Last Sunday, me and my family, were driving back from church, after the release of "Yeldho", the CD containing songs sung over the last 20 years plus by our church choir, the Celestial Voices. Several thoughts on this drifted through my mind and what dominated more were those about the singing madness that still persists within me. We had slogged through several weeks of practice sessions and recording sessions at the studios, that had run into late hours in the night to get this done. And now, it was a great feeling to see it getting released. Listening to the song from the CD with all the music and harmony is one thing. But when I was sitting under a tree shade for practice in our church premises, along with the bass singers of which am a part, I could hear the plain raw melody of the supranos who were practicing inside the church. Their song slowly and softly spread all around the church, as though going up the church steeple, when the group hit the high notes. There was no music accompaniment, but still, that was a unique feel.
These days if I love a song, I keep humming or singing that, right through the day, especially on weekends. My family often would ask me whether I had got hooked on to it so much that I cannot sing something else. My father in particular, would sometimes tells me, that I am old and that people around are going to think why I am singing all intense romantic songs describing women and their features:) Now this clearly meant that all of them were yet to see a real worth in those singing attempts. Of course, they would love to hear Christian songs being sung during prayer time, but they would not believe that anything beyond it, was worth trying now.
In the early eighties, I was approaching high school and that is when I got too passionate about songs and started singing them, sometimes right through the day. My father seeing me in this state would ask me whether my focus was in the right direction. But I was clearly mad about singing and I think he was very circumspect about acknowledging it, lest I lose focus on my academic pursuits. But singing in me, never died and I often went full blow when my father was not there at home. And in case he was there, I would get into the singing mode, while in the restroom.
But as we all know, madness and passions stay forever at least in some dormant form, how much ever these are ignored by the world around. And what lay dormant for about four to five years from then, started slowly but diffidently showing its face while I was into college. For me to realize that I was good at anything and to be confident about it, I had to always look up to my father to acknowledge. And so, if he had not acknowledged my calibre in an area, to me it was like I was really wanting in something in those areas. So, this meant that I was always a person who wanted to sing, but who was at the same time, not free and confident on stage to sing. My college mates had to keep pushing me to sing and my first stage performance was a classic royal fiasco, where I stood breathless on stage with the song all stalled. But still, my friends found me good and took me along wherever they had a get together and so I had a chance to belt out Hindi, Malayalam and Tamil songs in these small encounters. And this continued even after I got into organizations for work and is happening even now. I have sung for small groups and on stages,in these places, all without music accompaniment. Now, this for me is like being in a radio mode, to sing when friends demand. We could also term this as Music as a Service, if we align it with the latest trends in Cloud Computing:) It's only that instead of paying me money, they very liberally praise me. But then, this never fetches one an identity.
In the late eighties, while I was yet in the last year in college, mp3 players, cd players and mobile phones were still technological marvels yet to sweep India, though am not sure where else in our world they had taken off. The radio was still a big thing. My journey to college was through the public road transport and I would get to hear film songs being played at shops and marriage halls while travelling. I must confess that many times on my journey back to home, I have left the company of my friends in the bus and got down, hearing melodious songs being played at these places. Such was the madness in me and am sure I would have driven my father into a rage if he had got to know this. There have been several instances, when my wife and daughter have nudged me, because I was loudly humming or singing some song that I was mad about, in public.
It was just the day before that I had spotted an article on the Hollywood stunt director Lee Whittaker. He was the brain behind the stunts that we got to see in films like Viswaroopam, Linga and Bahubali. He grew up on a farm near a lake in Kentucky and was always jumping off the barn, riding horses and motorcycles, driving boats and swinging across creeks on a vine. He was wild and adventurous. No one back home believed he was doing action, because in his small town, Hollywood was never a real entity. Well, when madness takes a direction and brings in an identity or a monetary angle to it, that's when acceptability sets in. And until then, every person with several items of madness of this type that he or she pursues, will be looked upon as truly mad or crazy beings. It is ironical that until we build an identity or strike a monetary return, the many things that we pursue with our heart and soul into it, will remain many times as pieces of madness on the outside.
These days, an identity in solo singing comes when you penetrate into the last three or last two rounds of some reality singing show. Most of them prefer a Carnatic base. Otherwise it is the pure Carnatic singing road that is there which is a much tougher turf. But for Christian folks, carol singing and choir singing are great opportunities, though these belong to a different genre. Once we are able to fit into a group's harmony, we are in. For me, this has given me an identity. I began singing for carols when I was just 8 years old. The expectations in carol singing are not that demanding. But choir singing demands more accuracy and therefore more focus. For me, choir singing remains to be a very humbling experience because, whenever I think that am a great singer and that my voice should be heard more, the choir reminds me that I have to listen to the others and sing in harmony. That's because choir singing is not about one person singing but it is about a huge group striking a super level harmony.
Looking back, I believe, that it is important to believe in these pieces of passion or madness that each of us have in different forms and to slowly breed them, even if the whole world around thinks otherwise. After seeing the CD released and listening to the songs, my family sees value in my pursuits. But then, to polish my singing, I had to hold on to my restroom singing for decades. We never know when our pursuits will gather force and give us an identity or monetary returns. There is no doubt that when life drives us to mad corners, with its several vague twists and turns, these pursuits of madness, will come in handy and save us from really going mad.