Jotin Kumar Singing Surmai Akhiyon Mein

Nobody knows why he does not choose to be a singer when he has such a golden voice.

Here he sings K.J. Yesudas’s Surmai Akhiyon Mein from Balu Mahendra’s 1983 drama Sadma. Karaoke.

This song was recorded at the Robert Leishangthem Workstation, right at the heart of Kakching keithel, where all the noise of the market and the street flowed in from one side and three walls blocked it like an echo chamber.

Delhi Drum Circle at Oxford Store, Connaught Place

My camera battery died too soon. I assumed it must have enough power left on it after the rock shooting on Friday and I was wrong. I had to take these shots on my tablet, which I have almost never done earlier.

Three Artists

Depression broods in art. Anger chafes in art. The fires, cries and deaths of war do not spare art. Every human thing touches art. Still, there is something about art that keeps it cool. You will rediscover the innocence of humans in old men of art being together. Just being happy, without any reason. Just being together. Just listening to each other’s songs. A cappella. Just listening to each other’s poems or short stories.

These guys are such folks. I photographed them after a literary program in Manipur early this year. January 2017. From left to right:

Usham Nirjitkumar (singer)
Rajen Moirangthem (short story writer)
Thangjam Ibopishak (poet)

A Minor

Right after pressing the last note, I felt pain in the chest so sharp that I could not hold my body in the chair–I fell face down on the piano keyboard. The long clapping and cheering of the crowd faded slowly out into a white noise and then into silence.

“You had a cardiac arrest,” the doctor told me. “A minor one.”

“Mahler! A good death, then.” I was quick in my thought. Life holds many a lovely and beautiful thing. Everything. With a tinge of sorrow. Beautiful. Still I have a too weak heart for this. At the same time there is beauty in letting go. In parting. You look the whole of something beautiful from a distance. Not too close. You look at the beauty of life from a distance. You put away life, take a few steps back and look at it. You see life clearly. Without getting lost. Or you close your eyes to put yourself to rest.

Back to my room, I played Mahler. The phone switched off, the door bolted up with “Do not disturb” hung on the knob outside. For days.

Quartet. A Minor.

If I Never Met You

I simply lost my heart to this song–“If I never met you” in the end credits of Manhattan Night (Brian DeCubellis, 2016). Lyrics and music by Brian DeCubellis, performed by Catey Shaw, and produced by Jay Levine. I’ve not liked Catey Shaw before.

Sucking it up

Cottage’s suicide note:

After so long I want to sing out loud again
blowing myself out into my breath
but don’t want to be heard,
so I drive to the train station
where the trains thunder on
and the crowds pour in and out of the trains
noisy like wild wine from broken casks
redding the restless ground,
and stand, a wet rock half-sunken
in the loud liquid sucking me up.

Silence of absence

Failed Man

Failure is a beautiful thing–
the most beautiful but the hardest to live.
A beauty you avoid, an art you fear,
one you like only from a distance
as your negative space.
The best men in the world
are failed men.
They keep failing. Beautiful men.
Hopes crumble down in their laps,
brick by brick–those they laid one by one–
into shapeless rubble heaps,
formless grains of dust and mass of wastes,
in sounds from the mute fall of airborne dust
to the soundless noise
following the crashing of towers
and skyscrappers onto the dust
where the sky begins.
Meaningless until you hear them on a tape
meaningless until you rub
and feel their roughness on the canvas.
Failed men breathe through the wreck,
speak in nonsense–
a tongue of a different frequency range
where sound and matter merge.

Sheet Music

What is a song written so good and sung so bad?
I wonder like a child and am confused as an old man.

We always sing in the museum,
There is always music in the museum.
They listen to us–the thick piles of sheet music
On the dusty shelves and strewn all over the floors—
They are all silent. The violin and the piano stand
Soundless as if in rests and other silences,
Punctuating the movement.
Unsung song—is that a song? Unplayed music—is that music?

I’m rummaging through the sheets like a silver worm
For the songs we sing and the music played;
I’m tracing the grains of earth, ashes and charcoals,
Digging up coffins, groping into unborn wombs
For the dead and unborn children to find songs in singing
For those lying mute on the museum floors and shelves.

Street Musicians Stole My Heart

Dilli Haat, Janakpuri is a beautiful place at night (I’ve never seen this place in daylight). The architecture is enchanting and its lighting is calming as a prayer and when the two are combined, it has an effect of peace on my soul. Moreover, opened only a couple of years ago, the place is still unknown to most people thus the few lovers who sit in the darkness of the open, garden-like space on the roof, lit only by the light below reflected back down by the fog find themselves in the most romantic environment possible there. I love that space, to sit there and look up into the night sky. If there is a music concert below, at the small open air theater, you will hear the sound more beautifully here, with all the hooting, yelling, shouting, and cheering from the audience.

These days I try to pull myself out of my room and go out into the crowd. I should not keep myself alone in my room. For some reasons. I drove to this peaceful place. I walked up one of the stylistic passages (they are not stairs, or roads though looked like roads considering what’s below is an architectural structure other than a bridge), and soon I heard some male voices singing a song from a Bollywood movie in a chorus, accompanied by guitars. That was beautiful. That was not on the terrace, but below. I immediately climbed on the stone parapet (you’d fall if not careful enough) because the flowers between the parapet and the ledge you can sit on occupied wide enough space to block the view of what is happening where the men were singing if you do not stand on the parapet.

From the parapet, it was beautiful and I immediately lost my heart to the scene. The beautiful song–the five men forming a circle, some sitting some standing, all of them strumming on their guitars, beneath a lamp post with one dim light haloing their space. Later on, right before leaving the place, I talked with a gentleman among them, Rohit Kundal, and he said they were members of LIMA (Live Music Alive). I want to know more about them and will do the necessary research later, though it would have been better in a way if I knew more about them before writing this post, but yes it still has the surprising freshness of me being not yet aware of them. (Added later: Their Facebook pages are here and here, and the YouTube channel here.

I held my camera out, extending my hand as long as I could so that the parapet does not block part of the view. The result was a shake, strong enough to make the picture bad, because I set the shutter speed at a low value so that I could reduce the ISO to avoid grains. I usually shoot non-humans, and I forgot all about it. My hand shaky, slow shutter speed and the men moving energetically in the rhythm of their song. Imagine what the picture would be. I was not aware of this at that moment. I came to know this only later when I reviewed the pictures. This was what I could do, best at that moment.

I was not satisfied, so I took some others shots, but they were worse because I did not think about the camera settings at all. The following one is slightly different.

Later I changed the white balance to fluorescent white light, and the results are respectively:

and this

I wanted to video record them singing. This is from a shot from the video setting (the video has yet to be processed):

I took a few shots from some other angles, but for not any better results:

One of the singers, Rohit Kundal, was looked  more enthusiastic maybe at least because of where he was standing (his hands and facial muscles were very expressive) and I love how he performed (all of them performed excellently, particularly the gentleman in a white T-shirt–he, along with Rohit, was more visible from my positions), but I am so sorry I could not capture all the beauty.

I was in raptures about their song maybe because they put all their heart in the singing. They were not singing for money or fame; they sang because singing made them happy, and that was the feeling communicated to me when listening to their song. I love happiness like this, ones that are available in texture of everyday life, not the ones most people follow at high costs.

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Midnight Music Cycle

Whistling down the wooded town road.
Long fingers of light through the foggy leaves
nailing the night onto the deep starry wall,
slicing the tune into the sung, spent darkness—
the death of a moment gives the push for another,
the breath of the music, the slither of the eel.
Walking into the tune I’ve yet to blow
through the blue nails, my back burns black—
slow vapors smuggle me into the darkness
piece by piece, like ants do with sweets.

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