09 Feb 2012
A friend came to me and said, ‘machan! Listen to this da.’
Naturally defensive me. ‘What is it da?’
‘Dai! Listen da!’
Skeptical me. ‘OK.’
I put on a elaborate show of cleaning the ear-buds.
I hit the play button.
There was this most amazing sound with a nasal twinge.
‘What is this da?’
The answer was that it was a morsing.
I did not hear the answer.
Immediately following the morsing was a sound of the ghatam playing. Suddenly, a guitar strum. Suddenly a violin joined in.
I opened my eyes. Five minutes and forty eight had elapsed.
Mind ecology was the piece.
I was hooked.
I looked at my friend. He grinned and said one word. ‘Shakti.’
That was the beginning.
Next, I listened to Peace of mind. I lost track of time. I had heard of music being able to elevate you but I did not believe it. That was the first time I truly felt it.
That was around the time I got an iPod. Unfortunately, I had no access to the internet to download the songs. I contented myself with listening to the few tracks that my friend had on him. In the meanwhile, I did a lot of research about the band, found out the history and found out about Remember Shakti.
I listened to Giriraja Sudha. I then listened to Giriraja Sudha. I then listened to Giriraja Sudha. And then I …. You get the point. Shankar Mahadevan’s epicness with Shakti was a little overwhelming, to say the least.
I then got all the songs and then listened to them over and over and over. ‘Finding the way‘ is a very special track. That was when I fell in love with the kanjira. Selvaganesh’s solo just left me mesmerized. I could not believe that such a simple looking instrument could produce such music. Epic is probably the only word. I subsequently even went out and bought a kanjira (a lizard skin one, not a synthetic skin one but that story is perhaps for another day.)
Anyway, I became a huge fanboi, bought the documentary, the way of beauty (I recommend you buy it too. The best 500 odd Rupees I ever spent in life) and generally evangelized Shakti wherever and whenever I could. All this while, I had this one regret. That I would perhaps never watch Shakti live.
Then came February 2011. Being pretty poor when it comes to Hindustani music, I did not really know who Kishori Amonkar was but there was a two day fest celebrating her 80th birthday, Sahela re. The fest was brilliant with some spectacular renditions of the various gharana styles but I will always remember t for the ending. The fest ended with a taalam kuchcheri. It had Zakir (tabla), Vikku (ghtam), Selvaganesh (kanjira), Bhavanishankar (pakhawaj), Swaminathan (Selvaganesh’s son – kanjira) and Sabir Khan(sarangi). I can still remember the energy of that night. I thought that was the closest I would ever come to see Shakti playing. I was wrong.
Anyway, the reason I remember that so much is because of what happened after the show. It was late and people were leaving. A few people went backstage but were not really allowed into the room where the artistes were. I went backstage and waited for the car park was there and the artistes were scheduled to leave soon. I figured that I could talk to someone. I was right. There was a big mob around Zakir while there was hardly anyone with VIkku and Selvaganesh. I spoke a few words to them but I had to talk to Zakir.
The crowd was too much. Zakir’s tabla was loaded into the boot. He was getting into the car. This was the moment.
‘Zakir!!! Will Shakti ever perform again?’ I shouted.
‘Shakti has been performing, man!’, he replied and then drove away.
That was the story of how I had a conversation with Zakir Hussain.
I still did not have any hopes of watching Shakti live. I have since watched Shrinivas and Selvaganes together but I had all but abandoned hope of ever watching Shakti live. That was until December of 2011 when I saw that link on some website. It said something about there being a Remember Shakti tour. I scoured the net and got the details. There were concert tickets on the net for the ones in Hyderabad but nothing for Chennai.
I called up the Shakti foundation office only to find out that the tickets cost 2000, 3000 and 5000. Oh Oh! Trouble. I tried all avenues to see if I could get passes. Alas! No avail. Well, long story short, I am going to the concert on Saturday and my wallet is lighter by INR 3000. My bank balance is at undergrad levels. Oh well!
Wait. The story does not end there. This is where the sad story starts.
Now, naturally, I started plugging it on twitter and spreading the word in class. No one was interested but I keep telling people again and again that a couple of people said they’d go. Now, they had to go to the Shakti foundation office to get the tickets. All’s OK until now. This is where I die. Slowly.
These people not only got the tickets (which they paid for, of course) but also got tee shirts, some other stuff and … and … passes to the after-event dinner at the Taj with all the performers. Imagine. Standing a couple of feet away from Shakti. Imagine. Now imagine sitting at home. The former is what I will not be doing. The latter is what I will be doing.
Of those two people, one knows about music, the other knows the spelling. Perhaps. I can’t be sure.
All I can think of was something that Calvin had thought of and brilliantly articulated.
No good deed goes unpunished. I have irrefutable proof now.