I have started taking guitar lessons. Today was the first day, and I learnt the intricacies of holding a guitar and the plectrum right. Also where all the notes lie on the fretboard. I wonder how I never thought of learning before, since I have always been interested in music from childhood. I can tell if someone plays a note wrong and I think I have a taste for good music. But I don’t understand any of its theory, which I want to learn now.
When I was in my hometown, Bhilai, one day I heard ‘Nothing Else matters‘ by Symphony orchestra and Metallica on TV, and I was hooked. I had been listening to hindi songs on chitrahaar and tapes of malayalam songs till then. But this was something new. I and a friend scoured all over Bhilai to get the metallica tape. We failed. Opportunity came when I got a chance to go to Bhopal. This was when I was 15 year old. And this was also the first time I was traveling without adult supervision. This trip would remain in my memory because this was also the first time I had beer on the eve of my NTSE state level exams. In the slightly drunk excited, I dragged two of my companions who were also in the same state, through Bhopal’s slightly hipper shopping area. Here I did find my S&M tape.
I played that tape continuously at my home till got thrashed by my mom for driving her mad with it. Getting into college gave me accessibility to LAN and the internet, which broke away all the constraints. There was GBs and GBs of classic rock at the distance of a few minutes. If there was a constraint it was one’s own curiosity. But one thing that the collection lacked was diversity. I hardly saw jazz or the newly popular genres like trip hop or punk, or trance. And since there was nothing which could suggest new genres or songs, like last.fm now does, I had to find my own way of discovering new music. The normal and the most common way is that you know about songs from your friends or acquaintances. But here comes the problem that since it is difficult to have very different circle of friends, most of them are listening to the same thing. So the songs just pass around like musical chairs. One way which I found worked was this: when I heard a score which I liked in a movie, I researched about the soundtrack and downloaded it. This raised the curtains for me from people like Mulatu Astatke, who I discovered from the movie Broken Flowers. Other finds were Goran Bregovic from Arizona dream, Caetano Veloso from a brazilian movie I forgot the name off, and so on.
Apart from movies I found one channel on fm radio which also stood out. Problem with ordinary fm channels are, they are ear hungry. Their business plan wants more and more people to hear their programmes so that they can get more ads and so on. So they play it safe and only play what most people like. But ‘All India radio’, government funded, can do what they want. This has both positives and negatives, not having to care what the people think leads to some really boring shows. While also on the other hand, in some cases it really helps. There are a few shows on AIR fm channels, late at night mostly between 12 to 1, which are phenomenal. I guess this is how it happens. Whoever is incharge needs someone to host a show with ‘western music’. They find an expert, and then they give the full reins to that person. Most other channels also get paid to play the newly released bollywood tracks or the newly released popular among the masses western track. So this freedom gives the all india radio RJ full control and thus new songs to us. I discovered tracks like above the clouds by slightly stoopid, midnght flight by yeti, the entire genre of triphop, like Portishead and Morcheeba. Among them was one of the best covers of ‘take my breath away’ in Hollywood Mom amour.
And when I found out about torrents, there was no stopping me. One way is to go to a torrent site and if you want popular music look at the most number of seeds. Or just download a few tracks of random bands. Some music which I found this way would include a czech ska band called ska n daal, and a ukrainian band calledlyuk.
So tell me, how do you discover new music?