Music and I have had a longish relationship. It all started when I was a little lad of ten, no.. hang on, a lad of four or five. After The Great Awakening it became even more of a..
Ah let’s start over. (And yes, there’s a video at the end…)
The Early Years
Delhi, India, is where I learned to walk, talk and be aware of my surroundings. Sometimes, for a treat, we went to a sort of cafe/restaurant or something and my very recollection of music is the live band fronted by a lady in a tight dress. I think they did jazz and pop standards of the time.
There was the radio show called “A Date With You”, which played rock and roll and pop and there was a lot of Cliff Richard, early yeah, yeah, yeah Beatles and Elvis and such like. My father had one of those turntables with a pickup stylus that looked like a fang. I’ve related some of this before in another article here.
However! That covered the listening experience. So wait! There’s more!!
The Middle Years
These years were about experiencing music, listening to it. The Great Awakening happened when I was about 14 years old. This was quickly followed by the heartbeat to heartbeat angst of Dark Side of the Moon. Life was never the same again. Cue “I Feel Free” by Cream.
I can walk down the street, there’s no one thereThough the pavements are one huge crowd I can drive down the road, my eyes don’t see Though my mind wants to cry out loud
There’s more about the Great Awakening here in this roadtrip/pilgrimage/memoir here.
In 2018, in the rain, I walked across that famous zebra crossing. Because, you gotta… it was an iconic photo for a great album by a great band!
More Middle Years
The music must change, they said and it did.
I became a software techie.
I ran into someone who opened up a chain of thought that has lasted. It made me aware of even more possibilities, a Second Awakening. Ujjal was also a techie; a school mate 2 or 3 years senior. Back in the days of Z80A CP/M 8 bit computers, with monochromatic green phosphor screens, he had a program that played the Indian national anthem with a wavy flag. He showed me something that really was exciting; magic sequences of numbers starting with 27. ASCII 27 is the code for the Escape key on your keyboard, and these “escape sequences” allowed me to do loads of exciting things. I could place a character in an exact location on the screen, invert it, draw borders, bold face and underline text, even on a printer. This was highly “advanced” stuff back then.
He was also a musician, able to play multiple instruments with ease. When pushed to figure out what to get me for my 34th birthday, My Beloved Bangalan, possibly impressed by my thing for music, consulted with Ujjal and bought me an acoustic guitar. I then signed up with the Calcutta School of Music for lessons with Carlton Kitto, the leading jazz guitarist in the city.
Did I manage to learn?
I was also, at that time, busy developing a business building software products. Having to drop everything to go across town for my lessons became an imposition I could ill afford at the time. Plus, there was the piffling matter of skill….
End of guitar lessons.
Three years later, I left India and came to Canada. The guitar, and another Carlton had insisted I get, were left behind.
The Later Years
The early years as an immigrant didn’t allow much time for “frivolity”, as we focused on financial stability. And then, for another birthday, somewhere in my 40s, I was ordered to go buy another guitar. So I did, a simple Canadian-made all plywood guitar.
I tried remembering what Carlton had shown me all those years ago. After a few tentative efforts, it lay there until my older son picked it up and taught himself how to play and a few years later he was playing lead in a rock band. Here he is, left of the stage with the Stratocaster he bought with his own money. He’s the “S” in LEAPS….
I still hadn’t made any progress on playing it myself.
Around 2010, left with some free time away from work, I started writing, as you know. I also restarted efforts to play. One fine day, I found myself playing Dead Flowers by the Rolling Stones. It was the first song I could play end to end, all the chords suddenly kicking in.
Travelling between the US and home for the next couple of years, put a damper on progress. In Columbus, OH, on lunch breaks I was drawn to the local music store and then I bought me an electric guitar, a black Gretsch 5120. That stint ended in the spring of 2012 and, I, once again had time on my hands, between consulting gigs in Toronto and Saskatoon.
In July 2016, I gave my first (and only) public performance at the Sangeet for my older son’s wedding. No audio/video of that performance exists, probably because everyone was shocked to the core. One of the songs I remember I was a shaky version of “Wond’ring Aloud” by Jethro Tull. I have not received any requests since then to perform in public, which, possibly, tells me a lot!! 🙂
Lyrics to songs play in a constant stream in my head. I have written some pieces that used lyrics to tell the story. If you want to read them here they are:
In 2017, emboldened by that performance I um spent a goodly sum on a proper acoustic guitar, with pickups, which naturally led to an acoustic amp. In order to save the $9 shipping for a $40 strap for this guitar, I bought me a $110 ukulele… (Yeah, don’t go there!) BTW – there’s an whole entire story about the purchase of the guitar, the angry emails, the accusations of fraud … some other time!!
My older son gifted me a proper tube amp. I found I had a fair amount of equipment lying around from the investments I made for the sangeet. Including a proper electric guitar and an entrylevel 12 string acoustic-electric.
In 2021, my employer and I went through a divorce. Freed from the need to login and hack Powerpoint, I found that the the acoustic was sitting next to me in my office. So in the words of that song, I decided to “pick up my guitar and play”, but better than yesterday. Slowly, I found chords became easier. I learned to play along with the original songs, songs that I knew well. And I started being able to detect chord changes.
I found that recording myself playing helped enormously to figure out how much progress I was making.
With time to spare, I picked up another little skill.
How to splice video clips into a video
And here, ladies and gentlemen is the result of all those experiments!
I learned some valuable lessons. Here are the Top Ten! (Or Eleven. Or Twelve)
- Right hand technique is inconsistent
- Barre chords are sometimes muffled
- Unable to do walks, licks and soloing.
- Mixing art is terrible
- Vocals are not a skill and should be removed
- Camera placement not ideal
- Loose sheets not filed neatly
- Video transitions are cheesy and jumpy
- Bare wall behind affecting mix and overall sound
- Amplifier settings are sub-optimal
- Pedal usage to be fixed
- Video editing is HARD!
But hey!! I have fun!
And I’d like to thank Ujjal for showing up and showing me! If you’re in Kolkata and surrounding areas and you see a musical fountain or a son et lumiere show, he did it… A great sound and light guy!
Now, I keep that old acoustic next to me now in my office at all times. A great stress reliever.