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 .

Friday, November 11, 2016

...Of Field Commander Cohen

Years ago, I deferred the supervision of all matters of the heart to a five member committee. A group of five wise men; an esteemed and exalted group who held each other and were held by "my" kind of people in very high esteem. Each new adventure, disappointment, opportunity, setback or absurdity was seen through the prism of their collective judgement.

There was the Boss; chronicler of the high drama of my everyday life, bard of microcosmic epics and raconteur of the ageless, timeless and altogether abstract Youth. A constant entreater towards optimism, reminding me of the nobility and beauty of daily life, the Boss taught me to set my sights on a dream and to let it permeate every living moment.

There was ol' Shakey; singing of Old Men, of Needles and the Damage done, of Harvest Moons and murderous conquistadors. With a steely, cranky conscience, distilled through the distorted, fuzzed out guitar and the reedy, insistent voice, Shakey instructed me to Walk On, to pursue harebrained schemes and lofty, un-achievable ideals, all the while maintaining a half bemused, half contemptuous smirk on my face.

Then there was Mr. Waits; organ grinder, carnival barker, a cross between Dr. Caligari and Baron Munchhausen. Twister of reality, reveler in the absurd, gleeful in his inebriation and trickery yet the ideal guide for an exploration of the fun-house mirror world of the heart. He taught me to reconcile with chaos, to find meaning within insanity, to look for the hidden wells of tenderness and kindness within crusty, decrepit and profaned exteriors.

Next came Bob. Zimmy. Elston Gunn. Jack Frost. Lucky Wilbury. Blind Boy Grunt. Him of the many names and the many personalities. Voice-giver to undiscovered, unexplored and unmentionable thoughts, exemplar of aging forwards, backwards, sideways and every-other-way, populating my life with innumerable friends, countless stories and unsolvable paradoxes, opener of a thousand doorways and companion at all ports and in all weathers.

Finally, there was the Field Commander. The Traitor, the Partisan. With his wry smile, his sad eyes and his unbelievable, almost smarmy charm, he taught me calmness, forbearance and the ability to find humor, even hilarity in the ravages of the heart. He framed my defeats in military, almost heroic terms and taught me that even retreat has its secret pleasures. He told me that the carnal and the profane were just as holy and as cathartic as the spiritual and the exalted.

These five men have ruled my heart, occasionally as an authoritative military junta, other times as a benevolent five man monarchy. And even though there has been something of a revolving presidency to this Board of Governors, I have always known who has had the final right of approval, the one to whom the others have always deferred because of his wisdom, his grace and his insight.

And now that wise, sweet, wicked, funny, morose man is no more. May he rest in peace. His place will forever remain in the committee, and his shall always be the final say.