18 June 2010

The Bee Gees.............STAYIN ALIVE with us forever!!!!!

Most of us born in the '70's & '80's have grown up listening to songs like 'Tragedy'...'Stayin alive'... 'How deep is your love'....They were sung by the Bee Gees, a musical group that was so very distinct, that even on trying hard, none of us could imitate the way they sung!!!!

The group comprised of 3 brothers, Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb who together sang three part harmonies which covered the entire range of pitches & were instantly recognisable. Robin's clear vibrato was what stood out in the initial years & Barry's R&B falsetto became a signature sound during the disco years.
It was really rare to see the kind of camaraderie shared by the Beegees anywhere else but it must also have been this very fact that helped them co-write & sing some of the major hits in their 40 year career.

Born to English parents, the brothers began their singing career very young when they moved to Australia. On their subsequent return to the UK, they began their career in earnest & did well right from the start. They began by singing pop, later moving into love ballads, soul & disco. Being a contemporary of the Beatles, there was always competition but then they gradually managed to carve a niche of their own. Throughout all this, disco remained their forte. They performed in a lot of live shows, musical concerts & even composed for movies, selling almost 200 million records & becoming one of the best selling musical artists of all time.

This rock group were one of the few to stand apart in that they were almost never involved in controversies of any kind, unlike other bands of that era, be it drugs, women etc. Possibly this might be the reason for them never achieving the cult status of a band like the The Rolling stones or for that matter even the Beatles!!

Nevertheless the band's songs & music continue to live on, either for the youthfulness & vivacity they convey or for reasons entirely different as seen here ........ "Staying alive '77, with its beat of 103/min was found to be an ideal song to tune to while doing CPR....... a fact that emphasizes the impact of their music!!!!!

14 June 2010

Warli art.....a most vivid & engaging way of story telling!!!!

The common match-stick figure drawings that most of us have come across in craft exhibitions can be traced directly to the Indigenous people of Maharashtra, India, a fact that took me by surprise, since I thought it was a craft brought to the country from outside!!!!

Called as Warli art where the word 'Warli' means 'piece of land', these drawings are created by the varlis, a scheduled tribe who live in parts of Gujarat & Maharashtra. They are a very old tribe & have a lineage that can be dated back to the 10th century. They speak an unwritten language mingling various dialects & communicate mainly through their drawings which are simple yet unique, the only way of transmitting folklore to the general populace.

These rudimentary drawings, use a very basic graphic geometric vocabulary but with a sense of depth & meaning derived from nature. The circle represents the sun & the moon & the triangle, mountains & trees. Only the square seems to be invented, denoting a sacred enclosure or a piece of land which is the central motif in every ritual painting. It is called the cauk or chaukat wherein we find the Palaghata or Mother Goddess. Male gods weren't given much importance in this. The common scenes in these paintings were those of hunting, festivals & farming.

A unique feature of these paintings is that humans are represented by 2 triangles joined at the hip. The upper triangle being the trunk and the lower triangle the pelvis. Their precarious equilibrium symbolizes the balance of the universe, and of the couple, and has the practical and amusing advantage of animating the bodies.

The paintings were most often done on the inside walls of huts which were made of branches, earth & cow-dung & were reddish ochre in colour. The figures painted in white, were made of a mixture of rice paste & water with the help of bamboo sticks. Done mostly during marriages & festivals, these crude styled paintings were given a radical change by the Warli artist, Jivya Soma Mashe who pursued it artistically & is primarily responsible for a renewed interest in this art form as we see it today!!!!

09 June 2010

The Sitar....a soulful musical instrument that needs no introduction!!!!

An instrument that was predominantly Indian, but gained huge popularity in the West due to the Beatles & Pandit Ravi Shankar, is the Sitar....George Harrison infact used it for the first time in pop music in the song, "Norwegian Wood (This Bird has flown) " on the LP Rubber Soul in 1965.

Used mostly in Indian classical music, its versatility has been known to encompass any & every musical genre. The origins of the sitar are very vague with some saying that it was developed in the 13th Century by Amir Khusro from the Tritantri Veena, a member of the Veena family. Others say that it might even have been developed during the time of the Moghuls & based on the persian lutes.

It is basically a stringed instrument which derives its sound from sympathetic strings, a long hollow neck & a resonating chamber resembling a gourd. The sitar's curved frets are movable, allowing fine tuning & raised so that the strings (tarb) can run underneath them. A sitar can have 17 to 22 strings, among which 6/7 played strings run over the frets. The Gandhaar-pancham sitar (used by Ustad vilayat Khan) has 6 playable strings & the Kharaj-pancham sitar (used by Pandit R Shankar) has 7 playable strings. 3 of these playable strings (called the chikaari) just provide the drone & the rest are used to play the melody.

The gourd part of the instrument has 2 bridges & the timbre of the music results from the way the strings interact with the wide sloping bridge creating a distinct tone. The maintenance of this specific tone by shaping the bridge is called jawari. A metallic plectrum, called mizraab is used to produce music & the instrument is played by balancing it between the player's left foot & right knee & never carried around, unlike other musical instruments. Materials like teakwood are used to make the neck & the tabli whereas the instrument's bridges are made from deer horn, ebony or camel bone.

The sitar has been used for a variety of songs & music & became very popular in the '70's even finding its way into films & albums. This was because of the newness of the sound & its ability to merge into any style, as a lead in a song or a part of the background score. Its soulfulness gave it a versatility that was widely accepted & although the craze for the instrument has mostly died down,  it continues to enrich the the legacy & traditions of classical music in India!!!!

08 June 2010

An imaginary world created by a brilliant author to which I am still hooked!!!!

Something that this author would never have thought of, is that so many years after his death, his name would be associated with one of the greatest movies of all times.....
If you are wondering whom I am talking about, it is the author, J.R.R Tolkien, a man whom I have come to admire & respect, not only for just giving us the story of  'Lord of the Rings' but for the detailing & vision so deep that I was amazed by it while viewing the movie!! I may never even leave the book till I devour it completely......

Am sure that many would argue with me that there were other great authors, which is definitely true but for me, knowing the man & his simplicity, it seems unbelievable that he would conjure up a tale so vivid to enrapture people of all ages so completely.

J.R.R Tolkein (1892- 1973), called the 'Father of modern fantasy literature', was an English writer & university professor who was brought up in Birmingham, England. He lost his parents at a young age & was brought up by the church. He was very fond of botany & would roam the local hills & countrysides exploring England, scenes of which were depicted in his books. He was also interested in painting & learning new languages, an interest that helped him invent completely new languages for his fantasy stories!!!

A contemporary of C.S.Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia), Tolkien studied at the prestigious Oxford University & joined the army on completion. He fought the WW1 but was greviously injured during it because of which he returned back to England & began work as a lecturer & translator. At the same time, he started writing his books & stories. In 1936, his book "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" had an acclaimed opening not only for the content but also for the way it was portrayed. As one of his student says, 'When he spoke, it was the voice of Gandalf'.

He wrote a number of articles & books throughout his life, most notable of them being the 'Lord of the Rings' series & 'The Hobbit' & these together with tales, poems, essays & other fictional histories and invented languages, depicted an imaginary world called Arda & Middle Earth.

His literary works brought him a whole lot of accolades & citations throughout his life & although he won fame, he was quite uncomfortable with it all & till the end remained a simple unassuming man who am quite sure was unaware of his impact on people all over the world!!!