David Bowie: A Goodbye

When the news started breaking in, and I saw the statuses covering my newsfeed, I refused to believe it. Bowie couldn’t have died this way, it was so sane, it was so sudden. I guess the shock came because he was still releasing such beautiful music while, he was facing his death. However, I guess that is the statement he leaves, a performance even in death. Has any artist ever reached that level of creativity? Has any artist confused everyone with the new styles he adopted? Will there be another Bowie again? So many questions, I wish I could answer right now, but, then I cannot.

Bowie won that battle friends. He won that eternal battle between the creator and creation, or maybe he lost the hardest. He became his creation, and his creation became him. And thus, the title of “the chameleon of music”. Heck, we even managed to give a steadfast title to a man who was anything but. He was successful throughout, even if he fell a bit and rose again, he was this person re-inventing himself, again and again until the critics were probably asking the questions they themselves couldn’t answer. This was a man who smiled and made us fall so much in love, someone who put a large question mark before all our sanities, and then validated our insanities in one fell swoop at the very same moment.

He is a hero. Yes, present tense, because I believe that as long as that weird guy is playing his music in his basement and getting inspired he would not be dead. After all, only human life is so fragile, our works of art aren’t. That is the hope I pin on Bowie, that he will live on. And 20 years after, while, working through my old luggage I will find his music again. I will inevitably cry at the artist who made me so much more. I would say a thousand words to me, and I will go mad, once more for a moment or two.

You see, this is not goodbye. This is an invitation. Love, chameleon, wherever you are. You are welcome to my madness, as you welcomed us to yours.
And I shall remember you Starman, goodnight.
Adieu

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Reshaping music tastes

I thought I had left behind my love for Bengali songs back in my childhood. Growing up as a kid in Kolkata, drenched in the everflowing morning and evening songs blasting out from my neighbor’s home. Over time the loudness in the morning ceased to be music and more of an alarm clock, something of an annoyance. That was the first time I fell out with music.

I think I lived without music for a long time when that happened, I drenched myself in literature and forgot about the tunes that would inevitably play every single day.

Somewhere, along the way the neighbors stopped playing their music too.

I fell in love with the strips of Bollywood and English songs that came to me through friends. New shiny desktop blasting out songs from artists that made me feel like everything they had done had been to explain my life to me.

Through the muddy waters of metal songs that made little sense lyrically to the shiny abyss of psychedelia I travelled everywhere. I left behind the thoughts that plagues me before and entered into my own zone. I learned about myself from Pink Floyd, I pushed myself forward with Frank Turner and I discovered myself again with “The Cure”.

But, somewhere between the bridge from “Neutral Milk Hotel” to “Arcade fire”, I moved away…

Present day offers a new world view really.

Away from my home, away from the neighbors blasting Rabindrasangeet, I listen to old Bengali songs again and again.

When you are away from your home, you crave for pieces of it.

For me the pieces come from the pictures of my city that smell of steam. From music that describes the life there in moments. Even the wandering smoke from the chimneys seeks the flame that makes it. I seek my heart that I left behind in Kolkata.

I seek life.

I seek myself

“Woodstock”

“Woodstock” is less of a film and more of a statement. A statement that personifies an era, and celebrates it as a whole. What was NOT happening in the 60’s? The “peace” movement was taking over, Vietnam was tearing our old America apart with the protests and there was this revival going on of the youth. People were rising up, people were changing. And like any other decade, any other generation, people were realising that even if they did come out unscathed out of the whole deal, there would be no way that the world would remain unchanged.
The end of the decade came, and so came this music festival. The artists were all there, the protestors, the angry men who had called for a war fought using peace. There were children there, there was the youth, and they had created the third largest city in America. For three days, they celebrated their generation in something that has since, become a myth of sorts. For people who weren’t there at Woodstock, the place and time serves as something extraordinary, the start of something, the end of a lot of things. And the movie that circulates around it has become legendary too, lived to become something different, become a phenomena of our time.
Till date, listening to Joan Baez singing “Joe Hill” in that dark stage raises the shivers. You feel a fraction of the feeling that those present would have felt. These people were witnessing their own tragedies and their own triumphs all on the same stage. The energy was breaking the surface and it was making them realise that the world was becoming much wider. There would be people moving away from that place in trucks who would become another generation, who would raise kids and immortalise an idea of peace that still lives on. Maybe, a lot died with that festival too, but, that moment in perfect, so, so , perfect.
When Arlo Guthrie performs the song “Coming in to Los Angeles”, you see the people having a smoke, the smell of marijuana hangs around you too, but, there is peace there. As the soulful voice punches through the hearts, the blood is only flowers. The camera moves naturally, and we see the feelings out in the open. There is no shame at Woodstock, there is no pain at Woodstock. We know that someone died there because of some sort of heroin overdose, that people were sick because of the rain. But, then we hear the woman tell us about this guy who was high, and asked her something about what color would jealousy be, and we laugh. For, no matter whether we drink or not, we know that feeling.
“Woodstock” as a film, not only defines a generation, it defines something that is integral to every teenage mind, this feeling of brotherhood of goodness of being the person they are and not pretending just for the sake of it. There is something magical to be gained from that, something that is eternal.
Heck, this is the festival where helicopters dropped flowers and dry clothes over the people when there was rain. This is the festival where the rain could not wash the people away. Where the announcer says something like, “If some of you still think that capitalism isn’t that weird you can buy some burgers and help that burger guy out there.”.
There is spirit in there. And when we see this Port-o-san guy say that he has a kid in Woodstock and another in the Vietnam war we see the two faces of america in front of us. How many were drafted in the military at that time? How many children were dying while they celebrated their generation? The moment when the question is asked comes with a rag-tag singer asking about the Nam war over the stage. The feeling forces out everywhere and almost everyone is singing out loud. The song is seeping through the bones.
Sure, we can find fault with this generation, and there are many that we could list even now. But, the times were a’ changing. the wars had just ended and another had suddenly started, the music scene had suddenly become greater and encompassed so much more. Joan Baez tells of her husband being carried away from one jail to another, she makes a joke about it,. These guys are not afraid of the place and time. They are enamored with it. They are enamored with the entire deal. They are in love with themselves and the feelings that are starting out then and there. There is a brotherhood that seeps out to the genera;l public and we are in love with that feeling.
When Jimi takes the stage and plays the American national anthem it is unclean, the dirtiness a sign of the time that was then. The whole thing a resonation of the space with the people. The anthem a mockery of the America that was then. Hendrix is at the end, the whole deal is dwindling by then, but, you feel the rebellion in them./
As the people walk away from the festival, they carry a lot of memories that would be theres forever. The people of the locality who helped them throughout the three days. Can you believe local people coming together to making the festival a success? For giving food to all of the people who are there? The statement goes out, “Our dream is breakfast for 400,000 people”
400,000 people, can you believe that? Can you believe that at all?
There is magic in that number. There is magic in the performances too. “Summertime Blues” from The Who, The music bleeds out in angst but, there is no sorrow about the angst. There is pain from the people. But, that pain isn’t what shines.
Woodstock becomes a statement, a broken statement. A statement about the people who are there who would personify another generation to come, but, then there was a lot of things that they would end up doing that would influence everyone.

Rediscovering Fossils

A Bengali boy dealing with the horns of dilemma that is adolescence and education, I had not been much into music when I was in class 8. I was really the person who brought these huge books home and read and read and read. More of a person who sketched and painted rather than a person who sang and danced around. At that juncture of my life, my cousin gave me some Bengali songs to play on our Home Theater. It was this odd album collection including a medley of bands including “Fossils”. “Fossils” is a Bengali band set out of Kolkata that set out to bring rock music to Bengal and well, what it brought was simply, the popular rock that Bengal needed out of the bands at that very moment.

Bengal, has forever been the hub of revolutions and angst. It belts out intellectualisms that might not appeal to the larger community but, exclusively in Bengal it becomes part of a larger being. it becomes an ever growing organism and it encompasses everything in its path and that is beautiful. “Fossils” was different though. This was a movement that did not stem from the anger or with political motivation like the hundreds of poets and singers of that age. It was a straight up need to express adolescent angst and the need for rock and roll in our society that was delving into these old songs which though not exactly politically correct, were not something that the kids could relate to.
“Fossils” capitalized on the market and became huge, and then it captured the fantasies of everyone around.

But, I grew up, and so did our generation that listened to the music of the band. The etilists moved on to Blues while, the stable Bengal fan base remained. The band was on it’s way to becoming a juggernaut when I moved onto Metal myself.

That started a few years of metal worship. Of the longer hair and the affection for the wholly black wardrobe. Of putting together a hefty collection of death metal from around the globe. Through this, I got the idea of returning to the very roots and I still have the huge collection of Blues and instrumentals that influenced the artists I liked at that time. I still listen to “The Velvet Underground” and “Silver Apples”, but, then I somehow forgot my own roots. My own humble beginning with a home theater and the music CDs burned by some anonymous guys at some mobile store to make that much amount of extra profit.

But, last year I heard them live…

I was there in the front row, singing along to the songs that I had heard about a hundred times or more during my teenage years and it struck. Throughout the rest of the year I have been singing the same songs and this morning I rediscovered the CDs.
It is strange indeed, the chords were still simple, it was not really brutal or even great. but, there, among all those fans, and in a sea of choruses, I felt like I belonged, and that is a feeling that is quite common in rock concerts, even with bands you don’t know jack about.

But, now here I am, I have listened to almost all of their songs today.

But, that emptiness remains.

Fossils, their music has the anthem-like quality, but, it lacks the sincerity, the beauty of truth. it lacks the beauty that lies in truthful angst and anger and expression. It lacks that thing that makes music worth listening to. Listening to them is like listening to the later albums of “Bon jovi”, that conviction of romance is missing.

I remember the concert vividly though, and I still sing along to the songs in my computer. I just don’t like them that much anymore, and the studio works do not match up to the performance they put up, or maybe having someone to enjoy the whole thing with changes the entire atmosphere.