On Twitter, I recently noticed off one of the people that I follow say, "Pink Floyd is over-rated."
We then put off one terrific argument. Somewhere and all it went. Here, there and everywhere. Meandering only it was. What and all was said, I don't even know. Mattroffact, I don't even remember half the things I said. But what a jolly good fun I had off aa? I said one thing. The other person twisted it and threw it back at me like 'thoo take it'. I then took something they said, twisted it better and put off 'thooo take this now'. The bigger the thooo, the better the argument. Whatay jolly it was.
In the end, even though we argued and argued like anything, no new knowledge was conveyed. But then, what to do, this Twitter is a really silly medium for arguments and learning no? It is for idle chat about weather, recipes, cooking, putting "aaaaw" over kids photos, or putting "aawwww" over a Junior Master Chef contestant, talking about shoes, and cricket scores and for retweeting an article you have never read. Oh! And also about why IPL is a waste of everyone's time.
After that argument and all was over, after going home, I thought about it little bit more. Then I thought off: 'This argument that I had today about Pink Floyd being over-rated is not really different from the opinions that are put during the Chennai music season in December every year.
'Same to same this is, I thought.'
Opinion after opinion you will hear without substantiation. If you push the opinion-giver little bit they just run off.
Many times you will hear from one of the maamis: "X is chumma over-rated only. Why she is getting so much crowd, I only don't know!" The large maami sitting next to her would then often add to this growing body of opinion, "Ya ya. I agree. They only come to see her clothes and her jewels to take off copy of the latest trend. Does anyone in this audience even know music like you and me? And what gaudy clothes this X is wearing anyway? Too jazzy. Tcha. Will refined people even wear these? Her music is as gaudy as her clothes taste no? But what do do? Her fate and neram is good. Anyhow, I think our Mythili has a much better voice."
I would lean forward and ask the thin fellow sitting next to large maami (presumably the underfed and malnourished husband): "Who is this Mythili? Which sabha is she performing in? Do you have her schedule?" hoping to catch a concert or two of a new, hitherto unknown talent. Often this would be met with, "Saar just now only she has reached varnam stage. But what my wife is saying is that Mythili has too much potential. Her potential is like anything only. The peoples in these sabhas have to giu chance no? Full politics saar in this place. Too full. Looks like you are overseas based because you are carrying ruck-sack, putting shorts and carry water bottle. You giu chance for her no in the abroad? Here take. Here is my card. Giu yours no?" I would often just run away from there.
Everyone has an opinion on something or the other during the music season.
This concert in Shastri Hall I still remember from a few years back. Full mosquitoes were fighting with each other to take me with them to the roof where they will not be pushed down by fan-air. Suddenly one bad breath leaned across and said to me: "Youngsters these days are all fed on instant coffee. That's why they are like this. See this fellow singing today? His tempo (kalapramanam) is all too fast. Most places taalam doesn't stand only."
If he did not have such terrible bad breath I may have pointed out to him that the artiste was singing "bala kanaka maya" in atana in the slowest kalapramanam I had heard anyone sing up until that concert. But I kept to myself and thought, 'Why and how do people acquire such incredibly bad breath?' Anyhow, how to argue in the middle of a concert with bad breath while at the same time fighting this mosquito army? I kept quiet only. It is not that this fellow's taalam was any good or something. And he was putting gyaan on taalam of the musician! He was putting taalam along with the song, but like he was in an exam or something, one eye was on my taalam. I can't cover my taalam with a towel to put no? So I put taalam and allowed him to copy. Suddenly lights went off. In Shatri Hall this is a common occurrence. Concert continued. What could this man do? Nothing. No taalam and no pat-pat-pat on his thigh. Lost he was. When the generator went "vrooom" and lights came off, this man's taalam also started off like that only after both eyes and head were near my thigh to see what I was putting.
Some people couch their opinion with somewhat of an apology. One fellow said to me once: "Saar I do not know too much technikel aspects of music and all, but this musician no... I have some advice for him. If you know him, tell him no? His uchcharippu ... you know, pronunciation ... is not good at all." I did not know the musician at all, but I wanted to know more about this "uchcharippu" business. On further questioning he said, "Saar, I don't know about ragas and all. That and all too technikel for me. For me mohanam and bhairavi are all same to same. But Sanskrit is difficult to sing. I know. No one can sing Sanskrit like MS Amma. All these fellows must listen to tapes of MS Amma singing and then go to Sanskrit college and then only come here to sing. In Sanskrit, the initial consonant should be properly aspirated." I felt I needed an aspirin too. I wanted to tell Sanskrit man, 'Dei. Listen to the music no? If you want to hear a Sanskrit lecture, listen to a Krishna Premi devotional lecture or something like that. Why come to a carnatic music concert and complain you did not have much aspirin that morning.'
What raa? Where do we find such people?
And then there are a bunch of people who might know a little bit more and are able to venture an opinion with a little bit more substance. In one concert, one fellow sitting behind me said to his friend, "This musician fellow has such a poor voice. How did he come to such a level. He must be well-connected. Must be influence based no? Whatay poor sruthi shuddam this is. Range-e illai saar. And what a meek voice also no?"
This went on for a while. So I turned around and said, "Saar, clearly you do not have a meek voice. First listen to the concert no? Then you may be able to hear a stronger voice." When he started saying that he had also paid for the ticket, I quietly changed my seat to another place. How to argue against a fellow who says that his payment gave him the right to talk over anything that is being sung and complain that the artiste had a weak voice?
Then there was this fellow who sat next to me in a concert of a young musician. It was an afternoon concert where the young musician launched into a wonderful bhairavi raga. This fellow sat next to me and within a few lines of the raga, started saying that the bhairavi that was being sung was more like maanji. "What is this nonsense? These young fellows must be properly trained and then only sing. This is maanji only" he said. These are rare arguments, but sometimes you do come across precise opinion like this. And this is easy to argue against because you can refute this with observation and fact. This was argument-gold -- a rare opportunity. And so, I immediately pointed to the presence of sgrg phrases, the absence of an elongated dhaivatam in the sndp phrases or the absence (haha, yes, an "eschewing") of the pmpgrs too. I pointed all of this out to this bhairavi-maanji man and said, quite proudly "Saar, so this is bhairavi only."
But this fellow was adamant, "I don't know this-that-all-that. But I know I am right. This is maanji only. To my ear this sounds wrong." I simply said, "Saar, how can I argue with your ear?" and changed seats again.
But as I said, opinion is very cheap during season time. And even outside season time, chumma people will have some opinion or the other. I ask for substantiation of such opinion. But most times I have to argue with the ear of someone. How? People will just put off opinion like "I don't like this person, too much body shake happening". Arre, close your eyes and listen no?
One fellow pronounced a definitive verdict once about a popular musician, "This fellow needs to take a two year break,". A full fight only started off when I said, "Why? You take a two year break from him no? Not possible aa?"
Only last year, during the season, one fellow said to me as we were exiting the venue after a concert: "This fellow's repertoire has been exactly same same for many years now. Same songs again and again he is singing" I said cheekily, "Everyone sings the same mangalam only no Saar?" He got very angry at that point, "You impertinent fellow, you are teasing me aa? I am talking of his entire repertoire. Same songs again and again for two years." I did not think so at all. Indeed, I knew it too. The singer had changed completely from a Kannada based repertoire to an entirely Sanskrit repertoire with lots of aspirin. But I said, "Saar, you must know that the word you used is not pronounced reper-tear," and ran away from there.
But the worst kind of opinion that I generally stay right away from is that which starts with "Back in my days music was..."
That is when I know I really need an aspirin...
-- Mohan (@mohank)
Ps: This piece is quite influenced by @localteaparty who wrote a hilarious piece on "looking good". The above piece started off in a different tone, but the tone was changed somewhat after reading the "Good looks. And then?" piece.