Soul Food

I may have spent close to a decade in Texas, but when I say soul food, I certainly don't mean Southern African American cooking.  I mean food for the soul, music.

Now that I am sitting home alone most mornings, wading deep into my thesis, I spend quite a bit of time setting the tone of the hour with music.

I love Susheela Raman's voice, especially in the song "Yeh Mera Deewana Pan Hai".  Her voice has a blues-y touch reminding me of Billie Halliday, though,after I had started exploring her (Raman's) albums, Ella Fitzgerald or actually Aretha Franklin may be a better fit.  Lady Day touches you with the depth of feeling in her voice, just like Susheela Raman in this particular song, somehow Mukesh, the original voice of this song, only manages to annoy.  (Mukesh does have a whiny voice doesn't he? It is pure and simple Bathos!  Like a country singer cribbing his truck broke down, dog died and wife ran off with best friend, all to age old guitar strumming!)  

Two somewhat classic Tamil songs appropriated by Raman in her, well, unique style - Velavaa and Marudamalai Mamaniye stopped me in my tracks.   I was chagrined, awestruck, annoyed, impressed, amused all at once while listening to the second song especially.  I pictured my dad's horrified reaction to this version and doubled over with laughter.

I am not complaining Sacrilege mind you, especially since all of us enjoy watching Zeenat Aman take a bong hit and sway to Hare Rama Hare Krishna.  Besides, I picture Muruga as a dravidian God, predating the Vedas.  The original inhabitants probably took a bong hit and danced to His glory exactly as pictured in the video.

But, Marudamalai is a song I grew up listening to on the radio, then on the tape recorder, CD and now finally my trusty iPhone and THIS was my introduction to Madurai Somu's voice.  The Susheela version took a lot of discipline to listen through.

Music is much like food, we get deeply attached to the versions we listen to when we are in the warm, carefree days of our childhood.  My father used to play devotional songs every morning - classical, semi-classical, movies anything and everything - and I used to wake up to these songs.  To this day, I find Ilayaraja's Thiruvasagam unbearable and will only listen to the sulamagalam sister's version when I am feeling particularly devotional/nostalgic and I will sing along.  Surprisingly my dad loves the new Thiruvasagam, he expects devotional songs to be treated with the dignity of classical music I suppose, western or eastern doesn't matter.  For him the Susheela version was probably Sacrilege.

I subject my kids to every form of music - Bhajan's we used to sing every Monday, Carnatic, Western Classical, Blues, Jazz, some light Rock, old Hindi, 70s-80s hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu.  Gau had learnt Bhajan's sincerely and carnatic music upto Swarajathi vocally and Varnam on Keyboard.   Now he has completely turned his back on any Indian music and listens to western music exclusively.  His ear for carnatic remains good.  I switched from Mayamalavagaula to Shankarabharanam and my Da was off key, he kept adjusting my singing until I got it perfect. (Yeah yeah, for someone with a modicum of classical training such mistakes are indefensible.  What can I say, I love music, but music doesn't quite love me back).  S. asked him to sing the line and he replied he will only correct me, not sing.   

I wonder what will be his go to music after he crosses the age of defining-his-persona, music and all, and reaches the age of nostalgia, when he looks back, with fondness, on his childhood?

Ash loves to sing.  Classical to Musical, everything is his favourite.  He simply hates sitting down and learning anything formally unlike his big brother.  He is very sensitive to Big Brother's approval though.  One look from Gau he decided he didn't want to sing like Sikkil Gurucharan, he would rather play piano like Anil Srinivasan or big brother :)

He is the biggest morale boost in the house, enthusiastic, encouraging and a big hug for everyone    He claims I sound better than Yesudas singing Pramadavanam Veendum, a song I discovered in the process of writing my thesis, and Gautham's piano playing sounds as good as the professional version on YouTube.

Pramadavanam Veendum has entered my blood stream.  You know what that feels like right?  You listen to the song, quite loudly, over and over again and it somehow merges with your pulse, your heartbeat?  Great voice (duh! Yesudas!!!!!), great lyrics but very tough to sing.  I had to sit down and write the lines with proper breaks in Kannada before I could sing beyond the first line.

When I was younger it felt like every other song had my blood singing, now my blood stream is a lot more sluggish.  Before P. V., the last time this happened was when Gau was learning a Spanish Matador (Prayer of the matador) song on his piano 10 days ago.  I hummed along, drove to the grocery store still humming along and forgot what I needed completely!  Even walking the length of the store didn't refresh my memory.

Gau and Ash are both very much like me in this.  Ash sang national anthem 3 days straight after his Acharya taught him.  Now it is syamale meenakshi.

Aside from music, Soul Food for Gautham must be roti in one of its myriad forms.  My latest is making a salsa-ish filling and a Apple Cider Vinaigrette for a fold your own burrito lunch box.
 The salsa (salad?) was just steamed Chickpeas, chopped avocado, pearl onions, tomatoes, cucumber peeled and deseeded, cilantro salt and pepper.

Apple Cider Vinaigrette 
The vinaigrette was 1/4 cup A.C. Vinegar, 1/3 cup olive oil, 6 finely chopped shallots, 1/4 cup honey lots of pepper.

Just whisk everything together and have each person serve themselves to their tastes.

This was again just put together, not a planned recipe and turned out rather popular.   We bought organic apple cider vinegar intending to drink a teaspoon every morning for better health.  It ended up giving both me and S. a feeling of discomfort in the stomach and zero appetite.  Now, I have to use it up as a condiment.  

PS:  Gau's insouciance is limited to me.  His uncle suggested he play alongside a Caranatic Violinist at a carnival he was organising.  He agreed to it though it was just a day before his Tamil exams, he was very respectful to the Violinist  listened to her suggestions, practiced an all Carnatic playlist, played to her specification and appreciated her innate skill on the Violin!  It was such a surreal experience for me, this young lady walking in, she and Gau sitting down discussing and just playing good music. Together.  The Carnatic/Western divide seemed superficial.

PPS In the course of my search, I discovered Gaanam, a malayalam movie from 1982.  I knew every song in the playlist from when I was a kid, but I never knew it was a movie.  This was when you would find small stores cutting tapes to match your interests.  I can actually sing along to these, songs I haven't heard in atleast 2 decades! 

These exceedingly excellent, mellifluous songs are pictured on Ambarish and Lakshmi!  I guess the director's aesthetics for music didn't extend to his visual sense.  Thankfully my visual sense and auditory sense work independently, I am able to continue enjoying the songs.  Otherwise I would need a brain surgery a la Zaphod Beeblebrox to get Ambarish out of the vicinity of these songs in my head. 


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