Thursday, April 24, 2008

Of Balladeers and Dreamers

Music does these strange things. It cuts across boundaries. While words tend to have walls around them when you mix music and turn words into lyrics, they suddenly get wings. They reach out and tug at heart strings. The MTV office at Time in New York is a favorite destination for musicians to strut their stuff hoping some talent scout from the office would listen and give them their big break. i am not aware of anyone actually getting their break like that. But heck, New York is the city where dreams are bought and sold everyday. I have stood by mesmerized by the sound of a bunch of musicians from Andes playing their folk tunes on pan pipes accompanied by an electric guitar powered by a makeshift car battery and a set of drums. I have seen an African American drummer play the drums on a set of plastic paint barrels. I remember missing my train to watch a group of teenagers from Harlem show the world what break dancing was all about. And of course who can forget the Naked Cowboy stand in the middle of Time Square in his underwear and have a bunch of screaming hysterical teenagers line up to photograph themselves with him.
Last evening I went to see Sushmit Bose perform. He calls himself an urban folk musician. Sometimes I see him being referred to as an urban folk balladeer. It is difficult to imagine this person once sported shoulder length hair and wrote protest songs. Well he still writes songs and I guess he still protests against a range of issues. He briefly mentioned Tibet and then also sang a song protesting against the inhuman treatment given to stray dogs in Kerala. He sings about urbanization and the loss of soul etc. His songs are set to simple chords and will inevitably remind listeners of the sounds of Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger. The only tragedy was that when he finally sang Blowing In The Wind, he mixed up the lyrics. This is where his guitarist and banjo player Deepak Castelino stepped up to the mike and sang along with the crowd.
Sushmit was accompanied by Deepak Castelino - one of the finest guitarists I have heard. Many years back when Deepak was still in college, I watched him on TV singing Me and Bobby McGhee. His flawless strumming and deep baritone voice has only matured over the years. Deepak worked for fifteen years in the corporate sector and left it in disgust to pursue music. He composes and teaches music to children. I loved his composition called Corporation (which he calls कर परेशान meaning Make Miserable)। May his tribe increase. Maybe someday I will get a chance to learn from Deepak not just how to play the guitar but how to chase my dreams.