Friday, November 11, 2005

Rama is (no) punk rocker

In honor of the man who inspired me to give this a try, my first story will be about Rama. Rama is Indian (duh), who has a PhD in chemistry. He is married, with 2 boys and his parents recently came over from India to live with them in their townhouse. Rama has been in this country for a number of years. He seldom talks about himself since he always prods me to talk. He's a heck of a good listener. I should prod him more for his stories.
I listen to a lot of music at work. Recently Rama came over with a CD of Carnatic music. This is music that he had heard in his childhood at his grandfather's house. Live. He says that he can go into a trance listening to the improvised bits. As I was putting the CD in my computer, Rama kept telling me that I would hate it, that my Western ears wouldn't like it. It caught me off guard, because Rama and I are both very inquisitive and open-minded. He has wanted for so long to find someone to share this music that I think he was trying to minimize his anticipated disappointment. I have never been drawn to Indian music, although I am not afraid of non-Western music. I have bought a Tibetan chant CD and had a Gamelan LP way back when. (Oh my, how brave of me! Two whole non-Western albums.)
The singing parts were dense; Rama referenced the Mozart "too many notes" story. There was a singer, sometimes two, a violin-like string instrument and percussion. The singer was singing only the note names, similar to do-re-mi, and kind of gutteral . There were prescribed singing sections and improvised sections. The singing didn't draw me in that much but the strings and percussion were riveting. Rama came over every 5 minutes astonished that I was still listening.
Meanwhile, I had lent the great Rhino punk box set to our local Scotsman, Steve. Steve was handing it back to me as Rama passed by. Rama started asking about the music, and we threw out adjectives like loud, fast, angry, rebellious. We knew Rama would not like it and we were joking about the over/under on how many songs he would last. I thought that a nice mathematical progression would be 4 songs on disc 1, 3 on disc 2, etc. It turns out that our man listened to one whole side. He commented that he thought he was connecting to the music on one or two songs but then the connection faded very quickly.
I had a visual image of Rama driving down the road listening to "California Uber Alles" and doing the chicken thing with his head a la Wayne's World. Steve gave him Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" and by the end of the day, Rama was on his third listen.
East is East and West is West and the twain shall meet sometimes.

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