This is one of the better things to happen for Travellers. As I wait for another delayed flight at Bangalore airport the magic of online music hits me. Switching between Saavn (the online Indian music service funded by Tiger) and TuneIn Radio (a worldwide selection of internet radio stations) I am definitely spoilt for choice.
Another visit to Goa and another interesting experience. In my endeavour to peel away the touristy layers of Goa, I struck oil last week – if you pardon the ungainly mixing of metaphors. And ended up at the courtyard of an old Goan house (read Portuguese, since I haven’t been able to see much of Goa’s pre-european heritage). Armando Gonsalves has converted his old house into a venue for regular jazz and fusion music concerts.
There were a bunch of Spanish musicians that evening. It started with Basque twins, Sara and Maika beating out some nifty rhythms using the Txalaparta (closest pronunciation being tchalaparta), which is basically an ensemble of unlikely everyday stuff, including pieces of wood and stone. Followed by The Toumie Vila Seseca Trio on more traditional instruments.
I went with Savio & Pirkko and Pirkko’s visiting folks from Finland. The crowd was mostly Goa’s India refugees and booze flowed bringing forth its unique brand of mellow cheer. Everyone, as you can imagine was in a good mood, in which alchemy, Spanish music added the final dash. It was a lovely evening.
And as often happens, it is in such unlikely circumstances that you get these blinding flashes of insight that change your life for ever. It happened to me too.
I learned that starting the evening with a large whiskey is probably not a good way to start any evening. Especially if you plan to go a long way.
In Mumbai over the last two days on some work, I decided to turn over a new leaf. Instead of doing 18 meetings in one day and flopping tiredly on to my hotel bed, I did a bit less of work and decided to take in a show. A quick glance at what was happening in Mumbai took me to a Carnatic music show, Dakshinayan, run by Banyan Tree at the Nehru Centre. It must have been at least 15 years since I last went for a Carnatic music concert and boy, did I enjoy it.
There was music in the air in my childhood, what with a mother deeply interested in it and a sister learning it for many years. I even had a minor & not very productive brush with Mridangam, although it did leave me with a deep and abiding interest in percussion.
Shashank S played the flute that evening. Shashank is among the young, new breed of Indian musicians. He spoke to the crowd in English, educated us a bit on the connect between Carnatic & Hindustani, played extraordinarily versatile stuff and generally gave us all a great time. For far too long, with a few notable exceptions, India’s classical music virtuosos have not felt the need to communicate to a wider, more cosmopolitan audience. I think that is about to change. Shashank and artists of his ilk will do it. It is this breed that can eventually connect Indian music to the wider world.
The next time you are on work in Mumbai or Delhi or Bangalore or Kolkata or Chennai or Pune or…, take time away from your schedule to figure what is on in the city. I wonder why I never did it before.
(The sound of the Australian aboriginal ‘Didgeridoo’ – from Youtube)
Goofing off after lunch, I reached Youtube and got into a music-y mood. Wandered through a live version of Sultans of Swing by Knopfler & Clapton, peeked at a Garfunkel number and ended up at an old live concert video of Kishore Kumar.
What is it about Music? Music changes everything. It energises, it touches, it saddens. It makes you reflect, it helps you remember an old flame, it makes you want to jump into a pool, it puts you to sleep. What is this thing called Sound and what is this amazing stuff called Music?
You cannot touch it, you cannot see it, but you sure can feel it. This most primordial of life’s manifestations, the ‘aum’ that triggered life, this astonishing thing called sound. And, set in a particular sequence, it has the power to elevate you, transport you, destroy you. That is music.
There is a kind of hush, all over the world…, sang Karen Carpenter many years ago. But for me, more than ‘a hush’, there is music all over the world. Which is one of the best reasons to wander around. Tuaregs string their sounds in one way, the aborigines in Australia another way, the Khmers yet another way and the Latvians a completely different way. But whichever way they sequence it, the result is always arresting. That is music and it is clearly the language of the world.
(Here is a Youtube video of the Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak, Borneo)
As I wrote some time ago, Music seems to be coming up more often as the reason for choosing one holiday destination over another. The last time, I mentioned a music festival deep in Tuareg country in the middle of the Sahara desert. If Deserts are not your thing, here is another interesting option I have found for your next Music Vacation. Check out the Rainforest World Music Festival in the state of Sarawak in Malaysia. Held in July every year in the steamy, tropical jungles of Borneo, it is starting to attract a fair bit of international tourist attention.
Off the beaten track, there are a number of interesting holiday opportunities peppered across the world. One such set are tours that revolve around music & dance. Here is a ‘music vacation’ that I found unusually fascinating:
Mali World Music Festival Tour (Festival Au Desert) : covering 15 days in Mali, the landlocked nation in West Africa, this tour takes you to one of the most intriguing music festivals anywhere – the 2 day music festival among the “Free people” (Tuaregs) deep in the african desert. In addition, you also get to hang around Mali’s main towns, one of which is Timbuktu (yes, there really is a Timbuktu).
(catch a Youtube video of mystic Tuareg chanting at the Mali fesitval, somewhere deep within the ocean of sand that is the African desert – video from oknomad)