Sunday, November 28, 2004

Jazz in Delhi

Finally have some time in hand — in front of a computer too — to blog a bit. But despite having thought up a zillion options to blog on over my weeks of blogging inacitivity, I can't seem to remember any of the things I had written over in my mind. Not even the angle on Dalhousie I had dreamt up close to 800 words on.
So I guess it's best to just bung in some stuff I learnt while spending time with these jazzwallahs from across Europe, in town for the Jazz Yatra. Friendly as good music practitioners should be, I managed to get in quite a substantial amount of time with some of the Norwegian and German music makers, and found out to my incredulity that in Norway, jazz is actually taught to children in school!
Of course I knew that jazz had moved out of America and it's Blackness and found a better home in Europe. This, my guess is, happened after the John McLaughlin, Stan Getz, Stephen Grappelli era, by which time jazz — that beautiful brand of the oppressed Black man's workaday music — had already changed colour. John Etheridge lives, as do many others, but America isn't good music land anymore.
In any case, while speaking to these members of the Norwegian band The Real Thing — an awesome non-vocals jazz band with a fabulous drummer and a huge dollop of swing — I found out that jazz (among other brands of good music like blues and rock) is part of the curriculum in Norwegian schools.
Why? Well, mainly because Norway, despite having a rich folk heritage and loads of myths and legends (remember Thor and his Mjolnir and Odin and Loki and Freya and Skuld and so on?), have never had a tradition of classical music like Germany or Austria have. That meant when the Norwegians migrated in hordes to the US after World War II, and then found their way back, they jazzed their way back. The slave sound of jazz appealed to them, and they spread the spirit across Norway. So much so that even the Swedes from across the border tapped their feet to the beat.
And therefore, in Norway (a country the band members call 'starved of music, but fanatical about any good sound') jazz found residence. They sing in English — 'it's a rough sound, our language, and is not very musical' — and play mainstream instruments like the bass, the lead, the drums, the accordion, the sax, keyboards...the works. They sing about everything, but especially of love. Not The Real Thing, because they don't sing, but the rest concentrate on love. Probably because they don't have much else to sing about!
I heard them a bit too. The Scandinavians and then the really, really well-known Peter Weniger Trio with Bono lookalike Weinberg on the vocals and sax. He's good, his team is not. The Real Thing is, indeed, the real thing. The Dutch Saskia Laroo Band was bad. As was Solveig Slettahjell and her band, though she has a mind-blowing voice. I didn't hear the Dutch Jazz Quartet or India's Dhruv Ganekar Trio.
All in all though, this being the first time I have heard decent jazz since moving to Delhi close to seven years back (bar a couple of hours with a terrible Finnish band and a couple of songs by Indian Ocean way back in February 1998), it was refreshing. But for the Jazz Yatra to get stronger, and for the party music generation to move towards it, things have to change. In which direction I don't know. Maybe in terms of more non-vocals' bands....
Maybe less women. Women can't jazz. Ella Fitzgerald, like Jerry Garcia once famously said of Janis Joplin, "was no man".

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Wind in the hair or whatever...


Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon my people for centuries untold, and which to us appears changeless and eternal, may change. Today is fair. Tomorrow it may be overcast with clouds. My words are like the stars that never change.
Whatever Seattle says, the great chief at Washington can rely upon with as much certainty as he can upon the return of the sun or the seasons. The white chief says that Big Chief at Washington sends us greetings of friendship and goodwill. This is kind of him for we know he has little need of our friendship in return. His people are many. They are like the grass that covers vast prairies. My people are few. They resemble the scattering trees of a storm-swept plain. The great, and I presume — good, White Chief sends us word that he wishes to buy our land but is willing to allow us enough to live comfortably.
This indeed appears just, even generous, for the Red Man no longer has rights that he need respect, and the offer may be wise, also, as we are no longer in need of an extensive country. There was a time when our people covered the land as the waves of a wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor, but that time long since passed away with the greatness of tribes that are now but a mournful memory. I will not dwell on, nor mourn over, our untimely decay, nor reproach my paleface brothers with hastening it, as we too may have been somewhat to blame. Youth is impulsive. When our young men grow angry at some real or imaginary wrong, and disfigure their faces with black paint, it denotes that their hearts are black, and that they are often cruel and relentless, and our old men and old women are unable to restrain them.
Thus it has ever been. Thus it was when the white man began to push our forefathers ever westward. But let us hope that the hostilities between us may never return. We would have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Revenge by young men is considered gain, even at the cost of their own lives, but old men who stay at home in times of war, and mothers who have sons to lose, know better.
Our good father in Washington — for I presume he is now our father as well as yours, since King George has moved his boundaries further north — our great and goodfather, I say, sends us word that if we do as he desires he will protect us. His brave warriors will be to us a bristling wall of strength, and his wonderfulships of war will fill our harbors, so that our ancient enemies far to the northward — the Haidas andTsimshians — will cease to frighten our women, children, and old men.
Then in reality he will be our father and we his children. But can that ever be? Your God is not our God! Your God loves your people and hates mine! He folds his strong protecting arms lovingly about the paleface and leads him by the hand as a father leads an infant son.
But, He has forsaken His Red children, if they really are His. Our God, the Great Spirit, seems also to have forsaken us. Your God makes your people wax stronger every day. Soon they will fill all the land. Our people are ebbing away like a rapidly receding tide that will never return. The white man's God cannot love our people or He would protect them. They seem to be orphans who can look nowhere for help. How then can we be brothers? How can your God become our God and renew our prosperity and awaken in us dreams of returning greatness?
If we have a common Heavenly Father He must be partial, for He came to His paleface children. We never saw Him. He gave you laws but had no word for His red children whose teeming multitudes once filled this vast continent as stars fill the firmament.
No, we are two distinct races with separate origins and separate destinies. There is little in common between us. To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their resting place is hallowed ground. You wander far fromthe graves of your ancestors and seemingly without regret. Your religion was written upon tablets of stone by the iron finger of your God so that you could not forget. The Red Man could never comprehend or remember it. Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors — the dreams of our old men, given them in solemn hours of the night by the Great Spirit; and the visions of our sachems, and is written in the hearts of our people. Your dead cease to love you and the land of their nativity as soon as they pass the portals of the tomb and wander away beyond the stars. They are soon forgotten and never return. Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its verdant valleys, its murmuring rivers, its magnificent mountains, sequestered vales and verdant lined lakes and bays, and ever yearn in tender fond affection over the lonely hearted living, and often return from the happy hunting ground to visit, guide, console, and comfort them.
Day and night cannot dwell together. The Red Man has ever fled the approach of the White Man, as the morning mist flees before the morning sun. However, your proposition seems fair and I think that my people will accept it and will retire to the reservation you offer them. Then we will dwell apart in peace, for the words of the Great White Chief seem to be the words of nature speaking to my people out of dense darkness. It matters little where we pass the remnant of our days. They will not be many.
The Indian's night promises to be dark. Not a single star of hope hovers above his horizon. Sad-voiced winds moan in the distance. Grim fate seems to be on the Red Man's trail, and wherever he will hear the approaching footsteps of his fell destroyer and prepare stolidly to meet his doom, as does the wounded doe that hears the approaching footsteps of the hunter.
A few more moons, a few more winters, and not one of the descendants of the mighty hosts that once moved over this broad land or lived in happy homes, protected by the Great Spirit, will remain to mourn over the graves of a people once more powerful and hopeful than yours.
But why should I mourn at the untimely fate of my people? Tribe follows tribe, and nation follows nation, like the waves of the sea. It is the order of nature, and regret is useless. Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for even the White Man whose God walked and talked with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny.
We may be brothers after all. Wewill see. We will ponder your proposition and when we decide we will let you know. But should we accept it, I here and now make this condition that we will not be denied the privilege without molestation of visiting at any time the tombs of our ancestors, friends, and children.
Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as the swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch. Our departed braves, fond mothers, glad, happy hearted maidens, and even the little children who lived here and rejoiced here for a brief season, will love these somber solitudes and at eventide they greet shadowy returning spirits. And when the last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children's children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone.
In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude. At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land. The White Man will never be alone. Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not powerless.
Dead, did I say? There is no death, only a change of worlds.


A response to the Website The Website has scores of US citizens apologising to the rest of the world for the outcome of the US elections. "We tried," they say. I guess this Indian chief's response sums up pretty much how the rest of the world feels about the US.

By Tom Dostou, Bear Clan Chief, Midewin Society

I am respectfully asking Americans to leave my home here on Turtle Island which you call America after some Italian cartographer. I have to ask because it's time for you to leave and go back to where you came from and try to figure out what or who you are.
You came here only a few hundred years ago and since then, well to put it bluntly, because that seems to be all you understand is blunt force, you destroyed my people, our homelands and everything you touched and now you are destroying the Iraqis and wherever else your tentacles reach out.
As the Senegalese singer Alpha Blondie sings about the French colonial troops in his country, "On veut plus, on veut plus, on veut plus, allez chez vous!".
We , the Indigenous people of Turtle Island are tired of you and your "sorry".
Are you sorry , that you killed millions , so estimates are as high as 100,000,000, of our relatives over the course of the last 500 years since you "found" us?
Are you sorry that you dropped the first Atomic Bomb on our lands, the Shoshone Nation on July 16, 1945, almost one month prior to dropping the two otherAtomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
Are you sorry that you enslaved millions of innocent African men, women and children for hundreds of years while you spread smallpox and other diseases among the Red nations of this land?
Or are you sorry because you wantonly killed indigenous Filipino, Guamanians, Cubans, Okinawans, Boriquienos, Panamanians, Guatemalans, Mexicans, Nicaraguans, Chileans etc. etc. etc. The list goes on and on, doesn't it.
There aren't enough tears in the universe to shed for the pain and suffering that you the American people have inflicted on the poor and oppressed of this world. By your conduct, you have polluted our rivers and lakes here on Turtle Island. Before you came here, our people drank clean, clear water. Now our communities drink bottled water in plastic jugs because our wells are contaminated by uranium or lead or mercury poisoning. You have cut down our majestic great Standing Ones, the Redwoods, Pines, Cedars, Maples, Oaks, Birches which were once so dense and thick and tall that is a squirrel climbed up one on the Atlantic coast, she didn't have to touch ground until the Pacific coast.
By your conduct, you have shown the world and probably the universe that you don't understand who or what you are .You have desecrated our holy lands where our people have lived from time immemorial to extract the yellow metal called gold and the other metal called uranium and left the Earth barren. The very air we breath which is Life itself, you have contaminated with your poisonous gases.
What kind of species can do this? You must be sorry for the millions of Buffalo that you slaughtered on our Plains or the hundreds of thousands of Whales that you hunted down.
But what you must be really sorry for is that you have cut yourself off from your Spirit. You have sold or given away your Spirit for shares in Walmart.
So please, from the bottom of my heart, I ask you to leave us and go back where you came from. It is time to admit openly, publicly to the world what you have done, what you are doing and STOP doing it!
Let go of all your colonies in America, Central and South America, the Middle East, the Pacific, Asia, Africa, Australia, let go and be gone!
Because if you think you can continue to take, take and take, then you are what we already think you are, crazy. Your greed has made you insane. Your power lust has made you mad. You are a dangerous being now and we the weak and defenseless have but one way to deal with you, we must pray for you. We must ask the spirits of our ancestors to step in and take over.
We must ask the spirits of the Air, Water, Fire and Earth to help us to help YOU understand what you are doing and who you are. You have broken Natural Law and for that you SHOULD BE SORRY because you cannot escape the karma of breaking Natural Law, Cause and Effect. Our Elders have given much thought to what should be done to alleviate the suffering of this Earth. We have been given by the Creator of Life certain Original Instructions which are in and of themselves the most powerful of all things that exist on this planet. If we as a species will continue to exist on this planet then we must take the necessary steps to insure that our children and the next 7 generations have the basic necessities for life, as we know it, to continue.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Notice of revocation

Ajitha forwarded this...quite funny. Except that handing things over to the rather ineffectual Poms might make the world an even worse place. And heck, the Yanks write rather better English than the Brits do these days, don't they?


In light of your failure to make the correct decision in electing your President, thus showing you to be unfit to govern yourselves, we hereby give you notice of the revocation of your independence effective as ofMonday 8th November 2004. Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories. Except Utah, which she doesn't much fancy, and is frankly a bit dodgy.

Your new Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Tony Blair M.P.(for the 97.85% of you unaware of the outside world), will appoint a Minister for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire will be circulated in twelve months time to determine if any of you noticed.

To aid your transition into a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

* All citizens are to look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. While there, check the pronunciation guide for "aluminium" - this may be surprising for you. Generally attempt to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up "vocabulary". Using the same 27 words interspersed with "like" and"you know" is an unacceptable form of communication. NB. Look up "interspersed".

* There is no such thing as "U.S. English". We will let Microsoft know on your behalf.

* Learn to distinguish between British and Australian accents. It's not difficult.

* Hollywood will henceforth be required to occasionally cast Englishmen as good guys.

* Re-learn your original anthem, "God Save the Queen". Please ensure that you have complied with the first law before attempting this.

* Stop playing American "football". There is only one kind of "football". What you refer to as "football" is not a very good game. The 2.15% of you aware of a world outside of your borders may have noticed that no one else plays it. Play proper football instead; to start with get the girls to help you - it is a difficult game. Those of you brave enough will, eventually, be allowed to play rugby, which is similar to American "football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full Kevlar body armour like nancies.

* Declare war on Quebec and France, using nukes if they give you any merde. The 97.85% of you unaware ofthe outside world should count yourselves lucky - the Russians have never really been bad guys. NB. "Merde"is French for "sh*t".

* 4th July is no longer a public holiday. 2nd November will be the new national holiday.

* American cars are hereby banned. They are crap; it's for your own good. When we show you German and Japanese cars you'll understand.

* Please tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving uscrazy.


Monday, November 08, 2004

Of old classics and their colourisation

The headline gives it away. This is about the newly-released, repackaged Mughal-e-Azam. Got into a little discussion with Jai about it on Saturday evening, when we were out at a friend's place. The combination of a decent amount of alcohol and some other not-so-interested friends meant we couldn't carry it on for too long. but by then we had agreed to disagree on some factors.
Firstly of course, we agreed on the point — we have for many years now, since our friendship developed on the basis of a mutual obsession with the now-defunct TNT channel on satellite TV — that black-and-white films shouldn't be coloured.
For me, remastering, or restoring, is fine. Bought a CD of Hitchcock's Lodger recently, for example, and couldn't see anything. Absolutely anything. But chose to watch some of it if only for the charm of not being able to figure anything out. It was so old and in such bad shape. Somewhat like picking up a non-functional gramophone or something...old coins or LPs and stuff.
But digitally colouring something is not.
Am I decided on that? Well, not entirely, because I feel some films might have been better in colour, and if the director had the option, it would be in colour. And there will always be the off-chance that — especially on a big screen — it would be really grand in colour.
Which is what I feel about Mughal-e-Azam. It's a film I wouldn't mind seeing in colour. Keeping this discussion entirely within the parameters of Indian cinema, I might even go far as to say that if Sholay had not been in colour, I wouldn't mind seeing it in colour. But then Sholay is a film that is best kept out of a not-too-serious debate. Umm...what else can I think of? Maybe Ghatak's Teetash Ekti Nodir Naam or Ray's Kanchenjunga.
Coming back to Mughal-e-Azam, I would say that it is a film best viewed in colour. Simply because of its grandeur. But then, like in Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, where Ray had the option of colour and used it in only a short sequence right at the end, it's evident that K Asif chose not to use colour despite having the option. The Sheesh Mahal sequence was in colour, wasn't it?
Then why did he not use colour all the way through? It was an expensive enough film anyway, and cost-cutting couldn't have been the prime motive. Do we trust a filmmaker's instinct on this, or do we decide for ourselves? (We have the option in case of Mughal-e-Azam of course)
While Jai continued to trash the idea, I felt a bit stuck for arguments, simply because I had my age-old obduracy with 'viewing the original' to defend. [Jai, by the way, saw the new Psycho, if only to trash it, whereas I gave it a miss]
My main argument — at the time — that it would be our generation's one chance to see people like Prithviraj Kapoor (oh! I won't even get into an argument about him in this role) and Madhubala on the big screen seems fair, but tame. Catching those bellows of 'Saleeeeemmmm' on the telly and catching it on dolby can't be a fair comparison. And, heck, where else will any of us ever be able to catch Madhubala's face blown up so big! [Dilip Kumar can go to hell]
Why else will I go to see it? Well, because my mother (who provided me with my initial Hindi film education and fuelled my obsession) saw it on the big screen, and this will be the first occasion when we will be able to discuss a film both she saw and I saw (eventually) on the big screen. It will mean Madhubala, Dilip Kumar, and most importantly Prithviraj Kapoor will be my actors as much as they are Ma's.
So watch this space after we (Ajitha and I, and maybe Jai) have been to PVR to watch it. I am sure I will have some stuff to write about.

PS: Don't know if that should qualify as a promise, because I still haven't gotten round to writing the Dalhousie blog I promised so long ago.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Extreme depression

I'd posted a blog on having finally got my hands on CLR James' Beyond A Boundary. Well, I was in two minds about posting this blog, because setting it down would mean a final sort of thing. it is...I have lost the book. To be more exact, it was stolen. From my berth in the train on the way back from Pathankot on Sunday.
For the best part of the trip — to Dalhousie, etc — I was finishing off Henry Blofeld's Cakes And Bails, a book I had borrowed from a friend and wanted to finish and return. That done — finishing the book, that is — I turned to Beyond A Boundary — and got through a chunk before putting it behind my head on the top berth of the train and turning around to sleep. I know I didn't misplace it or anything because this fellow passenger (I will explain why I wanted to break his face later) caught me searching all over the cubicle for the book and told me these people who got off a few stations before had taken it with them. As simple as that!
Why I wanted to break his face: Because he — in his words — dekha ki aap ke berth se woh kitaab nikaal liya...kuchh boundary ya kuchh...aur bag mein daal liya. Main socha aap ko batayoon, par phir socha ki finger nahin point karna chahiye.
It was, of course, too late to trace the thief/ves, so there wasn't much I could do but do all dark-faced and quiet.
But that's how things stand at the moment. I don't have my Beyond A Boundary anymore. Ajitha is trying to access it from the Net right now. Let's see what happens.
PS: If only I hadn't put it away to finish A Pale View Of Hills and Cakes And Bails, maybe I would still have had my Beyond A Boundary.

Back from Dalhousie

Sitting in office now after a most idyllic five days away in the mountains. Dalhousie was the base, but we managed to make it to some of the other interesting stops around the parts. Like Chamba, Khajjiar, Kalatop, etc. Not bad for such few days.
Will write about the trip in detail some other time. This was more to just log the information.