Tumblr page .

Monday, August 13, 2007

...Of Me And P.G. Wodehouse...

(This is an older post,but one that can fit into this series of touchstones.I didn't have anything to add,so I'll put it here in its entirety)

In our farmhouse,there's this big red trunk.It is full of my father's bibliomaniacal treasures.Scores upon scores of books,of every description,size and shape.some of the best hours of my village visits are spent browsing through it,and each expedition brings forth new gems.As I grow older,my finds have ranged from Huckleberry Finn to Ben Hur to Bertrand Russel to Rousseau.But there is one find that I count among the best things that ever happened to me,truly a liofe changing experience..

It was eight years ago,as far as I can recall.Having derived all the possible pleasure out of watching a bunch of supercillious cows,I decided to rummage the big red trunk.I climbed up to the top of the storage room,opened it up and started digging.After about half an hour of dilligent mayhem,I chanced upon a funny looking book.It was "The Girl On The Boat",by one P.G. Wodehouse.so,I took it out,lay on the bed and started reading.

It was five minutes into the read that something happened.Something strange.Suddenly,I was laughing,uncontrollably,hysterically and violently.Lolling around on the bed,with tears in my eyes,trying to stop my guts from busting.I just couldn't stop,try as I might.My mother gaped at this strange apparition and ran to call my father just as I fell from my bed and tumbled to the ground,still guffawing like the dickens...My mom wrenched the book from my hands and anxiously showed it to dad,holding it ever so gingerly like it was a deadly poison or something.A look of apprehension gave way to comprehension,as an understanding smile spread on my father's face and he said,"Relax Farree(my mum's name),it's just Wodehouse !!

"It's just Wodehouse,talk about an understatement.From that moment on,I have been enthralled by the Master's works,lost in the beauty,intricacy and complexity of his language,and laughing my guts out at every other page.Once I got hooked,there wasn't any stopping me.Every library and bookshop I visited was with the sole intention of getting my grimy hands on some Wodehouse.It was a slow journey,and uptill four years ago,I had managed to get only five Wodehouse books.But that was before i got to ******(name protected for reasons of secrecy).As I entered the library,my jaw fell as I saw rows upon rows of Wodehouse books.Just lying there in a cold damp corner.

Over the next two years,I read each and every one of them again and again and again.Then it was time to move to some new place,but my wicked mind couldn't bear the thought of letting all these treasures stay behind.So in a feat worthy of Jesse James and Robin Hood,I did what any right minded collector would do.That's right,I STOLE THE BLOODY LOT !!!!!

Over the course of five days,I smuggled a total of thrty six books from thye library to my home and hid them.The only reason I'm not in a kaboos is that the library staff were so negligent that they didn't even know those books existed in the first place.So,I had a sizeable stash,but some were left behind,and there they lie to this day.And each day my heart bleeds at the thought of those that were left behind.But not to be outdone,I went there again this month.Just walked in with an airy nonchalance,nodded to the librarian,went to my old spot ....and shoved a couple more in my trousers.Then it was the walk back,again giving the librarian the most angelic of glances and walking gingerly so as not to drop my strategically placed load and I was out !!!

Now ,the Master wrote ninety books in total,and finally after years of collecting,I almost managed to break par yesterday.That is,I bought(didn't steal for a change) my 45th Wodehouse book.Almost,because belive it or not,just like in a Wodehouse story...somebody's stolen it !!!!

Song Of The Week,"Most Likely You'll Go Your Way,Bob Dylan
Movie Of The Week,"The Last Waltz
Book Of The week,"Sula",Toni Morrisson

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

...Of Me And John Denver...

You always remember what you were doing when you found out that Kennedy had been shot.That was way before I was born (but still a part of my memories though,as a previous post explained),but there are a lot of such momentous events that leave an imprint on your mind,like a sort of a time capsule,filled with all the sights and sounds and scents of that particular point in time.

October 13,1997.The day was a Friday,the old holiday,and the friday paper was in my hand.We were in Murree,the cold sunshine nipping through the trees.I was glancing through the paper when I saw the headline ,"John Denver's Travels Down Country Roads Come To Tragic End".I still remember my shock,and my wildly thumping heart as I showed the news to my dad.John was,as far as I know,the only english singer he ever listened to (to this day,alas),and he was terribly sad.It was more like a family tragedy like anything else..

Back when CDs weren't the ubiquitious little varmints they now are,and downloads were still something too frightfully distant to comprehend,artists like John weren't that easily available.I've still got those two bootlegged cassettes that one used to get from Bombeat Rawalpindi,the ones they used to record themselves.The green-sleeved one was the Greatest Hits Vol.1,and the red-sleeved Vol.2 These two little plastic contraptions were,the only english music I heard for the first 12 years of my life.

And the place to hear them was the car stereo.We are a family of road-trippers,heading off everywhichway for no apparent reason at all.And the musical accompaniement was to me (as explained in a previous post) the most important part of the trip.Driving along the roads,with Annie's Song playing is one of my clearest memories.Another one is bathing at the tube-well,with the sun blazing down,and me meditatively humming "Sunshine On My Shoulders".

Now,I have a thing with songs,that is I can learn 'em with just a listen or two (something I wish I could emulate with my studies).And John's songs were the first ones in my repertoire.My dad listened to him because he was melodic,infact something more than melodic.He gave you what the Eagles called the "Peaceful,Easy feeling".But I took a liking to him for something else,the words.The mountain ballads,the Colorado songs,the intimate dirges,all these are what started my love for singer-songwriters.

I only really "get" people after they're dead.In some cases because,well they died before I was born,and in others because that's when I first begin to get intrigued about them.That was the case with JD too.It was much later that I came to know of his other life.The fact that he was a trained,certified jet-pilot with over 7500 flight hours.The fact that he was the first western performer to be allowed inside Communist Russia and China.The fact that he was the Poet-Laureate of Colorado.The fact that he changed his name to the state capital.These facts,important in their own right,are mere embellishments for me.Embelishments on the many many hours of pleasure that I derived and continue to derive.

There's a couple of songs that I call my "life songs".Among them is the gem,"Leavin'On A Jet Plane".Released when John was part of the Chad Mitchell Trio in the sixties,it gave him his first songwriting creds.It's been covered (mauled) by many an artist.It is one of the most ironically poignant songs ever,considering the unfortunate deaths of both John and his first wife Annie in jet-plane crashes.They say music is prophetic of times to come.If that's true,then what an epitaph John wrote for himself...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

...Of Me And...

Although it will be a kick in the rear for my procrastrinating self,but it has to be done.It's been a long while since I've been blogging,intermittently at best,but with a consistency that surprises me.I have been thinking for a long time to write pieces (if you can call them that) on people,things,cultural artefacts et al that have affected me.

It is cultural artefacts,after all,that I count among the most important baggage that you take along with you in life,the most reliable indicators of personality.I'll take a lead from the wonderful "High Fidelity" (another cultural artefact) where John Cusack's character says out loud once and for all that self-evident truth.That it's not the personality,the attitude or the outlook that so defines a person as is the little go-betweens; his favorite band,his most prized book (if he/she reads at all),the music,the books,the movies,the idiosyncratic trivialities that form the basis of future relationships.Of cours I may be wrong (though I'll be the last to admit it)..

So,in an attempt to define myself on the basis of these trivialties,I'll try to recall all the touchstones of my past,from my initial introductions to the long and winding road that I've travelled with them.It'll be an effort,I'll have to rouse my lazy self and get these words on to the keyboard.It'll be an achievement indeed if I succeed...

Song Of The Week,None,goddammit.My discman's broke
Movies Of The Week,"Wild Strawberries",1957 "Rosemary's Baby",1965
Book Of The Week,"My War",Andy Rooney

Sunday, August 5, 2007

...Of Nostalgia ??

Nostalgia ?
No,that's not it.
Isn't nostalgia for the times you've lived through ?
For things you've seen,things you've felt in your own lifetime.
Yet these things are not mine.
These snippets of song,these flashes of light and dark.

I was not there when they shot Lincoln,
Or was I?
So why do I have a faint recollection;a gunshot,a scream,a bounding leap.
Sic Semper Tyrannis !!
Or when they shot Oswald,or Garfield or Wild Bill Hickock...

When they first showed Nosferatu,or Casblanca or Pyaasa.
I wasn't among the teeming crowds.
I wasn't in the art-house cinemas where Bergman The Lion roared,
While the audience smoked and tried to deconstruct his pain.
These grainy relics are not mine.

When Rafi cooed in Bombay,I wasn't there to listen,
Nor was I with Cash,or ol' Muddy,or Bob 'n Joanie.
But I was there..
I tell you I was there,right beside her,right beside them all.
But how's that possible,and why am I missing them ??

I've never been to Wooster's London,or Lake Wobegon.
Then why is it that all my friends live there.
Long gone friends,long dead friends.
But still alive,still full of elan.

If these aren't my memories,why are they mine?
Why are these foreign emotions more personal than my own ??
And why do I sit staring at them,staring at the dates,
My own life seeming trivial before these swathes of time...

It can't be nostalgia,can it?Isn't nostalgia supposed to be personal?Well,this is personal,isn't it ??