Dear Real Musician,
As far as I know, sound has something to do with music.
I’m told there actually was a time when it used to be everything there even was about music but that changed once humans developed methods to capture sound in physical material. A lover of euphony might even call this another addition to humankind’s vast inventory of abominations, for despite being a boon for natural talent, it suddenly empowered hordes of pesudo-singers and quasi-guitarists and scavengers of catchy phrases to sound beyond decent through vinyl, unlike their attempts at aurally filling full-house theatres or lounges or stadia. Public performance lost its position as the primary method of proliferation for music. But that was actually fine.
The beauty of this change was that a lot more people could reach music now, and for that reason alone, music turned into the commoner’s everyday repose as gradually as it ceased to be the connoisseur’s occasional delight.
And slowly, everybody was in contact with it, someway or the other. Everybody needed it, like they needed groceries. It was now that one aspect across many cultures which equalized people of all makes, because good sound was good sound irrespective of the specifications of its creator.
Nonetheless, the businessman, who’d made money selling groceries up until now, discovered yet another marketable item. So music was made available in stores, like groceries. Of course people had paid to watch performers in flesh up until then too, but the money made through that pales in comparison to the revenue millions of records, each worth at least a few dollars, were now generating from all around the world. Simultaneously, this also created an increased circulation of the artists’ names, which too served to attract much-larger-than-ever-known-before crowds to concerts from then on. And thenceforth, the businessman brimmed his vaults by living off of artists, who wouldn’t see this from under a blindfold of wealth, renown, and accolade, which, of course, the businessman used as a shield to his prosperity. This was a few decades ago.
I can’t really tell apart the musician from the businessman.
The lust for opulence muddles people’s minds. They want to sell more than sing, write, or play now, and sell they do. Everyone wants to create a few digital 3 to 4 minute audio files that contain all the elements statistically proven to be in demand by urban consumers (because music is “consumed” now), and call it an album so it sells.
Today, music is predominantly about:
- A computer-generated electronic beat intro,
- Followed by singing the artists’ names (just in case we mistake this guy for one of the other guys, who sound exactly like this guy),
- Having an stage name with at least one ‘X’ or ‘Z’, or some non-alphabetical characters,
- A stranded rap verse for the bridge (preferably about “shawties”, “hoes”, “bitches”, “booty” and general badassery),
- A video with expensive cars and well-endowed models in revealing outfits,
- OR a video with a sad looking couple who just won’t get back together,
- A high pitched “Oh gurrrll, I wanna [*insert arbitrarily romantic/sexual action*]… Tonight.”,
- Collaborations with famous artists from lightyears outside your own genre to boost your own customer base and record sales,
- Dating other famous people to make news, and then selling albums about them once you’re dumped, thus, making news again and basking in media attention because extra publicity just means more sales,
- Wearing/Barely wearing/Not wearing clothes/supposedly-clothes, also, to make news,
- Deliberately acting strange at talk shows and award shows, again to make news,
- Creating needless controversy through matters as nonsensical as naming a child after an ordinal direction, still to make news,
13. Basically, just creating a marketable image out of yourself, and selling it to the largest consumer group available.
All of these things happen because the music INDUSTRY, just like any other industry, will manufacture products meant for mass consumption by the common majority. Like McDonald’s. The common majority, no matter what, will always, always want McDonald’s, or in this case, its musical equivalent. And just like any chef knows that McDonald’s really is culinary sacrilege, any real musician will almost always have a strong aversion to contagious, yet vapid tunes that hold massive appeal to just about everyone else. But I’m not even complaining that most people will always go for McDonald’s, literally and metaphorically.
The tragedy I seek to address here is the lack of appreciation and acknowledgement of real musicians, which destroys too many of them as musicians. Too many jazz singers rap about ‘hoes’ and ‘shawties’ just because it is the real thang. In my hometown, too many Blues guitarists join metal bands just because it’s the only thing there. Too many actual poets are now lyricists for Bollywood (and one even ended up writing “साइला रो साइला रे, क्या बोला फिर बोल रे” Translation: Line 1- *completely meaningless syllables that rhyme with the second line*, Line 2 – Excuse me? Come again?). I say this even though I do love rap, and metal, and many Hindi/Urdu lyrics.
Because to put aside your own vocation to adhere to the popular is wrong, dear Real Musician.
Now, I’ll admit this. I’m probably NOT a fellow real musician. Hell, maybe I’m not even close to being any kind of musician at all. I’m not ridiculously talented, unlike you. (Yes, you are. You might not know it yourself, but you are.) I don’t possess any expert’s profundities. I might be wrong about everything I just said. Maybe the world is just fine and it’s me, a dilapidated, obsolete anachronism in the 21st century music scene, who is desperately unable to deal with the change of eras. Millions believe a musician’s worth is measured by the appeal he holds to his audience, and that that is a truth eternal. While I do disagree, I do not have a universally absolute counter for that. I don’t expect any unbiased person would. For some, music is the only means they are capable of earning a livelihood through. For them, music is about money, and as long as that is a reality, it is likely that my opinions are exceeding the limits of audacity that a simpleton is allowed.
I can’t help it anymore though. Because it’s one thing to monetize music, and completely another to deprive an entire global generation of the intellectual growth they could be given through it.
Yes. Music always has been, and will be, the refuge of the heartsore, but back in the day, it was also the sermon of the philosopher — powerful enough to ignite revolutions against decades old hegemony. It broke out like wildfire as the cry of the outraged till the whole empire trembled. And alongside this, music eradicated hatred between entire generations, serving as the anthem of the benign and joyful. That, dear Real Musician, is the power of music. That is the power that you wield. That could be the worth of your gift. That is the passion you are capable of, and that very well could be your calling in life . I am simple-minded. All I’ve ever thought of music is as something of a journey you make to yourself, and an expression you make of yourself, through a sort of a helix of words and sounds, all seamlessly blent into a harmony that holds the strength to shake gods in their thrones when projected with purpose.
But now your anaconda don’t want none unless she got buns, hun?
Dear Real Musician, don’t accede to popular demands — they’re nothing but traps of conformity. Don’t indulge in hunts for praise and approval. And do not ever succumb to the rebukes of the musically illiterate. All you should care about is finding a sonic manifestation of your ideas, your beliefs, your identity. All you should search for is that perfectly woven melody, through any and all avenues you can take. All you should make of this gift is a blessing for the world somehow. And all that your creations should be are an expression of you, and the disparate states of your mind. This can all happen! But only when you find yourself in a sound, and you recognize that sound as an extension of yourself, and you create more of it, and from it. Find that sound, Real Musician, and stay faithful to it. You can go ahead and experiment all you want. And you should, actually — it is imperative for growth, but don’t ever forget which sound really defines you, the sound you come back home to after your dates with of all the world’s genres. And although it may seem like no one likes your brainchildren at first, eventually you’ll discover the people who you’ll realize you’d been writing/singing/playing for all your life. Trust me. It’s your only chance at realizing the greatest heights your inborn genius can take you to, and also, perhaps, the only opportunity you have at giving our world the little rattle it so gravely needs.
And maybe it’s just me, but that is worth everything.
| $hæR’äß ZX |