Saturday, 21 January 2017


[This post can be read independently. But if you are interested, the story starts here:]

We found ourselves immersed in music and celebration from the moment we stepped into Millenium Park that Saturday afternoon.

Millenium Park is a fairly large and very well maintained recreational park. The organizers had set up four stages of which there were three relatively small ones that featured a variety of bands through the afternoon while the fourth larger stage was dedicated to feature performances in the evening. Ruth Brown was scheduled to perform a little after eight in the evening that day at the large stage and we were all eager to see and hear her perform. But there was a whole lot of music to be appreciated before that and the five of us were happy campers.

The different stages were set up sufficiently apart from each other to ensure that the sound emanating from any one did not interfere with the performances underway at the others. I suppose this also had to do with the directions in which the stages faced and the volume levels maintained at each stage. One could thus enjoy a performance at any one stage thoroughly for as long as one wished and walk over to another whenever one wanted to check another band out.

(Just close your eyes and imagine for a moment how it would feel if we could create the same ambience once every year in every state of our country for Indian folk and classical music and dance. That would make it twenty nine large scale Indian music festivals in the country every year, each lasting two days over a weekend and featuring dozens of Indian musicians and dancers. What a revival and expression of our culture, art and heritage that would be!)

Homesick James (a slide guitar player; and yes, that must've been his nickname :)) and Henry Townsend (singer, guitarist and  pianist) came up on one of the stages about when we reached. Here are a couple of songs by them that you may enjoy: We leaned back in our seats and enjoyed listening to these two gentlemen for a while. This was perhaps the realest (I know I'm just coining a word but its apt) blues I'd heard, and not on a CD or cassette tape, but live and straight from two old blues men.

Meanwhile, Deitra Farr was singing on another stage with Johnny Rawls accompanying her and we wanted to listen to them too. So after a while we got up quietly, gave Homesick James and Henry Townsend an imaginary tip of the hat, and made our way there.

Here you go, here's a Deitra Farr song for you:

She can sing, yes? And it would be something to see her live, yes? Live music rocks, yes? That's what I keep telling folks. We need to take the live music scene in our country to the next level.

And I'm keen on seeing a greater thrust to live performances of music and dance that are outright indigenous. Folk as well as classical. I touched upon the classical aspects of our music and dance forms in the last chapter. Let's explore a bit of Indian folk music and dance here.

Here's an example of a folk song from Rajasthan: Here's one with music and dance: Here's another song from Rajasthan: Here's some Punjabi folk music: And some dance:

I'm giving examples of folk music and dance from the northern part of India because that is where I hail from and this is what I'm more familiar with. But I have no doubt that there is a very rich texture of folk music and dance to be found no matter where one goes in India. Do take a moment and find out more about folk music and dance indigenous to your part of the country. I'm sure that if you look, you'll find people who can tell you about it, you'll find audio and video recordings, there's possibly stuff uploaded on youtube, you'll find books and biographies.  It's so important, at least in my book, to know about where one hails from, not just geographically but also culturally. Then we embrace everyone else. South embraces the North, West embraces the East, different nations and cultures embrace each other. Embrace, not fight :). But first, know thy roots :). At least that's my way :).

And what I'm talking about is bringing all our art forward through regular live performances across the country. Maybe some of our musicians and dancers have already adapted to the modern day performance paradigm. Maybe some will need a little assistance. And maybe for some we agree to meet half way. But in every city, town and village: let there be regular performances of Indian folk as well as classical music and dance. It will not only help in bringing these artists up and having these art forms  vibrant and thriving again but also give us opportunities to step out in the evenings, interact with other people in our communities and celebrate our lives.

That would be something, wouldn't it?

But yes, as I said in my last post as well, for this to happen in a sustainable manner, which in turn requires that it be economically feasible for the artists, we have to be willing to spend money to buy tickets for these performances. For most of us this requires only a small mindset shift. We simply have to be as willing to spend on the finer things in life as we perhaps are for spending on material goods: expensive hotel and restaurant food, designer clothes, cars and jewellery.

But coming back to the blues festival for now :)...Deitra Farr was singing with Johnny Rawls accompanying her. Here's some Johnny Rawls for you:

There was another old school blues musician, David "Honeyboy" Edwards playing that afternoon. We decided to go listen to him for a while before heading to the large stage for that evening's feature performances. Here's one by him for you to enjoy till the next part of this series of posts comes up. He's the grandpa in the center and was 94 years old when this was recorded. That's some spirit eh?

Here goes...enjoy:

As you watch each of the above videos, just close your eyes for a moment and imagine, just imagine :), what we could do with our art and heritage if we want to :)!

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