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I am rediscovering Nazia Hassan over the past few days. She was a gem of a person, a far better person than a singer—and she was a damn good singer.

Knowing the tragic end of her story, I’m unable to get past this song by Nazia and Zoheb. It a bit like she gave us a song to remember her by.

 

I’m hooked onto this song:

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From what I gather, PSY is the Devang Patel of South Korea. This song is a satirical take on Gangnam district in South Korea, a trendy and affluent suburb where anything perceived as Western is popular. For instance, yoga, saunas, and walking backwards (#Win!).

If you’re uncontrollably addicted to it as well, the next step is the female version of Gangnam Style featuring HyunA. The first time you hear it, HyunA’s voice will be the most annoying thing you’ve ever heard. With repeated listens, you’ll like it. I’m told she takes on a high-pitched voice to imitate Gangnam girls. That sounds plausible. Here’s HyunA in one of her hits, a foot-tapping addictive number called “Bubble Pop!“. She sounds much better.

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This entire meme began a few days ago with a thread on Reddit featuring a security guard, who is the winnest of ’em all:

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Who else is buying (or downloading) some South Korean music today?

P.S. I can’t say I haven’t tried to practice that signature dance step of Gangnam Style. With two left feet and fifteen minutes, I now can do a rather bad rendition. So you can too!

Another winner from the second season of Coke Studio @ MTV:

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P.S. Coke Studio describes the song thus:

This is a song about transformation. It talks about the various phases of transformation in a girl’s life and the changes they bring. This song showcases four fantastic female singers, Shruti Pathak, Shilpa Rao, Apeksha Dandekar and Monali Thakur. Shruti Pathank has also written the lyrics to the song.

Four fantastic female singers indeed. Each one of them looks so incredibly beautiful in their solo parts. And I’m not talking about looks. Art has a rather peculiar way of making everyone look so much more beautiful than what their looks have granted them.

Good art, may I add. Bad art has the opposite effect.

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Who else has a crush on Monali Thakur after watching this song? That demure look, and the bit between 3:24 and 3:34 has to be among the more adorable things in the universe. (The irony of course is that, that exact bit also shows her ring prominently. Sigh.)

See her owning Dil Cheez here. She is so much better than what her oeuvre suggests.

Like everyone else, I stopped following the Indian version of Coke Studio after the first few episodes last year. But have you seen the second season yet?  It kicks major ass! Here’s Nadia from the episode produced by Nitin Sawhney:

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I first heard Nadia a couple of months ago. Then, it was just a track from his album Beyond Skin. But there was something different–it felt good different–about the female vocalist. Today I realized she’s a white girl from London.

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The big change at Coke Studio India is that it has switched to a multi-producer format. The first four episodes were produced by Piyush Mishra, Hitesh Sonik, Amit Trivedi and Nitin Sawhney respectively. By produced, I think they mean arranged. Either way, I’m happy.

When I first heard Coke Studio (Pakistan) I felt like India could very well gather talent and create good music as well. But I didn’t quite know what I wanted from Coke Studio India. I think I’ve found the answer and it’s pretty close to what season 2 offers. Go get the music.

But of course, they had to pull off a dick move and not offer easy way of downloading the music.

Nadiya Bairi Bhayi (Raga Mishra Khamaj) by Nitin Sawhney :

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Not giving a fuck continues and good music such as this has been instrumental (heh!) in the endeavour.

First things first, Rabbi Shergill’s new album is out. Rabbi III. I like the songs but I’m waiting for their translations to really fall in love with them.

While searching for translations, I came across his performance at TEDxDelhi. The performance is likable but his short talk at the start is simply profound. He talks about today’s social pressure for creativity and the need for lethargy instead. Lethargy or laziness–as he calls it–does not include lack of experiences.

Watch it:

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He translates a few lines of Ganga, a song from Rabbi III. I already like the song so much more than I did without the translation.

Here’s to Rabbi Shergill. He validates my life philosophies.

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Frankly, all I’ve learnt in all these years is that life is amazing if you run after experiences. Don’t worry about things falling in place in the future: You can only see how things fell in place in hindsight. (And if things don’t fall in place, who gives a fuck anyway?)

Anything that you do, you will enjoy it a million times more with richer life experiences. That is why I travel, why I hike, why I fly. I may not be but I sure feel wiser.

I mentioned in passing recently that I’m not writing as often because I have little to say. Everything that I have to say these days is ‘Don’t care about these things you don’t need to care about. Go get some experiences.’

As a reader, you don’t want to read that at the end of every post, do you?

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A word about what I mean when I say experiences. It really just means feelings you haven’t experienced before. Once you decide to go after experiences, decision making is so much simpler. You always choose the option that is a better experience–where better is decided by your past-experiences.

For instance: Let’s say you’re planning to go skiing a weekend but your friends have dropped out. Further, you feel tired on Friday evening. What do you do? You drive to the mountains alone to ski. That is a better experience than staying at home for the weekend.

Another example: You could go for lunch to your usual restaurant or you could go to this new place that someone once recommended and has infiltrated your thoughts now. What do you do? You go to the new place as that is a better experience.

Another one: You hike up a tall cliff and see the stellar views. When it’s time to return, you could take the same trail back down or you could jump off the cliff (even though are certain to die). What do you do? Trick question. You learn some form of flying–paragliding or BASE jumping. And then jump.

Edit: .. where you above is I.

Ever wondered what a thousand veenas sound like? Jump to the 55:00 minute mark for the answer. The start is plain weird and it is a mess if you compare it to a violin ensemble, but I liked it anyway:

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This performance reveals the fundamental difference between western classical music and any form of Indian classical music: The staff.

There is no standard method to read Indian classical music. In Western classical music, you can create and write a piece of music on a staff. A thousand years later when a violinist  picks up the notation, he/she can play your piece exactly like the original, perfect to a fraction of a second.

To do the same in Indian classical music, you will need a continuous line of violinists with this piece being transferred from guru to shishya to his/her shishya. (Or you could record it and ‘store it in the cloud’ but let’s not go there.)

In the above video, you can tell that the performers are playing from memory. The veenas are not all perfectly tuned. They are not in sync while playing. A connoisseur of Western classical music might call it a mess.

To me, what’s amazing is not the logistics of bringing together 1008 veena players or making them play in sync, but the effort of informing everyone what to play.

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An interesting aside: the same asynchronicity that makes the above video a mess is required in a violin ensemble. This is induced by the conductor. Each violinist reads the hand movements of the conductor and responds at slightly different times due to human error. If every violinist played exactly like everyone else upto a microsecond you would get the sound of a louder violin, not a string section.

While both the veena and violin are string instruments, one produces a continuous sound (violin) while the other produces a discrete sound (veena). Therefore, a veena ensemble will fundamentally never sound as pleasing as a violin ensemble.

That’s not to say it won’t be exhilarating to listen to.

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Some of the players–kids, I noted–didn’t even play throughout the performance. In an ideal world, their names wouldn’t enter the record books.

via.

Something, anything to get the ball rolling here.

This is an adaptation of a Sindhi folk song Moomal RanoRaat by a band The Sketches from their album Dastkari. If you recall, they were featured on Coke Studio last season.

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I am almost reluctant to refer to musical groups from Pakistan as bands. For bands–even those with a distinct pop, rock or electronic sound–their understanding of classical music, ragas and tal is often masterful. The above song sits comfortably in its rupak tal (a rhythm with 7-beat iterations split as 3-2-2) and a raga that I haven’t yet identified (but I presume belongs to the khamaaj thaat?).

Link via Zeb.

Sawai Gandharva is an annual event of Hindustani music that we Punekars tend to believe is like Woodstock — only held every year with no topless girls. Actually there’s nothing in common between the two besides the wonderful music.

Among the strangest things I read was that Shankar Mahadevan performed at Sawai last week. Strange because Mahadevan is not a pure classical singer. The Sawai audience consists of purists who do not take well to anything that isn’t, well, pure.

Here are two videos of Mahadevan performing at Sawai: One and two. Judge for yourself.

On second thoughts, don’t. Yes it is possible to write a long critique of the performance. But it was enjoyable — which is all that ought to matter. No?

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That day, Mahadevan’s performance was followed by Pt. Jasraj. I imagine purists counted it amongst the worst days of their human existence.

Switching gears to music, I came across a few Pakistani artists recently.

1. First up, a Pakistani band Laal. Here’s their single Umeed-e-Sahar based on a satirical poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz:

I liked their album Umeed-e-Sahar. Reliable sources inform me that their lead singer is now in the U.S. pursuing a Ph.D. and the replacement (his wife too, if it interests you) is not a very good singer. Reliable sources also informed me that said sources were the good lead singer’s TA.

In summary, you can unfollow Laal after that one album.

2. The prodigy Usman Riaz, who blends strange styles of guitar playing with Hindustani classical:

His first album has three tracks and is worth owning.

3. Not the discovery of an artist, but I heard Shafqat Amanat Ali’s album from 2008, Tabeer. Here is Karthik Srinivasan’s short review.