Lost Music, Lights and Colours

It’s Diwali: The festival of lights. The festival of crackers, earthen lamps, Rangoli, sweets, new clothes. The last day of the Hindu year. The festival of good finally winning over evil. You can read more about it here.

And there’s also cleaning. 🙂

Yeah, every year before Diwali, all people clean their houses from top to bottom. They rid their lives of clutter and welcome the new year with a clean and fresh outlook. I think it’s a wonderful tradition! Because, the material clutter often leads to mental clutter.

Like each year, the stuff in the cupboards comes out, the drawers are emptied of unwanted knick-knacks and papers. Only the things that matter are retained. Which brings me to our own drawers.

All my family is fond of music. I’ve grown up listening to old Lata Mangeshkar songs and classical music and Ghazals. And of course, my dearest, Madan Mohan! It was because of my family that I developed a taste for old Hindi music, and they learnt to appreciate new age music with me.

We had a huge collection of cassettes; Mum’s Mohd. Rafi and Asha Bhosle songs collection, Papa’s Jagjit Singh albums, my nursery rhymes and fairy tales! Though I can’t say they loved my cassettes particularly (How often can a grown-up listen to Mary had a Little Lamb?), I grew to love their cassettes and music immensely.

Cassette

Well, times change. The age of digital music is here. So now it’s CDs (they’re getting old too, I know) and iTunes. And yes, it’s convenient and space-friendly and everything, but… But I sometimes miss the cassettes. And the fact that I had to listen to three boring songs before I got to the one that I really liked. (Using the Forward button too much spoilt the cassette). I remember we had a Philips tape-recorder-cum-cassette-player. And a walkman. And at least three pocket radios. And of course, the bigger radio. All of them have gone out of fashion and our home. We still have a stereo that can play cassettes apart from the CDs and the radio, but the cassette playing part doesn’t always work due to lack of use.

This Diwali, we also got rid of a major part of our cassette collection. We’ve retained some classic collections and I’ve been given the job of finding those songs in a digital format. End of an era for me!

I found another thing too. That’s my first brush with music playing. 🙂

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I, of course, then moved on to bigger and better things. We have a Harmonium and a mini keyboard too. The harmonium is my father’s; my Mum used to sing and sometimes play. (She still sings by the way; the past tense is for the playing). When I learnt singing, the harmonium was my companion too. Though I never formally learnt how to play the Harmonium or the keyboard, I could carry simple tunes. Still can, I believe. 🙂

But we don’t. Not very often. With other things taking priority, the harmonium and the keyboard are packed away. But they’re treasures and we would never give them away.

I gave away the music set pictured above, though. Along with some more of my old toys; I can’t seem to be able to part with all of them at once and have to wait every year to give some. It’s difficult, isn’t it? To give away one’s childhood. For most things, I’m not that sentimental. I’m good at getting rid of unwanted things. I don’t normally get attached to them all that much. And I very much realise the importance of cleansing one’s life. But there are certain things for which I convince myself with difficulty.

But I digress. I haven’t yet told you about the part I enjoy a lot during Diwali: Rangoli making. It’s made of coloured sand, and flowers and anything really. You just need colours. Like a temporary mosaic on the floor. Here’s what mine looks like this year. I kept it small and simple.

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Another part that I love is the lighting of earthen lamps. There’s something about the diya flames, isn’t there?

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I hope everyone has a great Diwali and a wonderful year ahead. 🙂

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Dancing The Night Away!

Navratri. Nav-Ratri literally means “Nine Nights” in Sanskrit. A festival which celebrates nine forms of Goddess Amba. It is celebrated five times a year, the most important being the Sharad Navratri, or the Maha Navratri, which marks the beginning of Winter. You can read more about it here.

It is celebrated differently in all parts of India. Here, in Gujarat, it is celebrated as a dance festival; the longest dance festival in the world. For nine nights, we do Garba (the dance form) on traditional Gujarati songs. Yeah, the tradition began long before the night clubs were even invented!

The traditional clothes: Chaniya and Choli. Yes, we do dance dressed up like that!

This is what was keeping me busy the past week, though I danced only on some of the days, being in the university.

Of Dance and Worries

As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to worry a tad bit more than most people. There is always stuff to do, deadlines to meet, goals to be accomplished. The back of my mind is a pretty happening place, I tell you! Quite a bustling market!

Why do I mention this? Though the back of my mind is jam-packed place a lot of times, it magically clears up when I dance! I may be worried about a thousand things before I start dancing, and I may continue to do so after the dancing is over. But when I’m dancing, in those moments, I’m free and floating. In those moments, I’m completely blissed out! Dancing, like music, is food for the soul!

Which is why Navratri is my favourite festival. I wait for it throughout the year, and I’m hung-over for at least a week after it (Still in the Garba-mode, I mean). I’ve been doing Garba for as long as I can remember. It has become so much ingrained in me that though I do it only for these few days every year, I could probably do it sleep-walking if you ask!

Of Navratri Experiences

Where I stay, the Navratri Garba is organised with great fanfare every year. This includes live music and singers, beautiful lights and of course, mid-night snacks!

Garba, I should tell you, is not a dance form which is practised individually. You do it in a group, mostly a circle around the idol of Goddess Amba.

The sound and video quality is not excellent, but you’ll get my point. Watch from 1:30 to get a clearer picture of what I mean.

The beauty of it is that most people here have grown up doing it, including me. So, most of my friends are just as enthusiastic about it as I am. Not all the people that dance with us are friends. Some are friends of friends, some are total strangers. Most are acquaintances; people who come together every year just for one purpose: Garba.

Our “group” dances every year. Each year, there are additions to the circle, and subtractions too (excuse me for being too mathematical). But each year we meet, dance, chit-chat into the wee hours of the morning, learn new dance moves, and have a whole lot of fun!

The Kid Problem (or how I learnt Garba as a kid)

Garba, traditionally, is to be done in one big circular formation. But more often than not people break into their own little circles. Our group too has its own circle after the first few songs. (A group that people admire, by the way!). A lot of other people join too. The trouble arises when kids as young as seven want to join too!

Now I’m all for encouraging kids to dance. They will learn it this way. I learnt it the same way, coming in the way circle of the grown-up didis, getting bashed by the strong and fast-moving arms! Nevertheless, I pursued it relentlessly, though I’m sure I annoyed the hell out of them!

What goes around comes around! The thing about Garba is coordination of foot-work. And those kids have tiny legs! And then, we grown-ups (ahem!) have to take care not to hurt them. It does take the mindlessness that I enjoy the most out of dancing!

But then I see some kid actually moving in sync with the beats, and I think (as if I’ve had hundred years of experience doing Garba!) that “Hey, that one’s got potential!” It makes me really happy.

Continuing The Love For Dancing

I wonder what it will be like after, say, fifteen years. All of us will be busy with our jobs, families, lives. A lot of us would have moved to different cities perhaps. Will we come back here? Will we get the time to celebrate Navratri? Will we come here, with perhaps our spouses and kids, and connect once again through dancing? More importantly, will we be able to begin where we left off, as we do every year?

I should very much like to think so.

Mozart’s Letters, Mozart’s Life by Robert Spaethling

As a music lover, I suppose I’ve been too confined to one genre of music. The Hindi music is so vast that I never ventured outside. I’ll have to admit that present day English pop is something that I’ve never enjoyed. It focuses too much on the rhythms, while I enjoy soulful tunes. This is exactly the reason why I greatly enjoy Madan Mohan’s music; it has great melody and meaningful lyrics (although that’s not his contribution).

I’ve read indirectly of the great music legend, of course. “I swear it on Mozart’s head” was Ruth’s refrain in The Morning Gift. If you’ve ever read Eva Ibbotson’s works, you would know how much she focuses on music and the musical city of Vienna recurs in almost all of her books.

So, when I saw Mozart’s Letters, Mozart’s Life by Robert Spaethling in our Resource Centre, I was just slightly intrigued. I’ve never been one to read biographies, and especially not about people that I have little or no knowledge of. But then again, I have a penchant for letters, and the title compelled me to pick it up.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's compositions charact...

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

What better than to hear things from the horse’s mouth! Even autobiographies tend to take on shades and hues; nobody is able to give a completely honest picture of one’s own life. Letters and diaries, on the other hand, are written without reserve, and are much more closer to the real person.

I didn’t have the chance to finish the entire book. I just read the first part : The Early Years (1769 – 1776).

That was the period when a young Wolfgang Mozart made various journeys to Italy, Vienna and Munich on account of his music. He was accompanied by his father Leopold. The letters are mostly addressed to his sister Nannerl and a few to his mother. It is evident that he was extremely fond of his sister and the two shared a very comfortable relationship.

The “wunderkind” was mischievous like any other child of his age. We have a tendency to disregard the childhoods of famed people. Forget them, it’s difficult to imagine anyone as a child if you know of them only as adults. Mozart was unapologetic about describing the inadequacies of other people, be it musicians or Royalty.

What pleased me the most was that Mozart appeared to be humble, and almost unaware of his genius. He referred to his successful operas in almost an offhand manner. Most of his conversations about music were practical; about writing the notes, copying papers and so on.

Being famous to the degree he was, Mozart’s letters, no doubt, generated a lot of scandal when published. Several biographers have attempted to tone down the language (which included a lot of profanities in German, Latin, Italian and French). This particular collection of letters, however, retains its original form. He played a lot of word games as well, which made for a colourful read.

Here are a few gems from his letters.

I don’t know anything new, except that Herr Gelehrt, the poet from Leipzig, died and after his deathe has written no more poetrie. (p. 7)

I kiss mama’s hand, and to my sister I send a smacker of a kiss and remains the same old – but who? – the same old buffoon. (p.9)

Write to me and don’t be so lazy. Otherwise, I shall have to give you a thrashing. What fun! I’ll break your head. (p.16)

The dances are miserably pompous[…]in the opera house, he always stands on a little stool so that he appears taller than the queen. (p.16)

We have the honor of being aquainted with a certain Domenican who is said to be holy. I myself am not convinced of it, becaus he often consumes for breakfast a cup of ciocolata, right after a big glas of strong spanish wine,[…] a whole plate full of birds, two full saucers of milk with lemon. Maybe there is some kind of plan behind it all, but I don’t think so, because for one thing it’s just too much, and for another, he takes quite a few morsels with him for an afternoon snack. (p.20)