Music - the food of the Gods

I think most Indians are amazingly musical. They may not always be able to carry a tune or remember all the words, but almost every one of us billion souls rocks to music. My 1 year old daughter starts swinging her hips as soon as she hears music from almost anywhere - me singing, an ad on TV, the music system...

That's probably among the reasons which contribute to the popularity of music-related programming on television. Many of the top-rated shows today (apart from the saas-bahus) are reality shows featuring musical competitions, not only on the Hindi but also the regional channels. And what's amazing is that all of them are doing well. What blows my mind away, of course, is the sheer amount of talent people have - so many, undiscovered, hitherto bathroom singers who turn out to have amazing voices.

I used to get really bored with the song and dance routines in Hindi movies, and wish more people would be like RGV, making films without the music. But now I have changed my tune - I wish more people would integrate the songs with the action in the film rather than pelvic-thrusty dance sequences featuring hundreds of dancers who just spring out of nowhere in the deserts of the Sahara or the wilds of Alaska...but I couldn't do without film music. Without songs like 'Pyaar deewana hota hai...' , 'Mitwa..', 'Ru ba ru...' and hundreds of others.

When I was studying in France, a whole group of Indian students got together at a friend's house to celebrate Diwali. After the mandatory feast, we began playing antakshari, and naturally, most people knew most of the songs that were sung, even if only bits and pieces of the words, and sang along. It had been going on for a couple of hours when the host's Swedish housemate finally asked in astonishment, "How many Indian songs are there? And how do all of you know them?" He was even more astounded when we told him that the antakshari had only been going on in one language, and there were at least 16 more languages in which we could all choose to sing.

Recently, one of my friends had another of his music parties. He has a friend who plays the guitar and works in Chennai. Every time this guy is in town, my friend and his wife host a music party at which the rule is that everyone has to sing at least one song. We sing a mix of English and Hindi songs - Billy Joel, Queen, Cliff Richards, Beetles, Simon and Garfunkel... - cheek by jowl with Manna Dey, Kishore Kumar, Geeta Dutt and others. I guess I pretty much gave away the age of the group by listing the singer that I have. I find it interesting though that even when I've played Antakshari with a younger group, it veers towards old Hindi songs...

It makes for an amazingly soul-satisfying evening. People who have never met each other before come together over a rendition of Hemant Kumar's 'Na tum hame jaano', Kishore da's 'Pal pal dil ke paas' or Geeta Dutt's 'Jaane kya tune kahi'. The whole group sings along the bridge over troubled waters, laments the going away of Cecilia or wants to break free. The guitar helps smoothen out the rough edges and sets the right pitch for the music. And the strains of the melodies hang over the night and leak their soothing, haunting, joyful vibes into the next several days as we limp back to a workaday life.

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