Sunday, February 8, 2009
Special Grammy Edition
Above: An Indian gentleman playing tabla. We're not sure if he's Northern or Southern.
I’ll start this post global and then take it local.
Mowgli and I have been listening to A. R. Rahman’s amazing Oscar-nominated Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack since we picked it up a few weekends ago. In particular, track six, “Ringa Ringa,” has been keeping us entertained.
I had it on repeat for a week’s worth of commuting, which means that for 30 minutes a day, “Ringa Ringa” was all I heard. Being a classically trained singer and songwriter, I’m a sucker for a song that’s complex, well-done, and moving. This song is all three. It has sections that come and go, different call-and-responses at different times, a wonderful vocal performance (which I have tried and failed to imitate – I really don’t understand how a sound that comes out of a human can be so ultra-nasal and pure), a killer set of beats that remind me of belly dancing classes I took a year ago, and, well, it’s rather sultry.
Mowgli flipped to it in the car the other day so he could tell me how Northern it is. This is an important distinction in India – just as in the U.S., Northerner jokes are told in the South, and Southerner jokes are told in the North. The food is different – rice-based in the South, wheat-based in the North, with various regional specialties. There are stereotypes: Northerners are burly and a bit dim; Southerners are puny and smart.
A. R. Rahman is from Chennai (formerly Madras), which is definitely in the South. According to Mowgli, “Ringa Ringa” is about as northern as Indian music gets, from the beat, to the form (which he thinks is Qawwali, or Ghazal), to the instrumentation. Rahman worked with many Southern Indian musicians on the album, but still, the overall sound he chose is very Northern, perhaps for increased appeal to Bollywood fans (some of the film’s dialogue was translated into Hindi to make it more relatable to Indian audiences).
And now, the local news: I have had the great pleasure over the years to work with engineer and producer Adam Long. He is an unfailingly positive, generous, sweet, red-headed guy from Minnesota who somehow became a go-to Hip-Hop and Broadway cast recording sound genius, a musical masala master with an ear straight from heaven. Two albums he worked on last year are up for Grammys, but since another friend has already written about this, I’ll simply refer you to his post about it.
I realize that last item doesn’t quite fit my stated blog parameters, so I’ll add that he’s an Anglophile from way back and loves the kinds of gooey double-cream cheeses that abound in Europe.