It’s been a long, long time since I wrote a post. Have been listening to a lot of rock of late. Wanna dedicate this post to my new favorite song.
Yeah, you got it. This post is about the sultans of swing by Dire Straits, and how that song grew on me. Now when I look back,I think maybe it was destined for this song to become my fav.
Before coming to IIIT and being unaware of such a thing called ‘Rock Music’, I’d read an interview of Sachin Tendulkar, in which he said that his personal favorite song was ‘Sultans of Swing’ by Dire Straits. This name stuck, as this was the sobriquet given to the duo of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. I used to be a big Sachin fan, and thought I’d listen to this song, but couldn’t find it anywhere in my small town of Ajmer in those days, some 7 years ago.
After coming to IIIT, I was introduced to rock by KTN, and Sultans of Swing was one of the first songs that I heard. Although I was fascinated by the quick guitar solo of David Knopfler, the stripped down guitar sound and the hard-to-comprehend, low, throaty vocals did not appeal much to me. I’d heard pop music all along, and was just making the transition. After a whole year of pop (read gay) music, interspersed by soft rock from Eagles and Eric Clapton and also the easily identifiable genius of Steve Vai, it was in my fourth sem that I actually started delving in rock.
In that sem, for the first time, I started paying attention to the lyrics and used to read a lot of songs’ lyrics from the net. This was when Sultans of Swing appealed to me for the first time. I knew the lyrics, but never actually went into what exactly was the song trying to say. I just read the lyrics and used to listen to the song infrequently. This was a time of experimentation. Other bands, with their loud guitar play, power chords, and in case of Pink Floyd, their ‘engulfing’ effect were still more than a match for the simple, stripped down sounds of Dire Straits.
Only in my fifth semester, and after having tried out a really large number of bands, I noticed that Sultans of Swing had an entirely different ‘feel’ to it. I realized that there actually wasn’t any in the bands I’d heard which could be compared to Dire Straits. So simple, yet so effective! Without any processing, the simple sounds and the brilliantly crafted solos instantly created a ‘relaxed’ atmosphere. I drew parallels that if the bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica made ‘Whiskey’ songs and Doors, Nirvana made ‘dope’ songs, the Dire Straits made ‘beer’ songs. Theirs were soothing and relaxing, and I thought Dire straits were like the Jagjeet Singh of Rock, in the sense that they could be enjoyed even when your mind was somewhere else and not exactly in the song, even when you were talking to someone, even when you were thinking of your sweetheart… and the best part was, it was still rock.
Today I pondered over the lyrics of Sultans of Swing for the first time, and I realized the song told their own tale, as far as I was concerned. The song is about a band which is brilliant, but which none likes to listen to. I didn’t appreciate it for full one-and-a-half years. But now it has found it’s place. I listen to it everyday, the wonderful, low humming of Mike Knopfler, the simple, yet crafty guitar play by David, the beautiful lyrics telling the tale of unrecognized genius, and above all, the relaxed, patient atmosphere the song creates. A perfect ‘beer-in-the-evening’ song, which isn’t impatient enough to try to catch your attention by being loud. It waits for you to appreciate it. And when you do that, my god! How this song grows on you!
Chatting with a friend last night, this incidence came up out of nowhere. This is stuff that you read about in books(and also in blogs these days) and see very often on the screen, but seldom come across in real life. Deserves to be shared with everybody.
This dates back to last year. Me and my friends were climbing Tara Garh, the hill in Ajmer atop which stand the ruins of Prithviraj Chouhan’s fort. We’d taken a route different from the conventional one, and this one snaked through a hilly forest. The forest was deep and astonishingly green for the normally parched Rajasthan terrains, and it was rather cool, trekking in the forest.
We came to a narrow pass between two hills, and it was very beautiful. I seemed that water flowed through the pass in the monsoons, as was evident by the clean cuts in the rocks making up the ‘floor’ of the pass. Flanking both sides of the meandering pass were almost vertical, green hill slopes on both sides. We were far away from any human habitation, and it was all very, very quiet. We climbed over a few big boulders, and negotiated a sharp bend in the pass. As soon as we did that, we were in for a surprise. The quiet had been broken.
The whole valley, narrow though it was, was overflowing with music. ‘How in the world?’. We looked at each other, one by one, our mouths agape, each one more surprised than the other. Somebody was playing the flute in this wilderness! Who could, and who would, come over here to play a flute. But the sound was there, definitely coming from someplace in the valley high above our heads.
With the overpowering sound getting inside our heads and simply refusing to come out, my friends scanned the valley for it’s source, shifting positions from one vantage point to another. I concentrated on the sound, my eyes closed. I do not know much about flute music, but there was a definite pattern to the notes being played. It was a melancholy strain, which seemed to fill the entire valley. The pitch rose and fell beautifully, and I knew instantly that this was a master of his art at work.
‘Look, there he is’, Tarun whispered in my ear, and pointed to a place about midway up the hill. With the cool mountain wind flowing through my hair, my shirt, I turned my neck upwards and strained my eyes. As I saw it, I stood rooted to the ground. I kept looking on and on, and it still touches a chord somewhere as I recall the scene.
A man, a very old man, in kurta-pyjama and a flowing white beard was sitting in front of a grave, playing a flute. As far as I could make out, he was playing with great intensity and was lost somewhere, with his head, highlighted by his beard and a small white skullcap, moving rhytmatically with his fingers and lips. Sitting upon a stone near the green painted grave, he played on and on … and the whole valley seemed to be alive! I stood there, stupefied, mystified and just listened to the old man sitting near the grave high up on the hill play at his flute, until Tarun touched m arm, bringing me back to my senses and siganlling me to move. We still had a long trek to the hilltop and back.
This was one of the best ‘live performances’ I have seen so far. The spot on which we were standing was a two-hour trek on foot from any civilization. Two hours for us 19-20 year olds. And the spot on which the old man was sitting was halfway up a very steep, almost vertical hill. How such an old man reached such a difficult spot in such a faroff place, I’m at a loss to explain. Equally, if not more perplexing is the grave being there. But one thing is for sure, which also makes the whole incidence, and even the music special.
That is, devotion. People play for money, people play for praise. This man was playing for the one he was devoted to. Coming to such a place must have demanded great endurance for such an old man, yet there was a passion in his recital. Such passion, such devotion in such old age! Not to mention the energy and quality of the recital! I don’t think I’ll forget this incidence for the rest of my life.
Sometimes, life brings forth such beautiful experiences, which make it even more worthwhile to live.
Don’t worry, I’m not proclaiming myself to be a music expert. I won’t let myself to conclude which one of the art forms is greater. This is not even a post that discusses music as such. I’m writing this post so that all of you who read this post discuss the pros and cons of holding either jazz, or rock as the main event for this year’s Felicity Musical Nite.
We had an interesting discussion tonight. Rather, some of the third years had a discussion, with me and Kabeer observing and weighing each one’s points. There were certain important points discussed.
First let’s get down to the facts. We are inviting a jazz band too this Felicity alongwith a rock band. We’re spending a sizeable portion of our funds towards this event. Talks are one with a band, and i’m told that those guys are one of the better Jazz bands in the country. More importantly, they’re very supportive, and very enthusiastic about playing in our fest. Apart from that, talks are on with AlterEgos, a big name in the Large Hyderabad rock scene.
So Anyways, its a win-win situation for us music lovers. Quality jazz combined with rocking rock, all in the same evening!
Unfortunately, if both of them are to happen the same evening, its only logical, that one follows the other. And it goes without a question that the Main event should be held in the end. Which brings us to the final question, which event to be held as the main event? Now, this needs some thinking.
Well, let’s start with ourselves. We’ve attended many college fests in these years. Each and every one of us is an expert on college fests by now.
How many of the fests that we attended hosted rock shows? Almost invariably, each and every one of them. What does it take to hold a rock event? An average acoustic system, an average band, and an average crowd, that doesn’t give a shit about the lyrics. all they want is to get drunk, headbang, and then leave the place, with the thought of whom to copy tomorrow’s assignment from on their minds. Everyone will agree that most of the crowd that we see at college fests is like that.
We’re IIIT, the best college in Hyderabad. Why should we do what all the others do? We’re supposed to be innovators, so why not use some of our imagination, and do something new this fest? Any goddam ABIT FKIT can hold a rock show and be happy with it, ‘coz its easier to do. Should IIIT not do something different, even if it’s more difficult to handle?
I know all this might seem like idealistic talk from some faculty, but believe me, holding and publicising this the Jazz Show as our main event makes a lot of business sense, too. Rock shows have been held in so many colleges recently, that they’ve become a mundane affair now. They do pull crowd, but a similar set of ‘Black-T-shirt-Blue-Jeans’ guys can be seen at every fest, screaming and banging their heads away. Its OK we want to pull crowds, but why not a quality crowd? If we publicise Jazz properly, I’m sure we’ll reach out to am although smaller, but quality crowd of jazz lovers, who’ll appreciate us for what we’ll give to them. Who knows, there might be a whole untapped group out there, waiting for some event to happen, and whenever it does, to enjoy it.
And why just Jazz lovers in particular? Anybody who loves and appreciates music would want to come to a jazz show, as it’ll be something rare and something different. And music is all about Variety. Anybody who doesn’t like variety doesn’t like music at all. Lets get people who do.
Finally, it’ll be a treat for us IIITians also. Honestly how many of us listen to, leave alone enjoy and appreciate jazz? We all started liking rock after we came here, after we got exposed to it. Who knows, after we see a Jazz concert, we’ll start appreciating it, too. Tastes, especially musical tastes, are all about experimentation. If nothing else, we’ll get to see some quality (these guys are supposed to be one of the best) saxophone and trumpet and jazz guitar players live in action. How many of us have had the opportunity to of seeing that? I, for one, haven’t.
Of course, we’ll have to publicise the event hard. If not just in the college going crowd, then among the corporates as well. That’ll make the job of publicing(campaining) more challenging and fun to do. Going to the same set of collleges year after year makes it a dull job. We’ll have a chance of doing something different there, too.
So watsay guys, do think about it. Post your comments and opinions on this post. Lets say how much my friends agree with me over this issue.