Recording: Of Attachment and Alienation

Although it is problematic to distinguish between the text and the tune of a song and in fact, on many occasions I have argued against it, I connect to a composition based on what the tune it is set to does to me. In other words, the text of the song is less important to me. Of course, that does not mean that I enjoy songs that are sexist (and there are plenty in Indian films!) etc. Rather, I enjoy a song even if the lyric does not mean anything profound. For example, this song is a parody of Tamil film songs in general; the entire song is made up of words that have no meaning in any language, which often feature in many Tamil film songs. But I find the tune deeply evocative and the male singer is the well-known Hariharan, in my opinion, a great singer, whose music I grew up with.

Which aspect of music I find evocative is very important to how I (re)engage with it. One particular type of music that I enjoyed singing was bhajans. They are significantly different from Karnatic Music compositions with regard to the structure. They are shorter, performed in a space and set-up very different to that of Karnatic Music. The parameters laid down, which I see as rigidity, to perform Karnatic Music is not present for bhajans. They serve primarily as communal prayers and singers are not expected to possess any expertise in music. Greater emphasis is placed on the personal relationship to the divine and bhajans as a tool for articulation of such personal spirituality (however that is defined). There is less focus on how listeners would evaluate the music being performed. As someone who performed a lot whilst growing up but did not particularly enjoy it, I find bhajans rather liberating and more evocative than typical Karnatic Music compositions.

I created a page on this blog called Recordings to post recordings of my singing. The following is a bhajan I learned in high school. It is on the Hindu deity Krishna. This tune has been in my mind for a while now. I find this tune very evocative- to me, it is a tune of attachment and alienation, simultaneously (even though the lyrics is not about these emotions; the bhajan extols Krishna); it is also partially inspired by an image a friend made that is currently the desktop background on my laptop. In other words, I ‘heard’ this particular bhajan when I looked at the image. I cannot reproduce the image here because I do not have the permission to do so.

As a disclaimer I should add that I did not compose or write this bhajan. I also do not wish to profit from it commercially.


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