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Edit: My brother won! Thanks for your support!
I know I haven’t been terribly active here, and I do apologize. Life has a funny way of taking unexpected turns, both new and exciting (but oftentimes time-consuming!) so blogging has taken a backseat for now.
However, I really wanted to plug my brother’s work. He produces music under the DJ name Emissary and recently entered Penn Masala’s IPM Remix Competition. Penn Masala is the oldest (and best) collegiate Indian a capella group in the country. They have released several albums and have even been invited to the White House. IPM=Is Pal Mein, one of the tracks off of their album “Panoramic.” Here is the original track.
Here is my brother’s remix: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhcdwOzDqIM&list=UUHTOHkoIesovMlUUdfjXy6A&index=1&feature=plcp
Please “like” and comment on the video, these are both used in the judging process.
Thank you so much for your support!
I haven’t really been keeping track of American Idol as much as I used to in the beginning, until now. I checked it out this season because a friend’s relative was supposed to be competing, and I was blown away by the talent.
Now my friends and my readers know how much I complain about music nowadays. Everyone seems to be cut out of the same, faulty mold. This was no less true for the majority of the American Idol contestants I happened to notice over the years, who represented only varying degrees of mediocrity. The ones who had the most real talent inevitably never won (Jennifer Hudson, Frenchie Davis, and others). Some of the winners who showed some faint glimmer of hope (David Cook comes to mind) never really amounted to much outside of Idol, for whatever reason.
I feel like this season has the strongest talent from the get-go, compared to any other season. Here are a few of my favorites:
Jaycee Badeaux: ADORABLE 15-year old who has the voice of an angel. Need I say more? (go to 0:34)
James Durbin: What’s not to love about him? He has had unbelievable struggles that continue through to this day, and in spite of all of that, he is incredibly dedicated to his craft. His voice sounds like a lot of other voices out there today, but how he uses it is mind-blowing. Another Steve Tyler in the making? (go to 1:01)
Last, but certainly not least…Casey Abrams: Undoubtedly my favorite, and the one I predict will win. He’s all of 19 years old, and a Seth Rogen lookalike, and frankly, I didn’t expect him to sing the way he did. He has such a grasp of the emotional context of whatever song he sings, and can make the song his own with such ease. I have been listening to his Hollywood Week rendition of “Georgia on My Mind” on loop. Yes, it’s that good. Ray Charles would be proud. (go to 0:32)
Frankly if any of them win, I think there’s a pretty good chance that good music will survive and thrive, even if mediocrity continues to be peddled to the masses.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the smaller groups trumped the overly-commercialized and overly-hyped acts like Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. The performances were overall, a lot better than in previous years (though I could have done without the Bieberfest and uncoordinated Usher performance). Janelle Monae, B.o.B. and Bruno Mars killed it, but it was the shortest performance of the night was also undoubtedly the best:
Exhibit A: The Black Eyed Peas Halftime Show (I apologize in advance for just how awful this performance was):
In case the video above is taken down, you can read about it here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110207/ap_on_sp_ot/us_super_bowl_halftime_review
The Who was infinitely better, as was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, even though they were all probably in their sixties or seventies. I’d take an aging rock band over this nonsense any day. Led Zeppelin anyone?
Obviously I’m no expert on football, and I am a Giants fan, so once they’re out of the running, I tend to lose interest. I was kind of hoping for the Jets to make it to the Superbowl, but they choked. So now we have the Steelers vs. Packers. Needless to say, I’m not particularly vested in either team. However, I’m going with the Packers on this one. For Aaron Rodgers to have seen his team through to a Superbowl despite having an uphill battle coming into his own in a place where Favre ruled supreme (and later fell from grace), and making it through despite the ever-present risk of another, possibly more severe concussion, I think the man deserves a Superbowl ring.
I have personally found outsourcing hilarious since I’ve had to contend with it. When calling my bank for information on a credit card results in the guy on the other side (who sounds very much like my Bombay-raised uncle trying to inflect a Midwestern accent) asking me about where in India I’m from and where my parents are from in India, hilarity is just part of the equation. Apparently the powers that be in American mainstream media have picked up on that fact, and in a time where Indian culture has become the new “it’ factor, it is inevitable that outsourcing to India will play into movies and television shows.
I found it interesting that there is a movie called “Outsourced” and a new TV show called “Outsourced.” One is a spinoff of the other. The former was a movie that premiered at the Toronto film festival, the latter will be coming to NBC in the fall. Here is a preview of each:
Outsourced (TV series)
The movie seems charming enough, but I’m not thrilled about the TV series. I want to be excited, it’s an almost all-Indian cast. Yet they’re made to look like idiots, and play into all of the conventional stereotypes of Indian people. Granted yes, that’s the whole point of making a series about outsourcing–to poke fun at the concept itself–but it borders on equating the stereotypes with the culture, rather than using it as a means of disentangling one from the other.
Maybe they’ll take the show in a positive direction much like the movie, but at least based on the trailer, it just seems to be an opportunity to make fun of Indian people, not the concept of outsourcing. That being said, the one shining moment in the trailer for me was when the Indian guy was going on about grits in a perfect Southern accent (2:39 in the trailer). If the show sticks with humor about outsourcing rather than about Indian stereotypes, it could be pretty good. If it doesn’t, though, I’m not sure it’ll make it out of the starting gate.
Oh and for the record, there is no rule of thumb that states that Indian food as a whole is gross and gives people diarrhea. While I’ll admit, some Indian food doesn’t necessarily LOOK appetizing (think aloo palak or anything involving palak), it has something that a lot of other foods lack: flavor. If you can’t handle it, that’s your problem and your loss.
(Yes, this is my first post in quite a while, going to try to make it a more regular thing now that I have time!)
Most of you know my feelings about Lady Gaga’s music: they are less than complimentary. Her first single “Poker Face” was annoying and tacky, and she struck me as just another girl trying to claim a few trashy dance hits and her fifteen seconds of fame. I realized though, as more singles came out and her persona began its almost nonstop evolution, that she is far more complex than that. Whether complexity is a good thing or a bad thing in this case is really a question of personal taste.
I think this became apparent when I was riding with a friend, and she tried to show me that Lady Gaga isn’t all that bad by putting on her acoustic, jazzy version of “Poker Face.” In all honesty (and I hate to admit it) I liked it. There was something more honest and even playful in her delivery. Lady Gaga is best by herself, maybe with a piano, but she continues to churn out songs that, while dance-worthy, have little or no musical soul. Perhaps it seemed like the most profitable route at the time, considering most songs nowadays are judged by their ability to draw people to the dance floor. Yet for all of her supposed innovation, she seems to be just conforming to industry norms, musically. The innovation is apparent in her fashion and music videos. However, innovation, for Gaga, seems to be synonymous with controversy.
I am all for haute couture fashion and having an avant garde approach to style, and while I actually do respect some of her wardrobe choices, some just seem bizarre (cigarette glasses from “Telephone”?). I think innovation should step back, though, when it inexplicable leads you to wear silver lobster headgear. Still, that being said, I did like her Grammy outfit, and her costume for the duet she performed with Elton John, among others.
The real innovation/controversy, though, is in her music videos. They are creative, no doubt, but not really ground-breaking. “Telephone” seemed like one, long commercial for Coke and Miracle Whip. I found myself watching the “Alejandro” video today, because of the buzz it has generated. It was certainly Gagaesque, with its dark, postmodern, dystopian setting and outfits. Her costumes were either exceedingly ornate, or left little to the imagination. This video highlights why she has been compared so emphatically to Madonna, for very obvious reasons. I am not a fan of Madonna, but she did push the envelope in a time when most pop music was still (mostly) squeaky clean. Yet “Alejandro” is “Like a Prayer” but more gothic and sexualized. Sure, it mirrors the Madonna video with its controversial religious images, but it doesn’t have the story that Madonna’s song had. The video felt like equal parts “Like a Prayer” and Rihanna’s “Disturbia” with little else to set it apart. It was a rehashing of old themes and sounds, nothing original.
Even though Gaga is named for Radio Gaga, by Queen–possibly the most truly talented and innovative rock band of the last century–and has earned comparisons to Madonna, a veritable trend-setter, she is just a caricature of either one. Obviously even though I have some background in music, I’m not a musical authority, so this is all pure opinion. You may be asking, “If you dislike her so much, why do you even listen to her music, watch her videos, or keep track of her at all?” The reason is, simply, I’m waiting for something. I know the girl is talented, because I have seen a glimmer of it in past clips in her pre-Gaga days, and occasional songs like the acoustic version of “Poker Face.” Maybe I’m harboring some kind of hope that she will embrace her own talent and not give in to the overwhelming need to restrict her music to satisfy some industry standard, and take her persona so far off the beaten path in order to be relevant in a time when controversy is everything.
This is a plug for my brother’s fledgling rap group, comprised of him and a few of his friends. In this video, they take on high school issues, and seem to be having a lot of fun while doing it. For high school students, they’re pretty good!
Indian music is as varied as India itself, each region boasting its own form. The earliest musical forms served mostly religious and spiritual purposes by exalting a chosen deity. In fact, Indian music probably remained mostly devotional until the rise of cinema.
As someone who learned Carnatic vocal music for many years, the evolution of Indian music is something of particular interest to me. I think it’s fair to say that, in all likelihood, the prevailing musical style prior to the Mughal invasions was probably fairly homogeneous across the subcontinent, probably most resembling present-day Carnatic music. With the invasions came the melding of cultures and the genesis of Hindustani music. The British empire brought violins and harmoniums into the mix.
The last few decades have seen the unyielding march of Westernization into Indian music, with many straying away from more classical forms in favor of heavily Westernized music that seems to define Bollywood nowadays. Now I love Western music, though I have my issues with it as well. Most of it is absolute nonsense and an embarrassment, especially the ones that incorporate sad attempts at English lyrics (I can’t help but listen to “Pretty Woman” and cringe). Some songs, though, are good. These tend to be from films that are themselves critically acclaimed but do poorly at the box office. The majority of them, however, are terrible. Keep Indian music, well, Indian (or as Indian as possible). I’m glad to see there have been very successful attempts to fuse the best of both Indian and Western music.
While bhangra is probably the most obvious example, there have been other areas where Indian music and Western music have struck a healthy balance. I love Sufi music, and Kailash Kher has married that perfectly with Western instrumentation. He recently did an interview with NPR, where he and the rest of his band Kailasa, performed some of the songs off their new album “Yatra.” I strongly encourage you to listen to it. Hariharan, too, has mostly done well blending ghazals with Western instruments to create a new sound.
Another group with perhaps even more of a rustic sound are the musicians that produce music through Morchang Studios. They produce some of the best music I have heard in a while. Granted, my musical tastes (as far as Indian music goes) tends to err more on the conservative side, I’m not sure there’s anyone who can deny that this song, for example, is rendered extremely well by the vocalist (Munshi Khan) and the supporting instrumentalists. The use of the guitar and mandolin further help to set the mood of the song. It also showcases the beauty of classical Indian music, and keeps it alive.
There is beauty in modernization, and applying Western principles, but sometimes blending verges more on destruction of the native art form. Bollywood is a walking example of desecration of Indian music by foolhardy attempts to meld it with Western music, resulting in music that can only be termed as an abomination. It is imperative that classical music is preserved in its pure form (both Carnatic and Hindustani), but change can be good if done right.
This is going to be one of those days, where you look back and think “When I heard Michael Jackson died, I was doing…”
Well, I had just hurriedly rushed out of the C train at Penn, and was making my way to the LIRR track. I checked my Blackberry quickly, and happened to go to Twitterberry, when I saw the string of Michael Jackson-related tweets. My first instinct was to dismiss it as a hoax, though I could feel a lump slowly rising in my throat. This was Michael Jackson they were talking about, had they no shame? How could you suggest such a thing? Yet I decided to confirm it with the New York Times, hoping that it wasn’t true. When I saw that the first article was “Michael Jackson dead at 50″ I wanted to cry. I guess perhaps it’s an odd response to the death of someone who wasn’t exactly close to me. However, he defined my understanding of pop music from the first day I even knew anything about pop music.
Being raised in an Indian household meant there was Indian music most of the time. Michael Jackson represented my first glimpse of Western music. Yet my reaction was more of fear, since the first thing I heard by him was “Thriller” and happened to be watching the music video (keep in mind, I was maybe five or six). Fear, though, gave way quickly to admiration. He was the pinnacle of pop music, and no one has even come close to his skill and success (and no one ever will).
Perhaps I’m more sad because a few friends and I danced to “Thriller” for our senior dance at our Diwali program two years ago. It was a fantastic bonding experience for us, and a great learning experience (Michael’s moves are not easy, unsurprisingly). Michael Jackson is inextricably tied with that experience, and maybe that’s why his death elicited such an emotional response in me.
May he rest in peace, he was the best thing to ever grace the world of pop music. I hope the media is kind to his children, and to his memory.