Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Urban desert, off and on the path

It's been a week since a decent -which might mean a boring long- post has been typed, editted and whatnot scribbling foolery.
We've mostly been busy with the project and slacking/enjoying life with fellow backpackers. Life could be much worse. So far it isn't. Such happy bums we are. Here it goes once more.

Oh before all this, we celebrated Divali. In the morning we did the puja with Polly, our hotelmanager at the holy lake, as he comes from a Brahmin priest family. He could guide us into doing a full puja instead of the short ones that other tourists get lured in by makeshift waterside priests acting as hawks. -holy touts are not uncommon here-. Yeah religion is an economy here but that's not unexpected. Like everywhere in the world people need (or like) to be milked out in order to believe in something worth living for. As agnostic, atheistic or paganistic we like to be, doing the puja felt good and serene as it was not meant for a specific god nor religion, but to make sincere wishes for the upcoming year. Speak and wish with an open heart, as Polly said. So we did. Flowers, rice, paint powder and coconut milk into the water. Drifting away in circles.

Later with the Saregama Dewara family on Divali night, it was a nice experience setting off fireworks with them from their hillside home. The high open view over Ajmer showed thousands of uncovered rooftops also joining in the joyfull explosions on this peace-meets-war-like night. Bang!
Taking the overly full nightbus from Ajmer to Pushkar was great fun. Being the only foreigners on board the people quickly jeered at us for the sake of cheery banter. Getting to see some pixeled Rajasthani music clips on their mobiles was worth it. Good moves, hipwigging and a catchy tune of folk instruments along a heavy bass of sythesizer inspired rhythms. I liked it way better than the usual Bangra and Panjabi music styles that always seem to be aimed at an urban crowd while keeping the instrumental influence as low as possible. Thumbs up for Rajasthani pop. Since video cd's are really big over here at little music shops 'n market stalls, you can find loads of good stuff for barely 1 euro. Indeed, why use the limitation of a redbook cd or a dvd if you can have video and audio together on a vcd? The Indians are more clever in this scheme than back in the west and video clips still lives a good healthy life over here. But as most Euro/US video's suck anyway -bar the few creative ones-, it's for the better to keep things strictly ears only.

So, what else?

We did a second session with the Dewara family a few days after Divali. It taking up a whole day from the morning till pas midnight. Not it was such hard work or long session, but rather the ease of waiting, relaxing and taking it easy while friends & family came to give their best wishes to the family during the whole morning and afternoon. We didn't mind and their courtyard was nicely shadowed to not make us quell in the hot sun. Plus there was freshly made chai and fingerfood aplenty. Why sulk indeed.
Not to mention us helping son Alaap (who was visiting his family while he lives 400km's south in the Gujarat state, working as a music teacher) with writing the English lyrics into his brokenhearted hindi pop song. Not by our own will, but he kindly requested our help. Oh dear. The slick instrumental and vocal skeleton he wrote for it sounded already quite nice from the start. Perhaps with some good luck he'll make a hit out of it. Who knows. Pop works a jangling treat in the eyes of the talented, even when coming from a traditional music family.

Maarten recorded a dv tape for the father, as he wanted to record some of his own written songs of the last 30 years of his musical career so that he would have an archive on tape that he could show to tv station and agents (since he plays on national tv and concerts from time to time). 'Oh, which to pick' he pondered in doubting agony, as the dv tape could only register 1 hour of his lifetime achievement. Out of +20 songs, he did 11 of his best in the end. It all took over 3 hours since he wanted things to be perfect in the setting, sound and many changes had to be made. It bit of a pity in all fairness, because everytime the musical build-up was disturbed so that the atmoshere could not settle. It somewhat looked and sounded staged without much joy and therefore missing the pacey energy that their improvisations had.
Afterwards the whole family played their 2nd session for us and the energy came flowing back as we wanted to have no sudden stops and most of all no changeovers of settings and clothing. Just open spirited Rajasthani folk in the way that they wanted to play it. They did interchange the instruments or vocals from time to time, but it worked well. Father D.C. mostly played the harmonium, son Alaap on guitar, harmonium tabla or vocals, son Sunil on tabla, daughter Mamta on shruti's and daughter Sharwa on shruti's and vocals.
In the end we even got youngest daughter Mamta to sing a few lines, while her voice isn't as beautifully sculptured as her sister's, her lower tone sounded really special in the slow melody she sung. Also the grandmother of the family (whose name we didn't find out, calling her dadi-ji instead) sung an old folk tune accompanied by her son (the father) on harmonium, as I had hear her sing before in the background. 95 years of age and she still was as vivid as she wanted to be, such a happy sweet person. Amazing how her worn and weary voice sounded through the room, while little imperfections of coughs and chuckles crept in the recording. Raw versus perfection; I rather keep a raw recording with minor bumps yet giving goosebumps than a perfect cut lacking the spirit.

We've also recorded sessions with Bhopal and his wife on the dry grassy hill overlooking the camel fair grounds, as you can see in previous post, as he's from the younger and more bold generation of local ravanattha players. Him being a cheeky fella too on the side, with a good sense for selling and negotiation so I had some fun with that on many chai drinking sits. Perhaps you might be inclined to think that Bhopa's are gypsies but it's easy to generalize on that. They might share the same outskirts of small towns or cities, living in tents or shanty houses, lacking the same facilities and living a similar life when having to earn money on the street, but they don't share bloodlines by some sort of unspoken rule. Even among the poor, a certain caste system exists. Bhopal didn't speak romantically about gypsies and cursed the for their haggling and threacherous ways. Ofcourse he himself was not a haggler like them, he said. I just smirked at my little poke at him. But pokeing one another is all too normal here with anyone who makes money on the street. Only serious people get suckered into shabby deals too quickly.

His little 8 year old sister Pukka was funny to have along on the session as she provided added sounds -subconsiously- as she was playing with rocks, making a rhythm while hitting upon one another while ankle bracelets with tinkerbells in her hand -her selling wares- softly jingled along the playing of her brother and sister in law. Every day I saw her, her nose was uncleaned, yellow drop in the left nostril as was her face with blackened stripes on the cheeks, her hair dusty and wild, some locks mildly blond colored from daily exposure to sunshine. Without doubt, she was able to always produce a sweet smile on her face, laugh and play, in the faux-innocent manner like many other street selling kids do. I reckon they are all already way past the very innocence that we once knew from our own secure childhood, yet they are not bitter about their situation. It's rather the many tourists here being bitter, who do not seem to be able to handle a confrontation with these kids, imposing their fingerwagging western etiquette on them if they feel hassled when trying to live it large here. Pity that. But I won't moan too much about annoying tourists -coming in droves on package tours or whatever-, because I could go on more than I care to waste time on. bleh.

The days after we also met Rampal (see pic some posts ago), a ravanattha player of the oldest generation and we did some sessions with him and his wife Sita. His instrumental playing exceeds the level of say Bhopal, but that's hardly surprising. Old play ages good. Till it stops one day, missing a heartbeat. I bought a few ravanattha's from him, as he makes them himself and their are of good quality. Support your woodstringed craftmanship yeah! We also have taken up daily lessons with him and we are able to play the easier parts of old style Rajasthani tunes. Bowing down and strike with a gentle touch on multiple snares, it's pretty hard.

Oh the footie match! It was in the main stadium on the mela ground, a sandy pitch with white walls and stands around it. Hundreds of people were watching and all our names got called on the intercom echoeing in the air. Kinda bizarre moment, like one you perhaps dreamed of a sa child; playing a big match for lots of spectators in a special place...for nuts or glory! I think we all felt some goosebumps of amazement for standing there suddenly.
Ofcourse we lost, 1-0 to the local Pushkar top team. Yet for a bunch of thrown together foreigners (Swiss, Israeli's, English, Spanish, French, US and Ozzies) we weren't bad at all. We were even say slightly better since we had the best chances (they had one half one and scored it). I missed a closeup chance in the first minute of the game in a clutch moment before their goal, narrowly puntering the ball past the post, typical. But try playing football in hiking shoes, running around on an uneven and thickly layered sandy pitch. We all did that for 40 minutes in the blazing sun and managed to pass and run around quite well, that against a team who trains every week. Hmmm. We unfairly had a goal disallowed and just after that their best player lobbed the ball over our keeper (who was playing barefeeted). In the 2nd half we were better balanced and wasted some chances. In the dying moments of the game I gave a pass that splitted their defence and our spanish striker free to run to goal alone, we unfairly got flagged offside -3 metres is beyond doubt surely-. Bah.

Despite the dubious reffing, seeing the total joy of the local team at the end whistle gave a good feeling as I realised this would make them the local hero's for a long while till next year. Like, there wasn't much glory for us in it anyway besides the simple joy of playing. We ended up being photographed and filmed by the press and tv, kinda bizarre. With the winning team celebrating, I joined them with my water bottle in champagne stylee to cheer with them ;)
Oh and we got a loser trophy and each a certificate, how considerate and nice!

That's been keeping us busy, plus meeting a load of spirited and witty people from allover to keep us company -or that we could annoy at will-. Some blabber morning talk with some Swiss villagers (ow hello Hansel and Sigrid hah), climbing the temple rocks with the individually trawling Miguel, Nico, Pascal, Necane and Gabriele. Not to forget the every day jeery company of Julia, Koby and Felice for many meals or breakies. Plus the many folks crossing our path more than often. Everybody rethinking their life, travelling into new pastures and chasing new idea's. It keeps one healthy while on the road.

Allrighty dinnertime, tomorrow more sounds and pics will follow!

Here some sounds a clip:

dadi-ji claps along, enjoying the session


Camels galore, all around the hill. Recorded before the mela started, so imagine the sound of thousands of camels now! hmmm, should record that too.

Camels around the hill overlooking the Mela

Flamenco style Bollywood song, short one as I halfway recorded it from the radio. Brilliant song. I think it's Lata Mangeshkar singing, might be Geeta Dutt or Asha Bhosle perhaps.

Bollywood Flamenco

Just outside our hotel, this kid was playing a tiny toy keyboard. He walked along with us and played for the fun of it. Ofcourse he asked for 'paisa' as you can hear him say ;)

Streetkid with mini keyboard

A sweet Bollywood styled love song. I like the sad slowness of it. She's singing about *paresan* = being angry. Someone angry at her, or she at someone? Oh dear.
It might be Lata or Geeta singing again. Who knows, answers on a comment card ;)
Sound isn't always too clear, blame it on the mountain winds, grrrr.

Paresan Bollywood song

3 comments:

aalap said...

it's really so nice.......

aalap said...

it's really so nice.......

aalap said...

it's really so nice.......