Thursday, March 07, 2013

A. R. Rahman - Earth

I've been listening to the soundtrack to the movie Earth (1998) directed by Deep Mehta, a movie set during the trauma of partition in 1947 in British India. Earth was the second installment of a trilogy of movies by Mehta, the first being Fire (1996) and the last being Water (2005), all of which, for various reasons ended up being very controversial in India. Despite being a bit heavy-handed, Earth is a moving film and leaves you with a sense of ineffable loss. Much of that feeling is due to the soundtrack by A. R. Rahman (who, of course, later became even more globally famous working with Danny Boyle on the soundtrack for Slumdog Millionaire).

I confess that the soundtrack makes me want to be 15 again, riding rickshaws, eating guava, taking tabla lessons, listening to my parents' music collection, and just being delinquent in a city that seemed to hold possibilities. The music here is understated, not the traditional Bollywood song-and-dance routine. There's some lovely work by the Tamil singer Anuradha Sriram, among others, whose voice floats above the subtle electronic flourishes in "Ishwar Allah" like a ghost, gentle but haunting:

But the real star here is A. R. Rahman and the wonderful and subtle arrangements. There are traces of Western pop (a bit of trip hop, for example) weaved into melodies that are rooted in old pre-mega-dance-number Bollywood. The lyrics (by Javed Akhtar) make a play for the common language of South Asian culture. And all of it conveys the possibilities that were lost in 1947 when the British slashed up India, possibilities now completely impossible. Especially here, in the song "Yeh Jo Zindagi Hain" by Srinivas and Sukhwindara Singh. A nation divided indeed.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Prince - Screwdriver

So tonight I was just hangin' around doin' nuthin', just having a drink and goofing around, when I suddenly came upon this here video, and pretty much fell off my chair. The royal one apparently performed this yesterday. Last night! Not 30 years ago! No, just last night, here in New York!