Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Attraction of Cacophony

I happened to watch the movie Rockstar last week. While the reviews for the movie have been in extremes, I was quite positive about this movie and it lived up to my expectations .... The sound track was quite apt and somewhere in the middle I found myself head banging to the tune of "Sadda Haq" ....The immediate next moment I was full of nostalgia ....  Suddenly I felt like life had rewound more than a decade to college days....Having momentarily relived that moment, I think it is perhaps apt to pen down that memory.

The source of this memory is the RAIT (my college) festival called "Akarshan" (means Attraction in Hindi).
My first memory of this festival is during my "FE" days. It was the second semester - usually full of a lot of events and among them was the indoor festival Akarshan. A few hand made posters adorned the walls announcing the festival and inviting budding singers/ musicians or for that matter anybody even willing to try their skills (or lack of it) was welcome.

One fine evening I heard sound of music (mostly drums and guitar) emanating from the basement. I followed the sound into the SUC (student union council) room. The room was full of budding singers and a few musicians willing to play the available instruments (keyboard, drums, guitar and I think there was a tabla).
The beauty of this festival was it didn't matter whether you were trained to sing, had raw talent or a bathroom singer (yours truely). There were no real selections or restrictions for the performance. All you had to do was pick a song of your choice, sing it in and hope that you synchronize with the instruments.

In some time, I too got a chance to make an attempt. Till that bathroom melody (read cacophony) was my specialty and I'd even memorized a few songs entirely.
Thus I tried singing one of those songs. Couple of attempts and the musicians (who if I may mention, were already tired of putting up with other bad singers for hours) gave me a look indicative of "please synchronize" with the music. One helpful senior took me aside and attempted to give me a crash course into the concept of notes and pitch etc ... obviously falling on deaf ears. A realization soon dawned that evening when I taped myself and played it back. I was downright cacophonous to my own ears. Still I was happy that other FEs and my friends had gone ahead and tried their voice and were scheduled to sing on the big day.

A few days passed and the big day arrived. It was a Friday and by mid day, most lecturers were pretty lax. The stage was laid out. Right at the entrance of the college building was an open area from where one could look straight up to the roof. On four sides of this area were stair cases and walkways leading to the various labs and classrooms. The stage was laid out in such a way that anybody could view it from the stair cases or railings of the walkways. I looked at the stage and the area around it and wondered how the whole bunch of students ( I guess all 4 yrs of Engg accounted nearly a 1000) were going to fit in that stage.
Nevertheless the excitement was sinking in.

By 3pm, most lectures had either finished or called of lectures. Some of the older Professors were seen rushing out in hurry. A look at them and it felt like they were fleeing away from inevitable disaster. The seniors were seen scavenging for old notebooks, journals and any useless paper that they could lay their hands on. The paper was swiftly torn to shreds. I was wondering what was going on. An hour passed by and I realized how the whole bunch of students managed to watch the show. Every inch of the railing had some one leaning on it. Every stair had some one standing on it. Benches were pulled outside classrooms to make up seats. In short within a span of an hour, the whole college building was converted into a mini-stadium with stage at its center.

As the orchestra and host of the day were still checking the instruments, the crowd started shouting "Start the F***ing music". The sheer reverberations of so many abuses demanding music made the place seem like hell rather than a college. No wonder those older profs had run away. It would take a strong heart and some serious talent to silence this raging crowd. The next few hours were a generous mix of soulful music and heavy metal, melody and cacophony, Indian and western.

Every singer was greeted with a bunch of paper balls aimed at his mouth as soon as he opened it to sing. If the announcement said that the singer was an FE, then the wrath was even worse, as a bunch of abuses tried to silence him/her (mostly him - engg college has few girls and even fewer girls who dare to sing). Even the abuses were hurled in unison and there was a certain tune to Ma********* ... Bhe**********. The orchestra should be appreciated, as despite the frenzy around them, they supported even the most cacophonous singers who dared to sing.
Quite a few singers were pretty good and every good singer was soon enough met with a sing along from the crowd. The better singers were appreciated with "Once more".

Standing there among the crowd gave a feeling of being in a mini concert. I wasn't into Rock music at that point of time but this yearly concert served as my initiation into the world of rock. Soon enough I could rattle out a few names from my mouth. Likes of Eagles, Pink Floyd, Bryan Adams, Metallica, Nirvana, Def Leopard (to name a few) were among the favorites. I learned to let loose by head banging and swaying arms to soulful tunes. Any singers who sang some of those songs well were highly appreciated. Some even earned bows from the whole crowd and thus this little concert even had a fair share of local celebrities. I remember one fellow blogger (writes a blog by name Dirtscapes) was renowned for his rendition of the Eagles classic "Hotel California".

As I end this little blog post I would like to mention a particular memory. I was an SE (second year engineering), and during this festival one FE had sung A.R.Rehman's hit "Aye Ajnabee" so well that he not only became a local celebrity (earned bows and once mores) but was one rare FE to have been known by seniors by his real name (Vishal) instead of the collective name FE. That was a rare feat. But as bad luck would have it, he soon suffered a terminal illness. I don't when exactly but at one point of time this guy was in need of an operation and we learned that the family couldn't afford it. A fund was started by students and every one was putting their hard earned pocket money into a little box. All people knew was their beloved singer was in need of it. I don't think the money eventually helped and left the whole college mourning the loss of a rare singer. Incidentally I share my first name with this fellow and even though I did not know him personally, I would like to dedicate this post to him ... Simply for those 5 minutes when he managed to give the whole crowd a soulful experience with his singing abilities. May his soul rest in peace.

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