GloPoWriMo: Day XII: Messrs Music Men

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt encourages one of my favourite literary devices – alliteration! Call me a crazed cuckoo, but I rather revel in the repetitious written word. Certainly a fun one to write, I hope you also enjoy reading… the story of how a dynamic-less duo once came to be…

On a stormy but silent saturday
A tenacious twosome sat
One pouring potent potables
One bopping a box with a bat

Till something softly struck the second
The inkling of the incidentally inspired
He gently grabbed a guitar and strummed
The first then found an inner fire

As the metal strings made merry music
Words welled up and were welcomed forth
Melody found lines, and music lyric
And one being was born, from what two had brought

Something sweet and surreal was sired
Heard and hummed happily by a few since then
The progeny of a pair of prodigious pals
So came to be the Messrs Music Men

 

Nice Weather for Ducks – Live at Lodhi Garden Restaurant

So I recently went to a gig by a friend’s band – Jester – where the opening act was a college band called ‘Nice Weather for Ducks‘, though they really could have fooled me. For a college outfit they have a really tight sound and their vocalist has some pretty decent chops. So I didn’t miss the chance to catch them again at Lodhi Garden Restaurant on Saturday, the 26th of August.

Though their set was short, it was entertaining. They played well and, all-in-all, the crowd, a majority of which was not there to listen to any live music, self-composed or otherwise, gave them a pretty decent ovation. In my opinion, if this was a TC gig, they would have walked off to a pretty decent roar.

The band bills themselves as ‘experimental’ and I suppose to some extent they are – they have elements of fusion, a little punk-ishness and some old school alternative vibes – though they wouldn’t match what most of us, or I at least, would think of when envisioning experimental rock. But this is not a bad thing.

If you haven’t heard them yet I suggest you check them out – Nice Weather for Ducks – I hear their EP is dropping soon!

An Evening of Sufi Rock

I had the amazing opportunity yesterday to not only be around my wonderful family to celebrate my Grandmother’s 80th Birthday, witness the posthumous launch of my Grandfather Praxy Fernandes’ book “Of Vanities and Profanities” as well as take another shot at some gig photography – something I haven’t tried my hand at in a while.

It was an amazing night of music with performances by Agam, well-known Indian fusion band which had a celebrated involvement in the second season of Coke Studio at MTV. The band performed with wonderful Sufi siren Zila Khan, daughter of the legendary sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan. The combination of Agam’s dual sound with Zila’s beautiful melodies was simply masterful and I think I managed to get some decent shots out of it.

Sunny Sunday Stroll

What better way to spend a beautiful day like today than walking around London basking in the sun! So that’s what my friend and I decided to do. We began our journey at the Soho Flea Market where we briefly enjoyed a performance by duo Lilygreen and Maguire (who were quite wonderful) before getting some tasty milkshakes at Ed’s Diner. From there we meandered about Trafalgar Square, walked up to Buckingham Palace (which is a lot smaller than I remember!) and then walked through beautiful Green Park. I managed to get some nice shots so I thought I’d share them before I lie down for a nice lazy sunday siesta : )

An Open Symphony

It’s been forever since I attended a classical music concert. I can’t really even remember the last one. Which is why I was happy I managed to make it to Trafalgar Square yesterday for the Open Air Classics free concert where the London Symphony orchestra performed the Symphony Fantastique by Hector Berlioz.

Unfortunately, due to moving hassles, I didn’t make it to the square till 6, the concert being scheduled to begin at 6:30. So you can imagine that by this point it was rather full. In fact access to the square itself had been cordoned off and shut – a fact one of the ladies in charge seemed to delight in reminding us of every 5 seconds through her bullhorn.

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10 Ways to Enjoy London – No Money Down!

No one can argue with the fact that London is an expensive city – between rent, provisions, getting around and a couple of pints a week, it hard to find room in the budget for some fun. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely a bit easier if you’re a student. With an NUS Card, or even just your college ID, you have access to discounts at the Cinema, your local Grocery Store, Tourist attractions and many other places. But that will only get you so far won’t it? But have no fear, my dear, there are ways to circumvent a lack of cask flow. If you do your research and plan right, you can have a fun or culture filled day, without spending a penny. Here’s 10 ways to help you start:

1. Visit a Museum/Gallery: London has several wonderful museums. From the expansive Museum of Natural History (that’s one of my favorites – I spent the entire day there once – They even have an animatronic T-Rex!) to the National Gallery or the Tate Modern. You can get your fill of History, Technology or Art, just for the cost of bus/tube fare. Here’s Time Out magazine’s list of museums you can visit for free – Museums in London. But remember to check ahead, there may be admission for particular exhibits/attractions.

2. Check out a TV Show taping: I went for a taping once for a BBC Show. It was quite a great experience. It’s amazing to see just how they film an ensemble comedy (and how many times you have to laugh at the same joke ; p). But you might be more inclined to check out a News Show or maybe a Quiz? Who knows, if they have audience participation you may even get your 15 minutes of fame. Apply now and go watch TV being made at the BBC – BBC Tapings

3. Take A Walking Tour: There are several exciting walking tours you can take in London. You can get entails on any hostel site or on Time Out. Most of them cost a few quid though. However, Sandemans New Europe does FREE tours of London every day. That’s right, it’s absolutely free. You’re welcome to tip your guide at the end, but that’s on you. You can book the tour for any number of people, so whether you’re on your own, with a few friends, or taking the entire extended family (that’s a lot of people if you’re Indian like me ; p), it’s all good! Book Now

4. Check out the Street Markets: There are some fantastic street markets to check out in the city. While they all tend to have the standard tourist goods, like Bobby Hats, Sunglasses or Fedoras, they also have their own uniqueness. For example, the Portobello Road Market is rather known for having quant antique shops and even stalls where people sell some really cool old stuff. Camden Town is another well-known market, the down side of course is that it’s a perfect tourist trap. Still, it has some nice cafes and stalls that are worth checking out, even if you don;t buy any of that rubbish. If you’re a foodie you should definitely check out Borough Market. It has a reputation as one of the best food markets in the city and you can find choice local and international produce.

5. Catch a free Concert: There are many venues throughout the city where you can sit and enjoy an evening of music with your mates. If you’re into rock I would suggest one of the many pubs in Camden Town, where there are regularly local bands playing in the evenings and entry is usually free before 10-11 PM. If you’d like to enjoy something a bit more classical head over to The National Theatre where they regularly have free events open to the general public, first come first served of course. Another option is for you to check out the Royal College of Music. All of their events, unless stated otherwise, are free.

6. A Free Comedy Gig: There are dozens of comedy clubs in the capital (Alliteration. Love it!) that host free nights. They feature regular local comics as well as new comers and fresh faces. So check out Angel Comedy in Camden Walk, which features the best of the open mic circuit as well as a professional headliner. Or check out the various free shows offered by The Comedy Bin.

7. Visit A Park: If you find yourself experiencing a beautiful sunny day (they’re rare, but they do happen), you might want to get out and take in the green. So why not visit one of the exquisite, and for the most part, massive parks in and around London. They are beautifully maintained, with mini-attractions like play areas, statues and carved shrubs and some even have some wildlife. You may have to rent a car or take a bus to some of them, but a day out of the city might be just what the doctor ordered, because trust me, if there’s sun, Londoners will flock to the Parks to get some much-needed Vitamin D. Here’s Time Out’s helpful list of London’s Major Parks.

8. Star Gaze: Head on over to the Astronomy Centre, located in the Royal Observatory to see the history of the universe in 4 minutes or touch 4.5 billion year old meteorite (yes you can actually touch it!). The Astronomy Centre and galleries are open daily from 10 to 5 and admission is free.

9. Watch A Movie: There are quiet a few organizations that organize free film screenings on a regular basis/hand out free tickets to screenings in the city. You just have to do your homework and be quick, and a little bit lucky. The Radio Station LBC 97.3 FM hands out tickets for monthly screenings by its LBC Film Club. In the past they’ve done popular titles such as The Hangover, Frost/Nixon and RocknRolla. So check back regularly. Or sign up to Free Movies UK to get the chance to attend preview screenings of new movies at your local cinema.

10. Explore: Last but not least, just get off your butt and walk around. There are so many beautiful and breathtaking sights to see in London. Some might have an admission cost to see the inside, but they are beautiful to look at even if you don’t go in. Go see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace; see St. Paul’s Cathedral; walk along the river Thames; go visit Shakespeare’s Globe. There’s literally no end to the things you can see.

Well I hope this small, but nowhere close to exhaustive, list of things helps some of you branch out and load up on some fun, without putting any additional drain on your purse strings. I hope you’ll buy me a pint one day with the additional beer money ; )

Of Monsters and Men: Live at The Empire

On Wednesday a friend and I caught Of Monsters and Men, the Icelandic indie-folk rock band, at the 02 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, after I got my hands on some last-minute tickets. The evening was rather entertaining and if you’ve heard their music or are a fan, you know how lost you can get in it.

The opening act – a one man band called Mugison was quite… “interesting”. He started out by coming onto stage, admitting that he was a bit pissed (hilarious!) and played his first three songs on a self-crafted instrument that looked a bit like something an Engineering/Electronics student might construct for a project. The sound was definitely very sci-fi. Though he had a rather soulful and powerful voice, I have to say that this part of his set felt very self-indulgent. The music at times was harsh and didn’t even seem to go with the lyrics; it was almost like random sounds thrown together – it sort of reminded me of Ross playing his synth on Friends. The second half of his set was dramatically better. He picked up a guitar and played a few more songs. But unfortunately the set was still rather unfulfilling. He definitely has talent. And at times I felt that if he had a few more members for his band his sings would sound great. But I suppose that’s a personal artistic choice, and I respect that. Will say this though, he is a pretty funny guy – he seemed to really enjoy himself up there and not take himself too seriously.

The downside of this support act, entertaining though it may have been as far as my friend and I were taking the piss throughout his set, was that the crowd wasn’t really as fired up as it should have been when the main act came on – so it took a few songs before people really started feeling the music and jumping a bit – but we definitely got there. Of Monsters and Men has an amazing sound and their use of so many instruments makes them sound really big and powerful. Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting them to sound as big live. It’s easy to get that feel in a studio but to do it live – wow. It helps of course that they have 7 people up on stage. The contrast between the range of their two co lead singers –  the angelic notes of  Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and the mellow accompaniments of Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson – makes such a beautiful and sometimes spine-chillingly touching combination. By the time “Mountain Sound” rolled around, about half-way through their set, I was welling up with excitement. The band got most if its fame I’d say from the massive popularity of their single – “Little Talks”, which has a massive brass element which I think gives it some real power – but “Mountain Sound” and “King and Lionheart” are actually two of my favorite tracks.

If you haven’t already checked out this band, you absolutely must! – Of Monsters and Men

I’ve got a band!

Alright so my friend and I wrote a couple of songs while we were jamming. I published them on my tumblr blog – http://khurshidz.tumblr.com – which I maintain separately, mostly to exhibit some of my photography. Recently however I found myself idle with a bit of time on my hands so I did what I usually do in such a situation. What’s that? Study? Go to the gym? Surely you jest! No I gave myself a little side project ; p

So after discussing it with my friend and fellow band member, I came up with a name and created a profile on Grooveshark – an online music listening service. Its got no fans or followers on their yet, maybe one of you can be the first : )

http://grooveshark.com/#!/artist/Victorious+In+The+Sun/2649426

Plug In Your Earphones

Pressing play on my iPod while its on shuffle is often like playing russian roulette with my mood. So many times a day which, but for the grace of Pod, (pardon the lame pun) would have had me bouncing the down the street bobbing my head, instead sees me transported to a place far more sullen or blue than I had intended for me to be. On the flip side, many a dark and tiring day has been turned around by 30 minutes of driving in my car, blasting the music on full volume and singing at the top of my lungs. Now, due to my change in circumstances, i.e. moving to London and restarting my life as a student, sans automobile, the latter of these isn’t a possibility anymore. Though I still sing out loud walking down the street on my way home (provided no one else is really within ear shot).

There are literally dozens of classified genres of Music, each with its own set of “sub-genres”. But who is to say if this form of classification for music even works anymore? Sure I can understand a perceivable difference when you refer to say Rock or Pop or Classical or say Polka! But ask someone what makes Alternative-Rock different from Indie-Rock or Progressive-Rock, and the average consumer might be hard pressed to answer. Should they even have to? Why should we have to justify our musical tastes by neatly categorizes them and saying I listen to Rock or I like Jazz or I prefer House. Personally, in the same day I might find myself flitting from Country to Indie to Rock to House to Rap to World (the last of these being the category that all the bands from back home in India apparently fall into). I don’t know if I can even go as far as to say I like certain bands. Because sometimes, I’ll check out a song and think “Wow. That’s an amazing song. I absolutely love it!”. But it’ll turn out to be that the rest of the album is very, for lack of a better word, “meh”. Rarely do I find myself liking the entirety of an album, especially in the case of anything produced in say the last 30 years.

One possibility is that we are just spoilt for choice. We have so much thrown at us that its impossible to give it all a try. And we become comfortable in the idea of liking one kind of music and sticking to that. It could be that my brain sub-consciously rejects the rest of the album to keep from flooding my system with stimuli. Think about it, when you get a hold of a new favorite song, you tend to listen to it more than anything else. It almost immediately makes it to your most played playlist. But as time progresses and you find yourself some new material, the frequency with which that first track is played diminishes. If you had a new favorite song every week, you’d barely listen to anything more than a few times before it made it to the back burner. Or maybe I’m just really finicky. Either way, I like the system that I’ve developed for myself. Every few weeks I troll the internet trying to discover whats making the rounds, whats new and whats underground. Sites like http://www.wearehunted.com and http://www.8tracks.com are great for this. The former gives a religiously updated charts listing of singles by genre, and even has a great representation of indie music. The latter hosts user generated playlists, organized by tags and “moods”.

The point, which it seems I got distracted from during my rambling, is that Music is a powerful thing indeed. It serves as a source of entertainment, as an art form, as a medium for therapy. It has the power to heal and to fuel hate, to bring together and to tear apart, to remind us of our most painful or precious moments and to help us forget them just the same. So thanks ABBA (lame joke – But Bonus Points if you get it!).

I will leave you with a quote from Music and Lyrics (a movie so Hollywood cute that I cringe to admit how much I liked it), released in 2007 starring Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant. I just think its a nice description of how we (possibly) perceive music. How a song speaks to us and the journey it takes us on.

“A melody is like seeing someone for the first time. The physical attraction. Sex… But then, as you get to know the person, that’s the lyrics. Their story. Who they are underneath. It’s the combination of the two that makes it magical.” – Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore), Music and Lyrics (2007)