When the music died...
Why MIchael Gomes is not as passionate about music today
After a hard day's toil, I often sit down and zone out even while binge-watching my favourite TV shows (that's if my wife hasn't drawn up a list of errands). Recently, as I was watching a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, I began pondering over a late night show in a parallel universe, hosted by Shakespeare (yes the bard himself). A show in which William, who now goes by the pseudonym Will-E, interviews the most important celebrity in the universe called South East West aka Ye Man (your modern day hip-hop star). You know what I'm getting at, right!
The episode with Ye Man played out like this: Ye Man, with his gangsta's gait, walks into the set, plonks himself on the sofa, waves out to viewers and takes on Will-E's questions. Head held high up in the air, Ye Man, confidently responds to all of Will-E's questions with a touch of swagger (as he is known to) until he's stumped by the last question. "I heard it's rather hard to create music, it's a complex task," asks Will-E.
"I mean that's what I always thought when I heard Mozart or artistes of a similar nature."
Ye Man looks to the heavens, a little lost; he then smirks and pulls out his fav bright red 'Make America Great Again' (thinking) cap and places it on his neatly-shaved tattooed skull and replies: "Well, actually, it's really hard you know, but not for me. All ya gotta do is getta (sic) hold of a beat producer ya know. I mean if that's asking for too much, then grab a Mac or something, smash some buttons on the keyboard on some app that creates beats, and voila, you've got a sick jam bro.
"Next, whatcha gotta do is talk into the mic ya know, and record some gibberish lines, no connections, just hurl a few abuses, throw in some autotune and that's it, it's done. Ya got yourself a hit there! It's easy ya know to get yourself a Pulitzer now. And the most important thing (he pauses), it's the music video. Heck! Make it hot and raunchy - it's easy. I may even run for the office next year ya know, or maybe my missus will."
Unfortunately, Ye Man will never know the value of real music. But that's reality today, that's what your typical Ye Mans are... so-called superstars of the music world who draw legions of fans via their social media status, not their music.
If music is food for the soul, then I have to honestly admit that I lost my soul aeons ago. Being an ardent music disciple of the post 'Flower Power' era, I've spent my entire teens passionately chasing music - be it gatecrashing a Police gig back home in Mumbai (used to be broke those days), borrowing rock records from friends or performing (I did play for a band at one time) on stage with borrowed guitars (owning a guitar was a luxury those days). So I guess I know a thing or two about 'real' music. I belong to an era when artistes made, and we followed music passionately!
There's perhaps a flicker of passion still left in me that fires me up now and then. It makes me revisit my old music collection. On a quiet Friday morning, if you were to step outside my door you may hear some '70s, '80 or '90s rock anthems blaring out of my stereo. However, I must admit that such occasions are rare and few. I don't come across infectious stuff anymore that would make me dash to the record stores. Even concerts, with 'real' bands playing live, have dried up. What you get is artistes lipsyncing or faking performances. You surely have big stadium rock bands out there but concerts by them have become far and few in between.
Come to think of it, the word 'rock' has become synonymous with any genre of music these days. I often hear millennials brag about, and ever dare to refer to Kanye and Post Malone as rock stars. Nothing wrong with that (for them), but they perhaps need to get their facts, and heads, checked out. I suppose with all the head-banging they do to some obscure tunes, they must have managed to change the way their brains are wired. Get real bro!
Coming back to what made my passion fade, if I have to narrow it down to just one thing, then I have to say electronic or studio manufactured music does not excite my ears at all. Agreed, as in everything else, innovation is the key, so music too must progress and things have become more refined with the advancement of technology. But surely not in this fashion. It's similar to consuming laboratory-produced chicken that's been spiked with antibiotics.
I yearn for those glorious verse-laden poems of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez or Leonard Cohen, the catchy riffs of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven, the heart-warming harmonies of Simon & Garfunkel and Crosby Stills... I am not saying that music produced today is not music at all, what I'm asking is, where is the soul? Even a 'disco' number from the '60s or '70s, would give dancehall tracks of the times a good run for its money.
Going back in time and my experiences with music here, I clearly remember landing in Dubai decades ago as a young, high-spirited, rocking 20-something. My first purchase, within my first month here, was a Walkman. Mighty thrilled to get my hands on what was considered a technological wonder those days, I set out about town looking for 'my kind of music'. Depression set in as I found record stores here catering purely to a pop-crazed clientele. No more Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Yes or Hendrix. How I hated those stores in Deira's Sabka area or Bur Dubai's Al Fahidi Street for force-feeding me pop stuff, and I had no choice but to buy those albums to keep my expensive Walkman running.
That was the turning point in my passion for music - the downslide had begun. Fast forward to today, what am I being offered - Ye (Kanye), Cardi B, Bieber and the likes. My ears pop out and get blocked (like when you're flying) when I listen to some of the artistes of the times. I switch off and pacify myself by humming Woodstock era tunes.
I yearn for original, organic music that livens my soul. I yearn for music that makes me want to sing along, headbang or sway. I believe life comes full circle and I strongly believe music too will come full circle, back to my time, in my time...
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