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Well Well Well,  Just came back from India, was visiting there after 3 years.  Three things had me smiling like a kid in a candy store: moms dosas, Hyd airport and Rolling Stones magazine.

Being a die hard music buff / critic, the first item in my agenda was to get hold of a copy of RS India, not just the latest but the first as well.  After much emotional persuasion my brother-in-law reluctantly let me have one of the five. Yes RS India launched with five covers. I must say I was not disappointed with the RS first edition or with their vision for India. I just hope they live up to it.

This blog is about my opinion of RS and how it can / may help change the music scene in India.

First my opinion on Rolling Stones. RS is probably the only magazine that represented the counter culture of the late 60’s and early 70’s. It was NOT meant to be a POP CULTURE MAGAZINE FOR THE YOUNG or a Music ONLY mag. How do I know this? I am so obsessed with the mag that I keep picking up old copies (from the 70’s and 80’s) every time I go near an old / used book store.  However since pulp magazine guy Ed Needham was hired and the death of the Flower Power, RS started leaning more towards Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll : Moving from counter culture to pop culture, a big difference for folks like me who for some strange reason wish we were living in the ‘60s. I don’t blame the mag, it had to survive and keep up with the times, a sad reflection of the evolving music scene and times itself. Jann Wenner’s famous words “ RS is just not about music, but about the things and attitudes that music embraces”  had to be slowly forgotten just like we forgot that Bill Gates once said “No one in the worlds will need more than 64 MB..”or some such ridiculous thing. You cant really blame Jann, the music now is more about music rather than what the music embraces. A few consistent themes and the positive outcome of RS have been: 1. recognize great music work, spread the word to create a fan / listener base and 2. provide substantial knowledge on the music and the artists of bygone eras and 3. provide info otherwise unavailable to the common man, regarding aspects surrounding music like lifestyle, attitudes, politics etc… and that’s the reason the mag still makes a good read for me, more to verify things that I already know and to a certain extent introduce me to new music.

Here is my opinion on RS India (as per my cover to cover read of the first edition in India). RS India was to have 35% local coverage, I thought to myself, how much content is there to publish here without a heavy doze of Bollywood. I was amazed, ONLY 1 out of 170 pages was spent on Bollywood. Such a breath of fresh air. The magazine lived up to my expectations. It had the international features, launch the mag, Led Zep, Hendrix, RadioHead, Winehouse, Jay_Z, Depp et al; this is hardly a surprise considering the size of the industry and the appeal to the Indian audience. However the promised 35% local content blew my mind. I went in expecting the coverage of the usual suspects Strings, Indus Creed, Rabbi (he was indeed covered), KK… Instead it exposed me to the following artists / bands / artist / articles and they were all awesome feast for my music appetite 

        Soulmate : the blues band from Shillong

        Amit Chaudhuri who I have heard a few times before

        Good coverage of Avial, who I am already a fan of

        Skin Alley

        Half Step Down

        All of India’s Axe men: I had not heard of Dhruv Ghanekar, Rex Vijayan or Rudy Wallang

        Goldspot

        Susheela Raman, Thanks RS, but I discovered her a long time ago and have been following her music ever since.

What was amazing was that a lot of these guys were promoted by indie records (read my previous blog on why this is a good thing).

The movie reviews and the selection of movies to review were less than impressive, everyone knows about Cohen Brothers and NCFOM,

Now I am wondering where they are going to get local content for the remaining editions, since I cant get RS India edition in the US, I am relying on the undying love of my brother–in-law to save up the copies for me.

RS can do great things for Indian music scene. Firstly, It can continue to provide the much-needed exposure for artists like Rudy Wallang, who without RS has no hope of reaching a wide listener base. I am very encouraged by the first edition, if they remain true to the format and commitment on the content, then its going to be great going for local artists. Secondly, it needs to move India music fans to embrace their own genres and bands that belong to “the generation of the Y2K”. It saddens me to see old has-beens like Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Fleetwood Mac making such a big splash when they are rarely given a chance to perform in the US.  Don’t get me wrong I love those guys, but come on, there are a million good artists that have come on since then, All over the word people are embracing newer music. Secondly, move the Indian audience from listening to big stage performance bands to just to smaller plain good music bands, Very few acts can pull full off a full concert on their own these days: I mean it takes five divas (Celene Dion, Maria included) to pull of ONE night show in Vegas. Look at http://www.summerfest.com/ to see how many bands it takes to pull of an evening of music. This will also be great for the Indian music Industry (or should I say Indie). Thirdly and most importantly, move India to have a music industry that is free of the bollywood gutturals: Do I need to explain any further and Lastly, allow the industry to create and users to embrace genres of mucis, Indian blues, rock, metal, groove, urban, etc… This is the only way for the industry to grow and get listeners unlimited supply of software.

RS can help do all of the above, and going by the first edition they are likely to. I am a die hard optimist. I believe in music itself and the potential for resurgence of the Indian listener to demand high-quality, music that is unique, original and touches him and few like him(her).

Till my next blog about the music industry….and the critique of the above artists…Adios

 

I had an amazing conversation over cofee today with some hardcore research / armchair intellectual types… It was interesting to say the least. I will blog the conversation soon. Meanwhile, All comments on this topic are welcome.

Well, there is no simple answer to this questions.. is there? The answer to this question will also put to rest the recent soul searching exercise the nation is going through – Are the Gandhian and Neheruvian elements of non-alignment, ahimsa, moral standing relevant today?

I say “NO”. Heck, by all means, have opinions even argue about them and stand by them. But when it comes to decision-making and policy-making, at the risk of sounding harshly conservative & right tilted, I believe its best to put India’s national interest first. Indians should come first to the Indian policy makers. Given its economic growth, protecting India’s political stability, securing and expanding its energy sources, advancing its economic sphere of influence (or simply put trade partners) and securing its water sources should of primary importance. People, India has million poor hungry mouths to feed and clothe. Once they are taken care of them, then let India worry about pontificating, or better, “teaching” others about democracy, human rights, equal rights and such issues.  There is nothing morally wrong with this stance…India is not the cause, effectors of the course or catalysts to the results of any of these problems. Should it maintain a stand?…Absolutely. Argumentative that the Indians are, need to have their opinion. However, opinions should remain just that…opinions. It should not cloud policy.   

Burma – so they are under military rule, but so was (or is) Pakistan for most of its documented history, and so are many other country’s. Has that stopped India from doing business with those countries? Then, why such a hue and cry about India not intervening in this political mess. What Burma does with its people its own problem. India is not selling arms to the junta. India is just, and rightly so, protecting its energy and geopolitical maritime security interests there. It’s easy to make the argument that any economic benefit that Myanmar receives will go to silencing its people. Killing cannot be justified ever, however, the situation in Myanmar is far different from the situation in Dafur. Myanmar is a country that will write its own history of moving towards democracy, India has no place or right to hurriedly supply ink to the pen or influence the font in which that history is going to be written. Doing so is same as “promoting” western style democracy to the ones that don’t have it…Sounds familiar?  I am glad to see Indian foreign affairs office mature up to realize this and have a frenzied, but belated, diplomatic buzz with Myanmar. 

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/JD05Df01.html 

Dafur, is unforgivable, here we have a moral standing. The chinese are wrong to do business with the Junta that has unleashed horrors of rape, pillage and genocide. every dollar that goes to the Sudanese govt invariably ends up in the hands of the power that seeks to wipe of natives in Dafur. The Chinese even sold weapons to Sudan, that is just sic. India is right in its policy of ostracizing Sudan. Its blood money, blood oil and blood everything if you do business there.

Leave me a comment if you still have not understood the difference between Myanmar and Dafur, I will explain in greater detail.

All anyone needs to say about Palestine is that Israel is one of India’s largest economic (mostly military) trading partner.  Far cry from the days of Arafat hugging Indira. India’s stance and opinion is still very clear: Palestinians deserve their homeland. However, that has not stopped it from doing “business” with the Israelis. I know there is the whole Saudi, Indian Muslim population angle, Books have been written about it, so I shall not waste precious blogshpere sphere discussing this:

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/IC31Df02.html

http://www.zawya.com/Story.cfm/sidZAWYA20080403033149/SecCountries/pagSaudi%20Arabia/chnSaudi%20Arabia%20News/obj2240389B-8F1A-11D4-867000D0B74A0D7C/

http://www.amazon.com/India-World-Order-Major-Power-Contemporary/dp/0521528755

Foreign Policy Challenges : India and the Afro-Arab World/Jagdish P. Sharma

The Arab-Israeli Peace Process : Lessons for India and Pakistan/edited by Moonis Ahmar.

Iraq & Afghanistan…Its not India’s war. India is doing the right things by staying away from it. Should it do business there? Sure, it already imports Pom’gnates from Kabul and sells sugar there. Indian doctors can build a better healthcare system in Iraq that anyone else can. 

Iran, again not India’s problem, its difficult to fathom how the Indians got bulldozed into voting against them at IAEA / Security council. Now you have an India-Pak-Iran pipeline without India. If Iran agrees to US / UN resolutions in the near and diffuses the situation, what then? What happens to our stand? As a country, you can choose your friends and enemies anytime; you do not have that choice when it comes to your neighbors. Iran is in India’s sphere of influence. Decide wisely o learned grand old parties. 

Out of all the burning issues, Tibet and Sri Lanka are probably the closest to India. Both highly emotional, strategic, economic and all the ‘ics that follow. It is going to be very difficult to say “Not our problem” to those. Tibet holds the key to the water availability to India, Nepal and Bangladesh and Tibet itself in the next coming century. Chinese designs are clear. So are India’s needs, India need Chinese economic partnership for progress, god forbid the US recessions stays longer than expected. India definitely needs the Tibetan plateau to water its hinterland. India should “actively” engage China rather than make rhetorical statements.  I have great respect to B Raman, however his open letter to Aamir Khan does not make complete sense. His comparison of Chinese in Tibet to Nazis is well founded. However his call to action to ban the Olympic torch from passing through India is quiet tenuous. Why people still give a crap about Olympics in this day and age is beyond my comprehension…That’s for another Blog.

http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/apr/03guest.htm

Sri Lanka: The most well kept (maybe not so well kept because public junta like me know it) secret is that Triconamalee is the best natural blue water port in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. Chinese trade with SL last year crossed the $1BN mark, a good 27% ahead of India (Global Trends 2007, Leading Economists).  American Interests in these areas are evident by their reaction to the tsunami. India was extremely resilient and clever in taking care of SL with minimal international intervention. That, friends, is how you secure your sphere of influence. Unlike Tibet, India is in a very delicate with SL. The tamil’s in SL have a strong bond with the Tamils in India. It is going catastrophic if it gets to a point where Tamil Nadu has to choose if it is Tamil first or Indian. Emotions aside, if not India, someone is going to be doing business with SL and that does not bode well for India. India should do what the Norwegians or the Swedes have been doing all along. Play a serious moderator, continue business as usual with SL.

India shining…, maybe now, maybe for a few… But 650 million still don’t see that shine and the ones that do, see it despite the power cuts and water shortages.  The fundamental duty of the government is to care for its peoples well-being. Let it do that first and then worry about the other 6.5 billion problems that currently inhabit the earth. Anyone still discussing Miloslavich?

I’ll leave you guys with some great quotes from the movie The Lord of War, starring Nicholas Cage

  • They say, “Evil prevails when good men fail to act.” What they ought to say is, “Evil prevails.”

  • Some of the most successful relationships are based on lies and deceit. Since that’s where they usually end up anyway, it’s a logical place to start.

  • I had a flair for languages. But I soon discovered that what talks best is dollars, dinars, drachmas, rubles, rupis and pounds fucking sterling. 

  • Say what you like about warlords and dictators; they always pay their bills on time.

  •  I’d tell you to go to hell, but I think you’re already there.  

     Cheers.

Ever since the economy has been on the front page (and war, Dafur, Tibet on page 2 or 3) of most news sources,  I have been putting the pieces togather in order to present my analysis on the whole thing. I even dusted by books on Black–Scholes and the other text book on Macroeconomics and Global economics. Then I came across a great site which has already done that (duh, this is economics there must be millions of these)

http://www.henryckliu.com/ 

I like the fact that this is as independant a review as you can find. There is a slight tilt towards pessemistic system bashing, but with all the stats andreferences, it is hard not to feel the same way as the author.

For folks that love topics like free trade, here is  gem

http://www.globalexchange.org/

On to more fun stuff…….

I am not much of a shopper. Yes, Chairman Mao would be proud of me. I seek a wide variety in people, thoughts, music and the fine arts but not things like clothes, milk, bulbs, toilet paper, chips, salsa, shoes, magazines. Watches are an exception though …time is …off the essence you see.

So a non shopper like me , for reasons best knows to subterranean bluesmen, was tasked with buying and installing pendant lights in the high seating ares of the kitchen. How difficult must this be…right. You can imagine my plight when I went about doing shopping the usual way (amazon, bnn, Alibris, overstock, yada, yada), only this time i added a major twist. I decided to try the brick and mortar and the E. WOW. Apparently the 4-C’s of the diamond has a version for the damn pendant light industry as well. This is about the time when I was about to give up when I remembered what Ole Ben Franklin had said about choices “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” OK so I trudge along. Apparently the 4C’s 0f buying pendant lighting are actually 2 C’s, 2 M’s an L an F an S and another F: Color, Couture, Material, Mood, Luminosity, Fall, Spread, Fixture.

Tired? This was the tip of the iceberg, to put you in a moral and emotional dilemma all the above are available from local artists, large corporations, specialists in Europe and ‘course the quintessential Chinese.

So with a well thought out decision tree in mind I set to explore the pendant land.

  • Color : This is so completely dependant on your personality, do you like green pendant shades if you have blue walls? well your choice really, I have blue walls, so I thought a naval orange color would be such a bad choice. And What the hell kind of color is ambush blue?? I did not find naval orange but a close shade of orange was ok.
  • Couture : Tiffany, Old School, Tropical, Classic, there are about 32 of these. I wanted contemporary, i guess that’s what they call “plain” nowadays
  • Material : Laps were either made of some metal or glass.. or so I thought. Brass, Pewter, Wood, Amalgamated paper…Taiwanese rice paper…. whats left? whale blubber? I choose glass.
  • Mood : Oooh mood. Normally when I sit down to eat breakfast, there are only two moods, how the f am I going to get through this day? or Thank god for another day. Apparently there is warm, sensuous, smooth, tropical (wait a minute isn’t that already a part of couture?) What the hell am I buying? I choose crisp
  • Luminosity : I thought this was how bright your bulb was? NO NO NO..stupid, that’s wattage… this is how “lit” you want i.i., do you want to hide the direct light or do you want the direct light to fall? Light falling on food isn’t a bad thing right? I skipped this one.
  • Fall : How high or low do you want the laps to fall, this is a great variable, i thought to myself.. Medium?…there is low, high and ultra high. 
  • Spread: Who? how??  How far from the spot do you want the light to spread? Laser? or flood lights? I made this one up.
  • Fixture : Very important Ceiling or Wall. This I thought was the most relevant questions. Ceiling was my prompt well prepared answer. I got the chills, reminded me of the time I got my name spelt gith in 3rd grade.

Guess what I forgot a Major C at this point “COST”. The damn things was $800  a piece and I needed three of them. Ok so back to the start of pendant light search. Now I am ready for a whole lot of choices, discounts, free shipping, warranty, the sales persons hair color, the makers golf spot or g spot. I can hear Dio saying to me “Hanging from the cobwebs in your mind… its the light that gets you down….”

By the way, there are even pendant specific internet models, this one is the best http://www.simplypendantlighting.com/ they have these things listed by price!! By the way no two stores categorize it the same way. Happy pendant light shopping, yet another category gone haywire.

I walked into the local coffee store and noticed that they were peddling (yes peddling) locally made pencils at $9 for two pencils. Apparently the fine art of pencil making is dying as most of the 14 billion pencils that are produced each year come from factories that use advanced compression techniques and synthetic wood substitute to hold the lead. Most of these pencils come from Brazil or China.

This bought back strong memories of  Perumal Chetty pencils, their B’s and Hb’s were almost as legendary as To B or not to B. Unlike the run off the mill pencils that are made from recycled wood shaped into two semi-cylinders to hold the lead in the middle, these were made from single willow, i.e., the will was first made into a cylinder, a tiny hole dug into the middle and lead “poured” into the  hole to solidify. Then these pencils were coated with coloured powder. Fairly advanced for its time. That’s how they paint Harleys these days.  However given all the top of the line techniques now way were they ready for globalization.

I googled to see if I can still find this pencil, they were such a pleasure to write with, apparently the company that made Perumal Chetty pencils shut down 6 years ago :  

http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/mp/2002/03/18/stories/2002031800100300.htm

Sad demise indeed, Thanks for all the English I, English II and countless other academic and not-so academic endeavours.

More on pencils :

http://science.howstuffworks.com/question465.htm

What is common to the following:

  • Guns and roses : Sweet child of mine
  • Metallica : Nothing else matters
  • Orff : Carmina Burana
  • Thaigaraja : Yendaro Mahanubhavulu
  • Shankara Bharnam : Brocheva Revarura
  • Chitti Babu : wedding bells
  • Hariprasad Chaurisiya : Rivers
  • Bob Marley : Redemption Song
  • Miles Davis : Sketches in Spain

Other than the fact they are awesome awesome pieces strung together by superior musical talent….. All these pieces have unconventional musical orgasms embedded within the songs and that’s what makes them great.

Two concepts obviously beg for definition: “Unconventional” and “Orgasm”

“Orgasm” in music is that piece in the song that deviates from the regular path  / structure to give the listener an adrenalin rush or a “high”. There cannot be a narrower definition as different individuals with different mental composition are simulated by different deviations…Duh… that’s why you have genres in music, however the concept of orgasm is fairly universal.

So whats “conventional”. Its easy to get to embed an orgasm into the music. Here are a few conventions:

  • Crescendo followed by a pause: This is one of the most tried and tested techniques. Lynard Skynard and Fleetwood Mac mastered it, Hindi movies are filled with it, even Shiv Hari in the song Chandini (remmebr the cresendo of “maine is dil pe likh diyaa teraa naam…. then pause… then “chandini o meri chandini”) tried a go at this. Bach and Tchaikovsky and more recently A R R milked it like hell !!!!
  • Just plain crescendo : Another tried and tested techniques. Hindi movies are filled with such samples : Koyee kahe kehata rahe, Tu cheez badi hai mast mast, Nach Baliye….Rolling stones (Start me up, The who (most of their songs especially Teenage Wasteland and Pinball wizard)
  • Change in tempo (mostly towards Allegro): Highway Star by Deep Purple, Sanata was a guru here, Floyd still milks this and most of the pallavi’s in Carnatic music revel on using this concept to demonstrate the players expertise
  • All of the above

To me most of these techniques are fairly conventional, don’t get me wrong, you still have to be a good enough musician to pull these conventions off. Good musicians at best provide conventional orgasms, great ones ..well… go unconventional. Sorry folks though most of the world believes Stairway to Heaven to be the best rock song ever, and I love it a heck of a lot, it is still conventional, the solo raises tempo, and crescendo.

So what so unconventional about my list at the beginning of this blog? My attempt to explain…

Using, “pass over notes” and regular notes in the blues scale, Slash provides an amazing solo intro and an another great solo somewhere near the third minute. Neither of these solos have any allegro or crescendo. Then Slash succumbed to going conventional for the last solo, no one is perfect, we can forgive him for that.

Kirk Hammett, in Nothing else matters, provides one enduring lead towards the end of the song lasting less than 45 seconds. No fast tempo, no major deep purple kind of licks.

Carmina Burana, at first looks like is filled with crescendo, give it a second look (or hear), its the chorus and not crescendo..O fortuna…velut luna….all controlled well placed deviations

Shankarabharanam, Brocheva probably one of the best pieces composed for motion pictures down south, uses multiple pauses to create an illusion of change in tempo, just brilliant.

Bob Marley??? and here??? Sure, don’t underestimate the musical genius of reggae or Bob. In the redemption song, the complex chord structure is enough to give you a high.

…and Miles….what can I say about Miles or even BB King that you already did not know? 

Get the picture?

Its important for people in the music business to understand this concept. Why do people still listen to the oldies, just for that reason, there were awesome riffs, solos etc…. Unconventional orgasm is almost dead, available just in rare spurts here and there.

Now that Indie music is on the rise (thanks mainly to the Internet putting the record labels in a fix), I only hope things get better. Indie music thrives on trying to get unconventionals to the mass. There is a risk here, as I indicated earlier, not every one gets tickled by the same music. That’s why I personally believe a committee approach is better for the music business compared to the current, single manager, single talent hunter concept. Its near impossible to predict a hit single or album, but if you really try and listen to the orgasm embedded in the song, you atleast increase your chances of producing a hit(s). And for gods sake… put an end to conventional pop…people?

Here are some of my predictions (indipop and otherwise) that became hits 

  • Strings : Anjaane
  • Shaan : Tanha Dil
  • Life in a metro the entire sound track
  • Sound track of Don 2
  • Sound track of One Tree Hill
  • Ryan Adams as an artist
  • Unkle Kracker & Train
  • Bare Naked Ladies (most albums)
  • Gajini
  • Rabbi ( a little conventional at times)

I am glad that Indi-pop and Indie music are alive and kicking… I believe they are the ones,  and not the large Labels, that will produce the next slash. Also evident from the soundtrack awarded at the Oscrars (www.oscar.com).  I just hope they revive “good-music”, since Music and business in the music business are always at logger heads and the overall quality of music is neither here nor there.

With the explosion of Radio, the public is more thirsty for music software that ever before, its time for the Indie labels like Times Music and others to step-up, nurture talent and provide the required “orgasms”. By the way, I am happy and impressed with Phat Phish records for Bulla Ki… can we see more…

So how can you nurture talent? That’s for another Blog

For indie buffs here are some good grooves

www.narada.com

www.petrolrecords.com

To an old friend: You were a pretty good guitarist in college, I always thought you’d go unconventional, wonder what your music is up to these days.