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Sebastian and Sons

One man’s noise is another’s music.

When I was listening to classic rock, alternative rock and metal, I could never fathom why people needed any other genre. Ok – maybe western classical had utility as ‘white noise’ backdrop to intense intellectual concentration.

When I started dating the gal who would become my wife, jazz entered my life too. You see, she was mildly interested in the genre so I crash-coursed my way through a diet of Coltrane, Ellington, Davis, Mingus, Armstrong, and Brubeck. Before long, we were catching concerts by biggies (Brubeck, Jarrett, etc) and the upcoming (Nic Payton, Fareed Haque). So many reasons to be grateful for having met this woman when I did and jazz was certainly one of them.

I drew the line at country music and rap/hip-hop — these were genres I just didn’t ‘get’ and (I told myself) I never would.

Then I watched Walk the Line. Soon thereafter I bought At Folsom Prison and I just LOVE that album. And last year, Gully Boy made me cross the hip-hop line as well.

Within a music genre also, there are certain artists/forms you don’t appreciate right away.. then suddenly, years later, you might be listening to that album for the Nth time and you’ll be like “Wow! That is so incredible.. why didn’t I feel this way earlier?”

Carnatic music is my latest ‘last bastion’ to appreciate. TM Krishna, in a recent interview, perfectly sums up the artist listener’s evolution that we amateur listeners can also appreciate:

I was telling somebody the other day that something that was noise to me a few years ago has become music. Now that’s the day I knew as to how we define these two things. My inability to recognize it as music was actually my inability to shed my aesthetic bias. That’s it.

I’ll give you a very classic example that lives within the elite world. To a Hindustani musician, Carnatic musicians seem besur (off-key). Simple. Why? Because they just don’t know how to listen to Carnatic music. To us, Makhaam music sounds besur, because we don’t know how to enter that culture. I’m giving you elite examples purposely, to show you how it constitutes every section. So imagine how difficult it is if it’s down the discriminative ladder of society. That is an important aspect that we need to investigate.

TM Krishna’s interview is thought-provoking for other reasons too. I rarely do impulse purchases anymore but I ordered Sebastian & Sons immediately after reading the interview.

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