Behind those large king-like royal red curtains, I saw a glimpse of what I’d love to be, a dream almost touchable and true. The music echoed more elegantly than ever. But now every next step takes me away from that stage reminding me the reality. It’s over! I pack up my keyboard neatly in its case. In that bent posture, I look behind and try to relive the excitement and ecstasy. Then I lift my guitar to detune it wondering whether this dream really can be detuned.
Another day, I found myself rushing to catch the 12:39 slow local to Andheri from Dadar. Suddenly, a gentle, melodious and sweet sound caught hold of my ear. On my left, was standing a blind beggar piping his flute beautifully. I paused for two seconds and then continued to run. Within few moments that music got muffled away in the noise around. Wondering whether I could one day hire him to play for me or if we could just sit together and write some beautiful music, I looked behind searching for him. But the crowd thronged, covering me with the grim realities of life.
Another day, I found myself watching a movie. August Rush. The movie was about a small boy who realized his talent for music and went on to become a prodigy. It made me smile. Gentle shivers ran through my body. Every second reminded of my childhood fantasies and dreams. It felt like my dreams were being sketched behind those glassy screens. Soon the movie ended. The screen went blank. It felt like waking up from sleep. Will my dream just remain a dream?
Dreams. They envision us to accomplish great feats in life. I dreamt about becoming a great musician. As a child, music didn’t mean anything much to me. Piano classes, though interesting, felt a little like a punishment. I dreamed of playing the piano well but that demanded hardwork which I couldn’t give. If at all I listened to songs, they were Christian. Secular songs were a strict ‘no-no’ at home. So with no much exposure to music, music wasn’t appalling at all.
Then it all began to change as I entered college. With music more or less a fashion, the need to adapt to the current society’s trends and choices in music were felt. So in that attitude I began trashing songs which didn’t match up to that level. To that my friend advised me, “You really can’t judge the song by how much it appeals to you. This song would have actually touched someone else.” True, in my attitude was a complete disregard to the inspiration and labor behind the making of that song. But what really made me think was that the song would’ve touched someone else!
Every song carries a special tune and rhythm which appeals to certain groups of people. For example, a band which I love, Mokshraag, writes songs which have a North Indian style of music in them. To the North Indians, those songs are THEIR songs. They can very well connect to the lyrics of the song mainly because the song was composed in their own music. It took me time to understand this that if a song isn’t appalling to me, it doesn’t need to be bad, simply because every song is not written for me.
I’m reminded of the time we taught in Sunday school a song, ‘What if Cartoons got saved?’ It was a different kind of song, more hippy and choreographed than the normal Sunday School songs. “WHAT???...Cartoons?” they exclaimed. They beat their ears again and said, “Cartoons??” They had all the difficult times making their cramped-up bones doing those actions (you know teenage problems). But lastly time ran out saving them from more self-made embarrassment.
“Arrghhh…what is that noise?? It’s giving me a headache!”
“Just chill maa…wait I’ll change the song.”
This isn’t an unusual scene at home when I play Rock music aloud. My parents can’t stand Rock music. In similar views, my grandmother finds all English songs unspiritual when compared to her Malayalam songs. Some of my friends can’t digest jazz or blues. Others prefer oldies and conventional choir performances.
I would believe that a song can be better evaluated by its lyrics, can’t it? In church the favorite song amongst the Hindi speaking brethren is “Yeshu tu acha hai…” I would wonder why they loved that song so much. It really didn’t have any of those profound lyrics I was searching for. But yet, it was their ‘national anthem’.
Different people, different tastes; different generations, different likings; different songs, different groups! But yet, something in common – music. Music is like a work of art! From the greatest Maestros and prodigies in music to the insignificant beggar who pipes his flute to earn his living, music is painted in these beautiful and diverse colors. It can make the listener dance, laugh, cry or even dream along with the artist. This common language enjoins the diversity in us humans hailing from different backgrounds, to make music the thump and rhythm of our heartbeat.
To appreciate music just as it is was a lesson important though difficult to understand and accept. And yet I’m still learning. All these rules could be very well applied to Christian songs and safely, that too. But secular songs?
Once I found myself in a group of shocked and alarmed people when I was caught casually humming a secular song. It was a by-product of the rules written bold and loud: “No secular music. Full stop.” Why? Well, it does not edify, bad lyrics, they are not Christian; are the couple of notable reasons.
However, there are so many secular songs with beautiful lyrics and superb music. For me to simply accept those reasons were difficult. But is this why I listen to secular music; for good music? I asked myself. Hmm…difficult to answer. Honestly, I never much listened to secular songs. If at all I listened to them, I listened to only those that my friends thought were good. It was an unknown compulsion or say, a pressure that made me want to listen to secular music. To hear all my friends talk about different songs and I stand amongst them clueless was disheartening.
But my whole funda of listening to secular music gradually changed as my interest to learn better music developed. I began searching for songs right from the oldies to the modern age music through all artists and genres. It didn’t matter if others thought it good or not, I began developing my own taste. But there were songs that influenced me otherwise from which even now I prefer keeping a distance. Some of those songs directly affect the weakest areas of my spiritual life, from which I caution myself even more.
Hmm…ok. Today I listened to Elvis Presley, Hillsong, Pink Floyd, Ernie Ford, Steven Curtis Chapman and Switchfoot. It’s funny you know, because a few years back I wouldn’t have even heard of these people or listened to such kind of music.
Music has revolutionized you and me. Yesterday while travelling by bus, I saw an old man plugged in listening to music. An old man!!?? I wonder what song he would have been listening to. Music has that something in it which attracts everyone whether young or old to listen to it. Most of the time, I listen to music because it simply delights me. At that time, I really don’t bother to follow the lyrics, neither I’m worried about the technicalities behind the music, but just want to sit back and enjoy music as it is.
Once in college, my friend once grabbed my mp3 player and started listening to some songs on it. I geared myself to answer all his possible queries because the songs on it were Christian. After a couple of minutes, he looked up surprised and said,
“Man!!...I’ve never heard of these artists…”
“Yeah…I know…” looking a bit put-off, I said gearing up for more embarrassment.
“But this is good music!”
“Ehh…what…You like them?” shocked, I said.
“Yeah…what kind of music is this?”
“They are Christian…Christian Rock…”
“I really like them…Can you give me some of them?”
Now doubly shocked, I was amazed at the sudden change of events. My expectations were crushed and I began redefining what I thought cool and not. Christian Rock is cool, I asserted! It didn’t matter to him that those songs were Christian. What attracted him was the music. Interestingly, he still likes those songs and shows interest for more. More importantly, one day maybe through these songs I’ll be able to communicate the gospel of Christ!
Can I? Is it possible? I play the ‘G’ chord on my piano. I hear it echoing through the auditorium. “Wow that is melodious!” On stage is my college band. Next is our performance. The red curtains lifts.