Claim it!


Have you ever felt as if, in spite of loving something dearly you find yourself unable to admit to doing so?

For a long time, music has been the embodiment of that forbidden desire for me.

I have always cherished the presence of music in my life, be it memories of gleefully stumbling upon certain pieces of music, genres and artists; or moments of tinkering with a musical instrument, finding myself beholden to its dulcet tones.

However much music captivated me, I invariably relegated myself to enjoying it as an appreciative listener. I felt self-conscious about not being able to sing in tune and my proclivity to over think only added to the rationale that if I cannot replicate what I hear, I must not be capable of understanding it. Whilst feeling this disconnect with music on a cerebral level, I continued to be moved by it on a basic emotional level. My attempts to learn the harmonium and the guitar in childhood were not terribly successful either. A couple of heartless remarks from teachers further internalized my belief that I could not be musical and sure enough, I eventually abandoned all efforts to pursue music.

So the years rolled along for me in the musical twilight zone until much later in life when my kids started taking piano lessons; and I found myself sitting in on their classes, hearing the lilt beckoning me once more, feeling the desire rekindle inside of me. These furtive trysts with the piano continued until the day that I finally worked up the nerve to scour for teachers who would be willing to teach a beginner adult like me. Luckily, I found a good match and proceeded to show up nervously for my first lesson.

4173281555_d97dcc86d1_qTwo years have passed since, and looking back now, I do not regret having taken that plunge. The delight of learning a new language of musical notation, practicing scales on the piano, reading up on music theory and history and playing classical and folk music pieces is quietly fulfilling for me. I love the time spent on the instrument and find that it has enriched my enjoyment of music as a listener as well. I like being able to relate to my kids through this musical education.
I admit that I am not always diligent about practicing and those weeks that I slip up, I feel like a truant kid in class. However, the encouraging irreverence of my teacher and his constant reminders of how ‘this is a hobby for you,do not subject it to perfectionism’ provide the impetus to plow ahead.

This journey of coming back to music has been strangely liberating for me –

  • It has helped me get over the fixed mindset that our ‘talents’ are set in stone. Boxing and labeling ourselves into categories of haves and have-nots thwarts any possibility of real growth.
  • I realized that sometimes the very things that unnerve us are what we need to pursue the most. Also, it may take a few false starts before the engine gets going!
  • It brought me back to a beginner’s frame of mind- focussing on the learning process and not so much on my self-image or the social persona that I inhabit. It has grounded me to the moment- the present.
  • It has reinforced the lesson that what matters crucially is showing up at the instrument every single time- the joy and the craft will follow accordingly.
  • I am thankful for the exciting yet nerve-racking experiences of playing for an audience of co-students, most of whom are much further along in their musical journey than I am. I found that the kinship of pursuing similar interests is much more powerful than the fears of being judged are.
  • It has made me deeply appreciative of teachers who encourage the pursuit of the arts for its own sake and not necessarily as a competitive skills game.

I am happy that I was able to break free from the shackles of preconceived notions about myself and could reach out to this abundant treasure that had been mine for the taking all this while. I had just needed to step up and claim it.

So here I am now, in my late thirties, finally admitting to how much I love music and love learning to play it. I still cannot sing in tune but am learning to not care so much about that.
Yes, I am a beginner- almost intermediate- piano player.
There, I have laid my claim to that.

*Image 1 courtesy of Mechanism of melody by art_you , CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
*Image 2 courtesy of Musical Notes by Epic Fireworks , CC BY 2.0

A musical gem – Silk Route


Yes, this post is about my current fascination with the erstwhile Indian band ‘Silk Route’.
I know that I am embarrassingly late in the game, gushing about this musical gem (that is a result of living the last decade and more with my head in the sand, so to speak), but timelines aside it merits stating that having finally heard the music, my soul is not only stirred but shaken up.

So what do we have here?
A band formed in Delhi with three young men, two of whom traced roots to the mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh. They burst onto the music scene with an incredible hit in ‘Dooba Dooba’ from their first album, ‘Boondein’ released in 1998, winning a bunch of music awards. I recall seeing the ‘underwater’ video for the song when it first came out. This success was followed by the release of the album ‘Pehchaan’ in the year 2000 and then sadly, the band drifted apart. Mohit Chauhan, the lead vocalist, of course has gone on to achieve great success as a playback singer in films.

A while back, I chanced upon the track ‘Mai ne meriye’ from Mohit’s solo album ‘Fitoor’   (released after the trio had disbanded ) and was intrigued and deeply moved by this song. It is a pahadi ballad and speaks of the angst of separation and the longing to be with the beloved. It has a whiff of the mountain air that I love and the reiteration of Chamba, Kasauli and Shimla resonates meaningfully with me, having had wonderful memories of travel in that region. I became very curious about this singer and his musical lineage. Predictably, I then spent a bit of time exploring the music of  ‘Silk Route’ and was spellbound.

Here’s why –

Be it the languid strains of ‘Dooba Dooba’, the tender missive ‘Khoi Ho…….Boondein’, the call to love in ‘Humsafar’ , the teasing and possessive ‘Jadu Tona’ , the haunting lyrics in ‘Sapnay’ and ‘Saujha’ lamenting of loneliness and longing or the old world charm of ‘Sab se peeche hum khade’ – there is an unmistakable honesty in the music. It is not contrived or facetious, nor is it overreaching – it is enough, just enough……

For me, lyrics are an important part of the experience of enjoying songs and perhaps that is a reason why the music of ‘Silk Route’, with its wonderful marriage of soulful lyrics and a unique mix of acoustic sound elements, seems particularly fulfilling to my untrained but enthusiastic ears. The songs seem to whisper sacred secrets about life and love long searched for.
The title track from the album ‘Boondein’ evokes the feeling of reciting a beautiful prayer that permeates the furthest reaches of one’s being. I am utterly captivated by it. The amalgamation of rock and folk elements in ‘Morni’ and ‘Thanda Pani’ is a wonderful ode to what seem to be local pahadi songs.
The sound of flowing water towards the end of the song in ‘Thanda Pani’ seems aptly poetic.
‘Paheli’, ‘Tu woh nahi’, ‘Door chala aaya’ and ‘Ganga naha le’ embody a philosophical, almost fatalist tone, taking us on a journey evolved organically from the romantic mood of the rest of the repertoire.
‘Koi Pooche’, ‘Dastak’ and ‘Chakkar Gor’ are faster paced, as if adopting an explicit rock music avatar. You would think that they were setting themselves up for failure by including two songs in English as well – ‘Mermaid’ and ‘Lullaby’, but it works ! Marvelously !

In all, this is a remarkably unselfconscious and mature musical sensibility that honors its unique heritage whilst exploring a thoroughly modern sound. One is left wondering what other gems would have been created had the band stayed together.
Mohit’s subsequent solo album ‘Fitoor’ is a delight in itself but who knows what magic the band would have woven into it.

It would be wondrous if  ‘Silk Route’ reunited for more music, for it is through their unique brand of music that their light seems to shine through brightest.
Until then, main to hoon doobi doobi in these enchanting albums…….


*Image courtesy of Rajesh  CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0