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My tribute to Dolores O’Riordan

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I’ll be honest: the reason why I started exploring The Cranberries’ music was because before watching the video of their 1999 hit, “Promises”, I had never seen a lady wielding an electric guitar. She was the lead vocalist Dolores O’Riordan.

Dolores passed away suddenly, yesterday. She was 46.

The effect of that song then was such that, as it happens when you discover a band, I went into overdrive, fueling much of my music needs from their past hits. It was also the same time I heard another magical song, “Animal Instinct”, from the same album, “Bury The Hatchet”.

“Animal Instinct” and “Promises” were very different songs. While the latter was full of anger and edged towards a tone of hatred, “Animal Instinct” was a tad depressing though it bordered around hope – and this song gave me so much inspiration during one such difficult phase of my life. In “Promises”, Dolores’ tone was of questioning and her voice was angry and commanding – much like her electric guitar. In “Animal Instinct”, her voice was sombre just as the song’s mood and tone.

In the years that followed I discovered more gems from this band but two songs come to my mind as I write this: “Ode to My Family” and “Bosnia”.

“Bosnia” has so much anger in it that it is difficult to fathom how much of it Dolores must have held within her when she wrote that song. It is very hard to empathize with the emotional state of “Bosnia” because most of us are privileged not to have witnessed the horrors of war and this is precisely what the song attempts to address, with these lines:

“I would like to state my vision
Life was so unfair.
We live in our secure surroundings
And people die out there.”

And then:

“And we all sing songs in our rooms
SARAJEVO erects another tomb”

Her words are simple but I remember losing myself into the depths of this song, depressed and angry.

And then there she was, in “Ode to My Family”, yearning for a simple life, after all that fame had brought to her. I believe it was her insecurity when she wrote these words:

“Understand what I’ve become,
It wasn’t my design.
And people everywhere think something
Better than I am”.

The thing about songs like these is that you may not be able relate to the cause of a song completely; and then you manage to find a home in a few verses that can be applied to your state and what surrounds you – and a few listens later your emotional state is such that it is defined by those few verses of that song.

Dolores’ wrote songs like that, for me. It is for these songs that I am going to miss her.

And I can’t think of any better lines to end this post – these come from a song she wrote for Denny Cordell:

“They say that you’ve passed away, And I hope you’ve gone to a better place”.

Written by aditya kumar

January 16th, 2018 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Music

Tracing Michael: Over the Years

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Back in 1996, one day in the school, a friend told me he had a couple of stickers for the Dangerous tour. What was that, I asked. It was Michael Jackson touring India and I would be stupid not to know it, I was told. The tour was called “The Dangerous Tour”. Oh, Michael Jackson. I thought his best song was “Black and White” or something but it was the grooviest thing I had ever heard and had fallen in love with the video, especially because it showed an Indian girl doing Bharatanatyam with Jackson in the middle of the road.

For a boy who didn’t know the difference between “Black and white” and “Black or white”, it must have taken some convincing to do, that this friend eventually gave one sticker to me. It was a prized possession. After much thought, I pasted it on the back of an address book which I was sure I would use forever (The “Black and/or White” confusion was because Philips electronics had used the song jingle and conveniently called it, well, “Black and White”, for promoting their colorless television set on radio).

Then in 1998, an uncle who had studied in the IIT while graduating to Jackson’s music came to visit us. When he agreed to buy me a music cassette while checking out some music at the local store, my hands went to Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. He told me not to go for it. If he were to buy me one, it would be Thriller. I resisted it (because I had never heard of Thriller and I did not want this chance to go waste by letting him buy me something I did not know about). Eventually he had me convinced that it’d be a sin to choose Dangerous over Thriller. That was my first MJ tape.

Then, three years later, one day I went to my best friend’s house. He had an impressive music collection and we had evolved to mp3s. In his CD rack, I found the audio CD of Dangerous. Not willing to lose it this time, I told him that I was taking it home. It had songs I had long wanted to hear. It also had “In the Closet”, which was and remains, till this day, the sexiest song I have ever listened to. The video with Naomi just adds another dimension to it.

Shortly thereafter, in Indore during my first few days of graduation, I met Devashish Bhatt. Quite simply, he was the greatest fan of MJ I have ever met. While discussing music one evening, I told him that “Stranger in Moscow” was a song I wish I could listen to more often. My Sony Walkman was playing UB40’s “Can’t help falling in love”. Dev sang the first four lines of “Stranger in Moscow” for me and then offered a deal – we could swap what our “Walkmen” were holding. So this way, I ended up with the Blood on the Dance Floor tape that had “Stranger in Moscow” and Dev had his UB40 with a host of other cheesy love songs in the “Now that’s what I call Love!” tape.

I was not very generous to Dev in our future dealings. I ended up taking the History Part 1 & 2 tapes and never giving them back.

Then in 2001, in Pune, I met Pushkar Krishna, my room mate’s brother. Impressed by my knowledge on books and music, he took me one day to the infamous Fergusson College road. After a bulk of books and tapes that we carried home, he put a smile on my face by a simple gesture that I remember vividly till this day. He gifted to me Invincible – MJ’s last album.

From my perspective, the best part was that MJ’s music always found a way to get to me. Call it luck, but it just happened. I never tried hard. I never had to.

I graduated to Michael Jackson much later than I should have. But it happened. I traced his music back and forth. In this journey of music, I have met very few people of my generation who actually knew what Michael Jackson was all about — for mine is a generation that has seen Michael Jackson as a fading star. What a pity would it be for those people who now are left wondering, having seen Michael Jackson for the first time on the front page of the newspapers yesterday, in his death. Would he be greater to them in death than when he was alive? Would they ever know what he was all made of? Would they realize the gravity of this loss?

Does someone see the irony in this?

Written by aditya kumar

June 28th, 2009 at 9:24 am

Posted in Music,Personal,Writing

A Moment in Time

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I see this guy, has this Johnny Depp kind of a beard and a physique that could make the strictest of gym goers wonder what could be wrong with their workout regimen. Only later do I realize, because of his continued conversations on the phone, that he is a Muslim. He is called Aslam.

So we rode down to the river where the Victorian ghosts pray
For the curses to be broken
We go underneath the arches where the witches are and they say
There are ghost towns in the ocean
The ocean…

He is not a strict Muslim, that much I can see. For he does not do his prayers on the floor but on the train seat itself, with a pillow on his lap. And it is at that moment that the words are spoken to me, the sound in my head —

Gunners in the houses and gunners in my head
And all the cemeteries in London
I see god come in my garden but I don’t know what he said
For my heart it wasn’t open
Not open…

Suddenly it’s all very clear. That very moment, those few seconds, I cease to see him as Aslam. Instead, I start seeing him as a misunderstood Muslim. And perhaps more importantly, a Muslim that has misunderstood it all. I have not come across many defining moments in my life but I sure know how it is when one happens.

A few days back I read it somewhere and I think it was Bono who said — “Generally, religion gets in the way of God.” I know exactly what Bono meant when he said that. Certainly, this is not about U2 or Coldplay’s latest or Aslam. It’s about identities lost, perceptions — both right and wrong, failures to connect with each other at the human level and a broken hotline with God, to top it all.

Suddenly, it’s all very clear to me.

Written by aditya kumar

June 13th, 2008 at 12:59 am

Viva La Vida — First Impressions

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Coldplay’s Viva La Vida or Death and all his friends is a brilliant, extremely likable album. Contrary to Chris Martin’s remarks about this being a departure from what we have known Coldplay to be, it is not as much a “departure”. The band still relies on guitar and piano for most of their music but at times, drums, violin and electric guitar take the front stage. Though the music is still growing on me, “Lost!” is one catchy tune for it’s drums.

Now, this is surelynot a brand new Coldplay we are listening to. This is, in fact, the good old and brilliant Coldplay that has comprehensively delivered a great follow up to “X&Y”. Lets just say, old habits die hard.

Listen to “Viva La..” as a follow up to “X&Y”, or rather don’t over-analyze I say, just listen to it and you won’t be disappointed. More on this later.

Written by aditya kumar

June 8th, 2008 at 11:46 pm

Posted in Music