Monday, January 2, 2017

Jottings: Slice of life - 82 ( A musical caricature - Mariah Carey at times Square)

Jottings: Slice of life - 82 ( A musical caricature - Mariah Carey at times Square)
It is a matter of shame what happened at Times square on New Years eve. Mariah Carey, one of the finest voices to bloom in American music industry during the late eighties, decked in feathers and furs on a cold Newyork night , fumbled, stumbled, looking surprised and confused at the same moment, wandered around the stage completely lost, unable to bring out a single note of quality , and more importantly stood musically exposed and naked in front of millions watching the farce, the artificiality and the utter delusion that goes in the name of public performances in mainstream western music.
Last week, when I wrote about George Michael, and how in my scale he wasn't the great singer many make him out to be, the underlying current of my thinking was this utter inability of these so called musical superstars to maintain the purity of their art or sanctity of a gift bequeathed to them, over reasonable periods of time. They all seem to twinkling stars for a couple of years with one or two good songs or albums, and when fame and money overtakes their fragile psyche, they lose control of their lives. Profligate life styles, drugs, divorces and undending visits to plastic surgeons to keep them youthful , takes away the discipline, commitment or the desire to nurture and refine their skills. Its not that they are not talented. They definitely are. But of what use is talent and genius if one cannot hold it sacrosanct and have the dedication to explore its full potential.
It is characteristic of the kind of world we live in that true art doesn't matter any more. All we need is our icons to appear all manicured and pedicured, perform ,yell, sweat and allow technology to do the rest. The Mariah Carey I glimpsed in the video this New years eve was not even a patch of that young girl ,who sat cross legged on a bar stool couple of decades ago on MTV unplugged, with a mike firmly held in her hands, only a single guitar note giving her the lead, and her beautiful, caressing voice travelling from low to high octaves with effortless ease and precision singing songs from her beautiful album “Emotions”. When I close my eyes, I can still visualize the young curly haired girl with a natural smile enjoying every note that came out her throat, and singing with consummate skill.
It is coincidental , for some reason, I was listening to Lata Mangeskar’s collection of songs recorded during her historic performance in Royal Albert hall in 1974. She was the first artist of Indian origin to sing on that hallowed stage. The floors of the stage at that time were made of finest hard wood, and the temperatures within the auditorium very kept very low, further accentuating the stinging chillness of the wooden floors. Nobody ventured up the podium without foot wear or adequate woolens. It was considered impossible without protective clothing to stand and perform at ones peak without numbing cold creeping into ones bones rather quickly. But Lata Mangeskar, as a principle never wore any footwear while performing on stage. It is more out of mark of respect for the art that has given her sustenance and life, than anything else. Despite numerous entreaties from organizers, fellow travelers and musicians, she politely refused to change her mind. At the appointed time, she ascended the stage with resounding applause from a packed audience , draped gracefully in her trademark cotton saree with light border, bare footed, looked down and stood transfixed in deep prayer for few moments in front of the mike, bowed and began singing. She sang continuously for a hour and half without a note slipping even the slightest of octaves, barely moving a limb by way of inconvenience. The only bodily activity apart from her golden throat effortlessly scaling musical improbabilities was her hand occasionally readjusting her saree over her small cherubic face, and nothing more. The world stood up in awe after the last note faded into space and immortality. The recording engineers stood in disbelief when they reviewed the vocal graphs their computer programs had generated. There was hardly a flaw, they had in hand the most perfect specimen of singing voice ever recorded by them.

The reason I mentioned Lata’s performance was only to illustrate the discipline required to stay high up in any art, or for that matter in any walk of life. Somehow many of mainstream western musicians, with the exception of Country and Jazz artists, seem to have lost that quality of sustaining themselves over length of time. Caught in the gloss and rich life style music affords, their art takes a back seat. And the worst thing is that they end up embarrassing and humiliating themselves like Mariah Carey did few nights ago.
Lets not forget : being artistic is a gift, not given to all. To those who possess it, they must try hard to keep that flame intact. While it is not possible that everyone who is talented will live up to their potential, all that we are saying is do not go our of your way to spoil it. Now, thats not a difficult ask for anyone with little intelligence and common sense.
God bless..
Yours in mortality,
Bala

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