Archive for the ‘My book’ Category

Story: Note To Self

June 30, 2022

My third story for the contest is about a man who in his youth was a pioneer in his organization and now in his fifties finds himself compelled to accept a VRS package. He sits down to reflect on how this came to be and that is his ‘note to self’:

If you enjoyed reading the story, pl leave a rating (at the bottom of the page):

https://notionpress.com/en/story/ssc/20622/note-to-self

Deacon Blues (They’ve got a name for the winners in the world)

June 18, 2022

Deacon Blues has been one of my favourite songs ever pretty much from the time I first discovered the Aja album. It has lately acquired new meaning as I am in a better position to relate to what Messrs Fagen and Becker (RIP) have to say about the song in the classic albums documentary.

As you may or may not know, I came out with a book on Indian film music called Raga 2 Rock. It has received some extremely heartwarming reviews and most of those who didn’t review it have also told me how they enjoyed it. But as an outsider to publishing/media/entertainment without the means to advertise the book, I sought out the help of those on the inside through my contacts. With complimentary copies and no strings attached, mind you.

I am happy to report that I have been rewarded for my efforts with the most scintillating apathy and indifference. Oh well, not that I expected otherwise but it does amuse me that they would gatekeep me away as well. They do take no chances, do they?

And you know what? I don’t care! As the song goes, “They’ve got a name for the winners in the world/I want a name when I lose”. That’s all I ask for. As for the rest, the reviews have given more than enough gratification and I once again thank every one who has never met me in person and still placed faith in the book and then helped me along with a brilliant review.

If by any chance, all this has piqued your interest in the book, here’s a link to the same.

And here are excerpts as well as links to read the fabulous reviews I mentioned above.

Orange Cap – a story about cricket

June 17, 2022

My second entry for the story writing competition is about cricket. So I hope it will be an enjoyable read for cricket lovers as such. I had once thought up this broad story outline…with tennis in mind. Since I happened to follow IPL after quite some time this year and took wife to the stadium for one match too, I thought of writing it around cricket instead.

https://notionpress.com/en/story/ssc/16971/orange-cap

Raga 2 Rock – the reviews

June 17, 2022

Sharing links to and excerpts from some of the extremely overwhelming as well as validating reviews my book Raga 2 Rock has received. If you are a regular reader of the blog and sitting on the fence as to whether you should buy this, I sincerely hope these reviews (none of which I paid for and none written by relatives) will convince you to do so. Happy reading!

Argonaut: “The songs he selected for individual analysis are brilliant. I especially loved the deconstruction of LP’s Roz shaam aati thi and Salil Chowdhury’s Guzar jaye din. The icing on the cake is a solid introduction to the peerless Ilaiyaraja. For people, who have heard of him and want to get up and close with his compositions, this book is one of the best to get started. “

Prof Dr Anil Kumar: “One of the finest works on Film music! I catch up regularly with Raju Bharathan and Bharadwaj Rangan through their monumental pieces on music. I cannot tell you how much I yearned seeing someone in the same league as these two. And here comes a relatively obscure incumbent to steal the crown! The proverbial observation of the old order yielding to the new holds quite true here. This author is definitely a harbinger to a new era.

…it is my firm belief that an evaluation of the music that existed decades before one was born, cannot happen without an aptitude for a research in music. And this author has one of the finest musical sensibilities very much complemented by his aptitude for research. While the former quality is imbibed from his father (as confessed by him),the latter is indeed this man’s BRILLIANCE! You do not stumble upon researchers in music every other moment.

This monumental work is now part of my library that accommodates many a great work on music. I have recommended this book to my students at a university pursuing cultural studies. Besides, I have recommended it to all the ‘musically curious minds’ (known to me) as well!”

Ashok Sharma: “This is a beautifully written book and a delightful read for someone who loves all kinds of music and genres. It hooks you right from the beginning and you want to read in one go (binge-reading?). The book is a treasure trove of albums and songs that I have long forgotten but am happy to rediscover and walk down memory lane. The expository writing style is refreshingly different from everything else that is written about these composers and their styles. I love that you have dissected the songs so well, finding patterns and instrumentation and some chord theory as well, things that would be elusive to an untrained ear.”

Shashank P: ” I personally appreciate the authors evident & wholehearted commitment to present the book in an extremely well articulated format in that it covers the author’s personal experiences with music during his upbringing & also as a grown adult, intermingled with exploration (for the reader) of the factual & contextual aspects of each musician/composer described in the book. It makes perfect sense, in regards to the fact that the book deals with the dominion of music, it certainly calls for that deep emotional perception matched with intelligent articulation.

This book works on many levels and for the different types of readers – 1. People who have no clue about or have the bare minimum familiarity with Indian film music. 2. People, like me who are pretty familiar but acknowledge there’s lot more to unpack and familiarize oneself. 3. Musicians / non-musicians who maybe interested in the compositional inner-workings (musical scales, keys & stuff) of the various musicians discussed in the book.

Overall, well-written, interesting and definitely a book that I know is going to be my go-to reference every now & then.”

Don Cavarcci: “This book is far more engrossing than recent fictional thrillers. There are two books which after reading you automatically become smarter on a (seemingly) tough subject WHILE BEING ENTERTAINED IN THE PROCESS – one is ‘One Up on Wall Street’ by Peter Lynch – the other is Raga2Rock by Madan Mohan. 

 I then jumped straight into the chapters on RD Burman, Ilayaraja and AR Rahaman and I could almost feel their minds ticking trying to figure out how to catch the listeners’ fancy. Masterful writing this! The career arc of the aforementioned three is beautifully narrated and I was breathless from greedily turning the pages.

I take my hat of to this millennial writer – I’m amazed that he writes with such insight on topics, events and musicc which was composed befroe he was born or while he still learning to take his first steps.”

My story: A house that’s not a home

June 13, 2022

I have submitted a story to a competition and do hereby solicit your votes, dear blog readers.

https://notionpress.com/en/story/ssc/15220#

If you like it, pl leave a rating (at the bottom of the page).

Happy reading!

Why film music – part 3 – What Makes Ilayaraja Ilayaraja – Ninnu Kori

June 12, 2022

Part 3 of my series on why film music, which is a spin off to accompany my book Raga 2 Rock (https://www.amazon.in/dp/B09WYSNBBZ).

It took a long time to put together part 3 because I really couldn’t make up my mind on what I should talk about in the last instalment on Ilayaraja. Basically, I wanted to bring out what makes him different from pretty much every other film music composer. In other words, what makes Ilayaraja Ilayaraja.

And then, I thought of the perfect song to break down what makes Ilayaraja Ilayaraja. I am talking about the song Ninnu Kori Varnam from the film Agni Natchatram, which is one of his most successful albums. But to me, Ninnu Kori, more than any other track, exemplifies what makes his approach so different from the others.

So let’s look into a few signature hallmarks of Ilayaraja’s style that are very evident in this song. Firstly, the melody is so staccato. Every syllable the singer sings is perfectly punctuated by percussion strokes. And that’s the point. He builds in a very rhythmic quality to the song by making the singer and the musicians play it so, so staccato, so that every note has punch.

You can also observe how he uses this staccato element to create sections and divisions in this song, especially in the interludes. So rather than something like one piece of music continuously flowing through the interlude, you have almost discrete sections where he explores one idea and then he moves on to the other. And this is not how film music used to be done before his time. A sense of flow used to be very important to composers who came before Ilayaraja. But he replaced that flow with a highly punctuated staccato. Without that, he wouldn’t be able to get a varnam to rock.

Speaking of rock, notice the riff that opens this song, just the opening riff. Ilayaraja began to use riffs and guitar/keyboard chords to drive songs rather than to write a melody and to then devise accompaniments for the melody. This is also why it is difficult to sing his songs bare without the arrangements. It is not that his approach to writing melody is flawed, what it means is that he writes one integrated composition in which the melody, the chords, the percussion everything is tightly inter-linked. You can’t just subtract elements that you don’t like and add something else in its place.

Ilayaraja also often writes keyboard-and-guitar chords. That is, keyboard-AND-guitar chords rather than a keyboard based song or a guitar based song. Now that is something you can hear on, for instance, Steely Dan songs. But in film music, this level of complexity in chord writing was unthinkable before Ilayaraja. And I have to say it is not exactly commonplace post Ilayaraja either.

And a very notable aspect of this complexity is the basslines. These are independent basslines but which in turn are interlocked with the keyboard chords. But at the same time, it’s not like a random independent bassline. It is deeply connected to what the keyboard is playing. So Ilayaraja makes these basslines another part of this jigsaw puzzle that he has constructed. Except that he has already put together the puzzle for you, you don’t have to figure out anything. You just need to nod your head and enjoy!

But that, now that takes a lot, a lot of arranging skills and it remains a mystery as to how a man born to a poor family in a fishing village with no training in music before he came to Chennai looking for work acquired all this knowledge. I don’t know if HE knows and even if he does, he isn’t saying.

So…by taking his skills to not only write keyboard-guitar parts but also independent and interlocked basslines, he adopted an approach based on maximalism rather than minimalism. Let me explain. Traditionally, film music composers kept it simple. Even when they wrote parts for a large battalion of violins, they didn’t write too many layers. They tried to keep it simple and elegant to get the best possible effect without having to manage too much complexity.

On the other hand, Ilayaraja wrote as complex music as he could such that it would make sense. He had the skill to write multiple layers, independent basslines, counterpoints and bring it all together coherently. There is a deep sense of almost mathematical logic running through his music. He is not just trying to fit together parts that sound good, he is writing parts that fit each other like gloves.

And if you go back to the point I made earlier about uber staccato lines, that’s why he is able to get away with writing so staccato. Because everything makes sense in totality. He doesn’t need to depend on a sense of flow to make these parts fit together. They fit together in the way that two plus two makes four.

Raga 2 Rock: Dono Ne Kiya and the cassette age

May 29, 2022

Continuing on the theme of cassettes, I heard this song in a Rafi compilation we had. I would have been ten the first time I heard it and I had no idea this was supposed to be one of his rarer songs (or at least not one of the usual suspects you come across in best of Rafi lists).

The compilation was ‘unofficial’. At that time, people bought blank tapes and made copies of the official cassette(s) owned by one person in their circle. This led to the music industry publishing messages in newspapers to ‘stop piracy’. Sounds quaint today when streaming has ensured that music revenue essentially amounts to a few pennies for thousands of views.

We had so-called ‘two-in-ones’, clunky but versatile machines which doubled up as cassette player AND tape recorder. If you just wanted to copy all or most of the songs on one side, you used high speed dubbing mode. And you could hear the songs being played as they were recorded…at triple their speed or something. It would be amusing to listen to the voices of these great singers reduced to something like the sound of squeaking mice as the machine did its work.

You can read more such reminiscences about a time that was recent enough that someone of my age can recount it vividly and yet a time that seems so, so different from now…in my book Raga 2 Rock (https://www.amazon.in/Raga-Rock-Mumbai-Musical-Journey/dp/B09WYSNBBZ/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3N9W3412IU6GE&keywords=raga+2+rock&qid=1653797715&s=books&sprefix=Raga+2+%2Cstripbooks%2C434&sr=1-1)

Raga 2 Rock: The Cassette Age

May 26, 2022

This is the only cassette cover that has survived relocations and clean-ups. Note, I said cassette cover. No trace of the cassette itself!

We once had a large and wonderful collection of cassettes and, like it was for anybody growing up in the 90s, these cassettes were my introduction to the golden era of Hindi music (actually, ANY music – we also had cassettes of Aashiqui and Baazigar! 😛).

My most cherished items of the collection were a five cassette Rafi set which had such beauties like Jaag Dil-e-Diwana and…a cassette of the multi-Grammy winning Supernatural album of Carlos Santana. It is hard to articulate today, in the age of streaming and abundance, how exotic an item like that was for a family in far flung Kalyan.

If reading this makes you feel nostalgic about your own collection (or, curious about cassettes if you were born after their extinction), you will find a whole chapter dedicated to the cassette experience in my book Raga 2 Rock (https://www.amazon.in/Raga-Rock-Mumbai-Musical-Journey/dp/B09WYSNBBZ/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=raga+2+rock&qid=1653579032&sprefix=Raga+2+%2Caps%2C246&sr=8-1).

Long Story “Democracy” available on Amazon Kindle

August 19, 2020

I have written a long story (coming to over 30 pages) entitled “Democracy” for the Kindle UK contest.  The e-book is available for purchase here:

 

Also available in paperback form on .com/.co.uk:

 

You can read a small excerpt here:

After some small talk, he got to the crux. “Ever wondered what Sitara proposes to do with those lions?”

“I thought it was just to protect herself from male tigers in Kanha when she gets old.”

Akbar shook his head. “Nope. Her purpose is two fold.  One, with those two idiots on her side, she comfortably overpowers me.  So I have to stay away.  The other purpose is to sway the multicultural idiots by showing she is open to lions.”

“Why do you say multicultural idiots?” Naveen asked.

“Well, do you think it’s a good idea to just let lions run roughshod all over our territory?”

“But it’s just two lions.”

“Could be ten tomorrow, then twenty and before you know it, it isn’t Tiger Country.”

“Isn’t that alarmist?”

“That’s what tigers told my great-grandfather too.  He too opposed the entry of lions.”

“And?”

“Well, they didn’t listen to him and lion numbers quickly began to mount.”

He drew closer to Naveen and lowered his voice. “Do you know that even the forests east of Kanha were once tiger territory?”

“What!”

“Yes! And if you ever wondered why these dense forests were considered lion kingdom and outside Tiger Country, you have your answer.”

“You mean…”

Akbar nodded. “Fierce battle broke out.  It could have destroyed both sides.  Finally, a truce had to be worked out wherein the lines were given this forest adjoining the boundaries of today’s Tiger Country.”

He continued, “But that land was ours.  And God willing, one day it will be again.”

“Why has nobody told me this story?”

“Because they don’t want to.  They don’t want you to hear stories that would make you feel angry and ashamed.”

“But…but that’s so dishonest.”

“It is.”

Naveen wheeled around and confronted Akbar.  “What about you?  Why did you never tell me?”

Akbar was apologetic. “I did err in not putting these facts on the table, I admit.  But it was not out of any malignant intent.  I did not want to disturb the harmony of Tiger Country.  This beautiful, peaceful forest where animals of all sorts thrive.  Why should I rake up a terrible past and spoil the mood, is what I used to think.  But today…with lions in the jungle again, it couldn’t be more different.”

“What can we do to stop this?”  Naveen’s voice was growing urgent.

Akbar looked him in the eye and said gravely.  “We must unify.  We the tigers.  We who have always protected our land must rise to the occasion again.”   ”

 

Happy reading!  Do drop in with comments.  Bouquets and brickbats and everything else in between are welcome.  And if you liked it, pl do share with others.  Will be most grateful.  Thanks!

F-Minor

July 29, 2016

Hello All

Below is the link to a PDF file containing my novella titled F Minor.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ei3pzqtvchi0wi2/F%20minor.pdf?dl=0

What happens when an artist has all the talent in the world and success, at least success in conventionally defined terms, eludes her?  Does she curse her luck, put herself down and blame the world?  Or does she seek joy in performing the very art which, after all, she loves?  The book seeks to ask and answer these questions through the account of a fictional ghazal singer who also makes earthenware on the side to keep going.

If the above interest you, you can click on the link given above and download the PDF.  Please feel free to share the PDF file with whomsoever you wish to.  I have only one request to make – please do not appropriate any part of the book and pass it off as your or anybody else’s work as I am the author of the book.

Please also feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below.  Brickbats and bouquets are most welcome.  If you do happen to like the book, please use the ‘like’ function below to express the same. 🙂  It’s an emoji world after all. 😉

 


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