13 April, 2013

It’s ‘gay’ music dude

English is the biggest legacy left over by the British raj (after that other thing called cricket), it is perhaps the most abused. English is still a foreign language to most Indians, even the ones who studied it as a first language at school. And this post is addressed to some those who have been fortunate to have had a decent English based education. Folks, ever hear of the concept of adjectives? If you have, have you heard of the concept of ‘appropriate’ adjectives?

I was talking to an old acquaintance who claims to be a heavy metal connoisseur. And he asked me whom do I consider to be the top musician of the last 6-10 years (since I’m some sort of Lester Bangs type fellow… Google Lester Bangs…. And those of you who started giggling after reading the word ‘Bangs’, grow up). I named a couple of artists and said that my favourite would be John Mayer. The response to this was, “Dude, when did you start listening to gay music?”

I’m unsure what he meant by gay music. Is it the kind of music gay people make? Or is it something that only they are allowed to listen to? Is it something that makes you have homosexual inclinations after listening to it?  I understand that a lot of the rock purists don’t have a lot of respect for John Mayer because they heard ‘Your Body is a Wonderland’ and judged him as being yet another ‘I will sing silly love songs’ musician. And I’ll be honest to say that I did not think much of John Mayer then. It was only when I heard ‘Gravity’ from the Continuum record that I started checking out what Mayer had done beyond the creepy-body-wonderland song. And I’m a fan. I’ll reserve further commentary about John Mayer’s talent for the music blog, but to me if Eric Clapton and B.B.King certify that you’re a great musician and are willing to go on tour with you and jam with you, I’m sold.

Anyway, coming back to the point, I still don’t understand what the hell is ‘gay music’? Is ‘gay’ being used in the Shakespearean sort of ‘happy and gay’ manner, which makes sense….. Because ‘homosexual music’ just baffles me. So is it that the folks who use this term, the so called Heavy Metal purists, mean that being gay is something bad, unnatural and should only be heard by men or women who have same-sex relations? There’s a word for that my friends….it’s called being a homophobe. And judging a person based on what music he listens to and calling him or her gay is narrow-minded and uncool.

Just to state some examples so that you bloody homophobes can stop thinking like cavemen, ever heard of Rob Halford? Of course you have… you started head banging to Judas Priest. FYI, he’s gay. So now you’re going to read this and burn all your Judas Priest CDs. Here is a short list of gay people…. Ian McKallen who plays Gandalf and Magneto is gay. Shall I continue? Zachary Quinto who played Sylar from ‘Heroes’ and the iconic Spock from the new Star Trek is gay. Dear acquaintance, you do watch ‘The Big Bang Theory’? I know you do… the dude who plays Sheldon Cooper (real name Jim Parsons) whom you think is hilarious is also gay. So you’re going to stop watching that TV series too right? Need more examples of gay people whom you clearly think are some sort of plague and you've decided to make your up your own derogatory adjective which you use with such disdain.

I too am not particularly enthusiastic about singers who spend their time perpetually singing songs that appeal mostly to women (I’m thinking ‘Backstreet Boys’ and ‘Boyzone’). But that does not make them gay. And even if they were, we’re only listening to their music. I won’t think any less of John Mayer as a guitar player even if he was gay. Look at Billy Joe Armstrong from Green Day, who are the most popular rock act among kids and early teens. He said in an interview that he is bisexual. So clearly, we must ensure kids stop listening to them right? I think kids should stop listening to Green Day, but that’s because I feel there’s better music out there. Armstrong’s personal choices are his own.

Still going to call it ‘gay’ music dear acquaintance? Just to mess you up, I wish some of the folks from the bands that you listen to come out of the closet….. then we’ll see whether you’ll continue to listen to them. Oh I’d love to see the look on your face if Tom Araya from Slayer comes out of the closet. So much for your ‘I worship Slayer maaaaan’ bullshit. It’s music. Evaluate people for the music they play. If you don’t enjoy, don’t label it. Being part of a heavy metal fraternity, where we are misunderstood by people, parents and friends, as to what drives us to listen to such music, which to them is purely noise and feel liberated, I’d have expected some more sensitivity from you.

Start behaving like someone who actually learnt something from school and stop discriminating against gay people. It’s their choice. And you shouldn't have a problem with it unless they ask you to have a relationship with them. So if you think John Mayer makes ‘gay’ music, so be it. And if you think I’m gay for listening to his music, so be it. Just going by your Neanderthal logic, Eric Clapton is gay and makes gay music because he toured with John Mayer, and so is B.B King. I didn't say it. You did.

I am going to stand my ground and still claim that John Mayer is one of the most talented musicians I've heard and I will be front and center if he plays in India, along with all the women and gay people who listen to such music. What do you have to say about that? 

08 April, 2013

Anybody can dance…but they shouldn't.

I've received some feedback that I’m anti-social and seem to prefer spending long evenings practicing my guitar to get better for a band that is clearly going nowhere instead of hanging out with people and making new friends. While it’s true that I do prefer hanging out at bars by myself, with bands playing rather than force myself to socialize with people with whom I don’t share a single common thread. You know, things like cricket, Indian politics, Bollywood movies, general job bitching, so on and so forth. But I guess this makes me an odd-ball and not anti-social.

Anyway, a friend recently asked me if I wanted to go dancing. Readers would note that I’m not the ‘clubbing’ type and have never been dancing ever. The last time I went to a club to dance was sometime in 2002. And that was another forced effort in meeting social expectations. I’m more the sit-in-a-dark-corner-listen-to-heavy-metal-drink-scotch types. I’m not counting the time at the Punjabi wedding where I got hammered and danced to Bollywood music. Anyway, all things considered, the idiot in me thought to myself, “Why not? What could happen? There’ll be some din-chak music and a lot of people, so no one would notice”

Yours truly decided to go ‘dancing’. Yes, I volunteered to go dancing. (First sign I need to get my head checked)

I was expecting it to be the kind of disco with some Guetta, Swedish House Mafia or some Bollywood tunes playing. My friend did not mention that we were heading to Cuba. I enter this club and there were people doing all these exotic Spanish dances that confuse me as to whether it’s named after a food, or the food is named after a dance. You know… things like salsa, machata, batata, fajita, taco… those types of dances.

I can feel the blood pressure rising and the air-conditioning was clearly not helping with the sweating. I can eat salsa, I can’t dance the salsa. And here in front of me, were some 50 odd couples where everyone seems to be extras from that Richard Gere-Jennifer Lopez dance movie. There were people twisting, turning and moving as though gravity was a non-existent. Every instinct in me wanted to turn and run, but I decided I’m going to stand my ground and try to enjoy myself for once. For someone, who has never been to a club, this was clearly the deep end of the dance pool.

My friend was kind enough to show me some basic steps of a dance form called Machata (Don’t know if that’s what it’s called). At that point, the only objective running through my head was, “Do not step on her feet”. So instead of letting the music take me over, I spent my time intently staring at the floor ensuring my elephant feet do not stomp on the poor girl. It wasn't too bad. I think I’d get full marks for effort, although it was not the prettiest thing you’d have ever seen.

Even though I spent most of the evening standing on the side, I actually enjoyed the music which was very Carlos Santana-ish. Why did I spend most of the evening standing on the side when everyone was dancing with everyone? Let’s put it this way. The accepted norm when you ask a girl to dance with you is that you actually know how to dance. It’s quite lame, and border-line creepy, if I went up to a girl and asked her to dance and then told her to keep count, lead and then spent most of the time staring at the floor with my head screaming ‘Don’t step on her feet , tubby’ all the time. It was as though every person passed a basic test of some sort and got in, while I seem to have gotten inside by allowing someone to impersonate me during the exam.

All that aside, I survived the deep end. And for once, at no point was I cynical or asking myself,’ What the f*** is wrong with you?’. However, the next time my friend asks me to come along dancing, I need to verify if I need to attend classes or read some ‘dancing for dummies’ book before I agree. I’m clearly more comfortable being the guy who makes music rather than the person dancing to the tune. I’m very doubtful that going to any classes would help me improve. Some people were just not made for dancing.

At the end of the day, I’m awarding myself a gold-star (like in UKG) for trying something completely new and not making a complete ass of myself doing it. 2013 is turning out to be a year of many firsts, first trip to NYC (Yes, I’m still hung over on that) and first time at a proper dance club. Next week, I’m going for my first cricket match, that too IPL, at the stadium.