It’s actually been a lot more than one week since I last posted, unlike what I promised myself… What does that make me?
Anyways, here’s something I’ve been meaning to put this into words for a really long time now and for that I might even be too late now, but I haven’t read or heard anyone saying this before so here goes.
EDM or Electronic Dance Music is a major part of the music industry now. The following has been increasing and increasing for as long as I remember first hearing it. And I just don’t get it. I’ve seen people get crazy when new songs come out, which they somehow do every other week and I don’t understand why so there is so much hype for it. Honestly, I don’t get that excited or hyped for almost anything, but that’s a completely different story of how I’m dead outside but something else inside. Coming back to the topic, I think I should probably be giving some background as well, otherwise this whole thing is going to be a waste.
So, to get my perspective of this, you should know that I have been trained in Indian classical music for about 8 years. I was taught how to play the Tabla (amazing instrument by the way, give it a look. It’s very pleasing when accompanied by good vocals) since the age of about 5 or 6. It came to a stop when I had to leave town and go to Mumbai for JEE coaching which was absolutely wasteful, I’m not in an IIT right now, but Mumbai helped me in other ways which I’ll talk about in another article hopefully. (It might take decade or two considering how lazy I am). So my training in classical music came to an abrupt stop for academic reasons, and hence I am not as good as you might expect me to be with the Tabla. I also used to perform a lot in the school, playing around with a lot of other percussion instruments, which are easy to get hang of. I even played the drums for a bit, and it was awesome. Albeit I’ve lost practice now but what I’m trying to say is that once you are in the environment for that amount of time and at that age it becomes a part of you. I’ve also been blessed with an uncle who had probably the best collection of music I have seen yet (he had a whole drawer full of old cassettes) so I also grew up listening to a lot of Eagles, Eric Clapton, Guns ‘n’ Roses, AC/DC, Pink Floyd and a lot more.
So what my approach of music now is that I appreciate music that I listen and feel that is a difficult thing to create and/or replicate. For example I listen to a guitar solo by Slash and I go “Hot damn that’s a great solo!” because I listen to it and I understand how hard it is to be that good. As you train and practice music (Not the electronic BS) there is a cost to pay. There is a lot of sweat, for starters and then come the blisters, if you are practicing an instrument. I’ve dealt with a lot of blisters and they are painful as all hell, trust me. But you have to get better at it so you have to keep going. Then comes the blood and you just have to ignore it unless its wetting the leather or making the drumstick slip from your fingers. You clean up and you continue. That’s the kind of music I’ve grown up loving and that is what I appreciate. Singing is another skill that I hugely admire, and I’ll come to that in a bit. So blood sweat and tears, that’s what makes good music, to my perspective at least and when I hear a good song, I look for that. I look for the amount of will it takes to train so hard that you become so good that the world looks up in awe. And when my friends or roommates make me listen to some song by Skrillex or Martin Garrix or someone like that I don’t see that. I do understand that there is a lot of creativity required to make those songs and I respect that but the only thing I imagine when listening to them is some dude sitting in front of a computer mixing tracks in a software and poof a song is ready. I just can’t bring myself to appreciate that.
And then there is the complete absence of lyrics which is another annoyance. There’s a whole cacophony of sounds that are completely alien to me, because they have been through so much processing that I can’t tell if it was a piano or just someone playing the congas, and on top of that there’s no lyric, no vocals, nothing. I’m sorry if you do not like this but I want a human element in a song. For me, that’s what makes it a song in the first place. You might be thinking that there are a lot of instrumentals from the classical genre and if I hate them too. No, I do not because, like I said, I can understand what Beethoven was doing alone in his room when he came up with Fur Elise or how painful the countless hours of practice were for Kenny G just to make those 5 minutes of saxophone turn into End Of Night. With EDM I am completely blind. Coming back to the lyrics, as a writer I also know how hard it to write something and then not cringe while reading it again. Writing makes me hate myself when I come with some silly rhymes that I think even playschool kids would laugh at. From that to coming up with a whole song takes so many hours of thinking and writing and rewriting that it almost drives you crazy. And if there is even a little bit of that in some contemporary electronic songs I do appreciate them. What I don’t like about EDM is its monotonous and alien tone, which is exactly what appeals to a lot of people.
EDM concerts are also a big thing these days. Probably the biggest right now in the industry. And I don’t like them. Why? Because in all those concerts there is only one little guy jumping around behind a DJ rig and pushing buttons. And people somehow love it. Performing music is a whole different thing for me. It’s when a group of people are on stage, together and they communicate with their music, with each other and with the audience. It’s poetry in motion. I been to a both kinds of concerts and I have pretty much opposite opinions about them.
Try to bear with me a little more. I know this is becoming a huge rant and you probably are tired of reading already. That is, if you were patient enough to read this much in the first place.
But imagine this concert where a band is performing one of their songs. First of all they have to fight their nerves, which everyone experiences because it’s human nature. The fear of messing up on stage is immense. I know because I have messed on stage. More than once. But once you start, you realize it’s you and your friends doing what you love doing and on top of that a thousand people there to applaud you for it right there. A performance is about improvisation and presence of mind. Like when Michael Buble concert had an electrical failure, he just put the mic down and began singing unplugged. And the man is blessed with such a voice that it reached the crowd easily and amazed a lot of people. The concert is a conversation, like a friendly debate between instruments and vocals. The band communicates not by words but by their music and the audience gets to witness that. People used to faint watching Michael Jackson dance, tell me if you’ve seen anything like that in a DJ’s concert. It’s a whole new story of brotherhood and friendship when a band comes together and plays together sharing the spotlight. The singer is usually at the center of the all the attention and who would want to lose it, but he still steps aside to let the guitarist perform his solo and steal all the attention. If you get the chance, try and make any 4 people you know stand together and sing the same song. Trust me, you won’t get it right at once. The amount of coordination shown by a band performing on stage is so glorious that (for me at least) not one guy with a an array of buttons to press can outshine.
So in a nutshell, what I mean is that the beauty of music lies in tangibility. Music is made when the lyric and the tune, fall into place like pieces of a puzzle. When listen to Adele or Ed Sheeran sing or Slash play the guitar or Kenny G with his sax or Shiva Mani and his drums or Zakir Hussain’s Tabla routine, I see the years of hard work and sheer will and determination and that is what I appreciate. I listen to a lot of songs, but EDM won’t make it to my playlist.