Once upon a time, there was a boy who loved music. He loved it so much, he followed it around. He chased the music in the ponds and in the rivers. He chased the music through the dark trees at night. He even chased the music in people. But sadly, the people hid their music from him. The people did not want him around all the time. The boy cried and longed and pined for the music nobody would tell him about. He hung about listlessly, always listening for the slightest note of the music that would make him whole again.
Then one day, as he was walking through the woods, he heard a sound nothing like the music he knew. It called to him and he couldn’t help but follow it. He walked and hopped and dug and climbed and ultimately, upon a clearing he came. And there, he found his music.
~ THE BOY ~
Everyone here is talking about how they found the music that defines them today. For me, this story happens to coincide with that of the reason I consider myself a very lucky guy.
Interesting things happen to you when you are a 12-year old with a certain understanding of music and an unusual openness to the “unpopular” kind of music. That led to me discovering some people around me who weren’t just open to it, but were creating some of the best of it. I, of course, didn’t realize all of that overnight. Let me tell you a big little story of how I found Acrimony.
The (now ex) drummer of the band went to the same school as I did. Once, I happened to see him jamming with the band and man, was I blown away! Little did I know that I was in for a discovery which won’t just change my life, but will carefully shape my dream, help me take some of the most important decisions of my life and will inspire me to work harder in more than one way at any given time in my life.
The second thing I learned then was how terrible a thing classification is. Especially when it comes to artists like Acrimony. They are metal, they’re progressive, they’re soul, they’re punk, they’re grunge, they’re djent, they’re thrash, they’re speed, they’re doom and they’re even Indian classical! Each of these revelations, day by day, song by song, gig by gig, was a jaw dropping experience. Every time.
In time, I got to know about every band member. I’d admit that I reached the ultimate level of creepy fanboy-ism (of what I could have, at that age), which included downloading all their pictures from the internet and making collages on Facebook. Then, every single one of them including every single close friend, brothers and sisters of theirs’ would be tagged. I knew more about each of them than they think I’d know. I knew their email ID’s. I’d heard all their songs and memorized them left, right and centre.
They’re one of the biggest reasons I started learning how to play the guitar. Before I knew any scale or name of the chords, I was playing almost all their songs, figuring them all out by ear. A lot of it was wrong, but hell! I followed no rules and it felt so good. Eventually, I followed their work a little more maturely and became friends with their guitar player/ primary songwriter, Samar Mehdi. To sum that relationship up in this blog would be impossible. From being a fan with his heart a-flutter on the prospect of meeting him in person for the first time, to being a (still the biggest) fan and friend with an unparalleled understanding, mutual respect, truthfulness and flow of passion, it is a page in history.
The EP that I want you to listen to today is, I believe, musically the richest, most diverse, most creative, most radical and honest music that has ever come out from a band in the Indian Independent music scene. I truly believe that the fact that it is so honest, original and fucking amazing, makes it internationally viable. This right here is a 4 year old creation of a few talented and driven kids, not from a metropolitan where this culture is prevalent, but from a town where people will still look down upon you if you’re a boy and you grow your hair long or wear black 7-days a week or head bang.
This was written, composed, recorded and produced by completely self-taught, extremely talented and crazy (then) kids at their homes. Kids who had stories to tell, who had a desire to materialize all the emotions they experienced through the process of picking up an instrument, practicing for days and nights, taking all the shit from people all around them and ultimately winning all those silent wars they fought through their songs.
Some people often tell me that I should find my idols in the “real” idols of the world, but I can only feel sad for them for not knowing how manufactured most of them are. It is a loss to not realize the value of that little “crazy” we’re all blessed with and the pleasure of having it resonate with music and musicians like these.
“They’ll tell you to confide in them
Those puppets of the parasite.
Kill their immortal greed,
Give them the other side!”
~ THE MUSIC ~
Hurrah! Hurray! The boy found his music! But what do we see? He sits on a rock with his face in his hands, smiling so sadly and crying so gladly. “Oh but, I don’t feel whole! I thought the music will make my heart full and strong, but it made my heart bigger and emptier!” The boy wept and wept, clutching his music tight. The music couldn’t bear to see the boy, whom it loved so dearly, be miserable. It thought and schemed and plotted a plan. That night, as the boy slept, the music stole away and went on a quest. The moon shone and hid and the music marched on. At the edge of the forest, music saw something that made it feel so sweet that it wanted to break into a sonnet, but it had to be quiet. Carefully, it stepped back ever so lightly and made its way back to boy, hurrying lest he wakes up and finds it gone.
When the boy woke up, music was not next to him. The boy’s big heart skipped a beat and he panicked, thinking he lost his music again. But then he heard it somewhere near and he sighed in relief. He looked around and saw that the music was perched on a tree branch, looking eastward. The boy called music to come down and sing to him, but music refused. It jumped on the branch and lo! It vanished in the trees! The boy shrieked and ran towards the tree, only to find out that music had just jumped to the next tree. As soon as it saw the boy, it jumped again, now to the next tree down the east-bound path.
“Do you want me to follow you?’ Said the boy.
Music chimed in joy and skipped to the next branch.
And so the boy followed the music down the weathered path. To where, he knew not. The music led the way and the boy followed, skipping and sobbing.
At the edge of the forest, music stopped. It climbed down the tree and settled down on the boy’s shoulder.
“I am tired! Where are we going?” Cried the boy
Music quietly gestured the boy to stop talking and listen.
As the boy strained his ear to catch a tune, it caught a little sweet tiny bell sound of a sob instead. Someone was crying.
The boy, with his music, followed the sobs and came upon a sliver of a stream. By this stream sat a girl, her face buried in her knees, shaking with the sobs that brought the boy and his music here.
~ THE GIRL ~
I was about 16 years old when I took up the task of learning how to play a guitar. My teacher was a friend of mine who did not only teach me this, but also introduced me to a lot of new music. One of the many artists I got to know about then was Samar Mehdi. I was immediately enamored, and I think the biggest reason for that was his voice. If I were to give a simple description, I would say that Samar’s voice does not just touch your ears, It sinks down straight to the heart. His voice caresses you, and it can melt down even a heart made of stone.
His lyrics are a beautiful mixture of Hindi and Urdu. From a lover calling out to his beloved in “Aao na”, to the feeling of longing in “Do pal”, to the pain of a son missing his mother in “Ae Maa”(I remember crying my eyes out to it when I first heard it, and many times after that), to the pure and innocent expression of love in “Raushni”, there’s an element of sweet melancholy in his songs. Like hearing a sad story which makes you smile for some reason, or a happy story which brings tears in your eyes.
The reason why Samar’s music holds a special place in my heart is because it brought about a whole new phase in my life. I’ve been in a relationship for 5 years with a guy, whom I started talking to after watching his cover of Samar’s “Do Pal”. Infact, On our first date, he sang these lines from “Raushni” to me –
“Le chalo tum apni aagosh me chura ke,
Rakh ko hum ko apni panaah me chhupa k,
Lavz mei bayaan hum kya karenge tera rutba,
Bas lage ki hum pe, kaaynaat ho meherbaan,
Muskuraye jo tum, khil uthi zindagi,
Jabse aaye ho tum, ho gai Raushni”.
That’s when the song became immortal for me.
As I explored more of Samar’s works and attended his band’s shows, I saw how his presence on stage speaks volumes even if he’s not speaking at all. He’s as good a lyricist as he is a singer and a guitarist, so there is that. There is more, ofcourse. So much more. No matter where I am, I find solace in his music. I could be walking in the middle of a crowd or I could be lying in my bed with my eyes closed. The effect of his voice is always the same. It always takes me away somewhere, where the calm of his voice puts all the chaos to rest.
Here’s a ‘forever’ from my playlist.
~ THE BOY MEETS THE GIRL ~
The boy was transfixed, but music jumped to action! It jumped off the boy’s shoulder and made a song so gentle that it could have been the wind rustling the grass.
The sobs stopped, and slowly the girl looked up. She heard the music and she saw the boy.
“Is this music yours?” asked the girl.
“I think so. It found me in the forest and has been with me since.”
“I lost mine.” She looked at the boy, hopeful.
The boy looked at his music. He loved it so much. Could he part with it?
“I have music, but I cannot bear to part with it.”
The girl heaved a heavy sigh. The boy couldn’t take the weight of it.
“But I don’t mind if we share it. If the music doesn’t mind, that is.”
The music leapt with joy and danced along the riverbank, blowing whistles and horns and trumpets and tubas!
“That’s a yes, I think.” Said the boy, as he sat down on the ground, watching the girl re-discover her music. Their music.
– The End –