The pianist plays, his fingers caressing the ebony and ivory keys, verily worshipping them. A few tentative notes rise in the air, slowly gathering confidence. The piano weeps under his skillful hands and the guests turn to stare curiously at his rigid back. The notes catch in the air, pause, strike you full force and then subside into nothing. It is a blow you want, and very soon the guests are caught in the magic of the andante, their ears straining to absorb not just the notes, but the feel of the piece, its very soul. There is raw pain in the music, darkness, and a black humour, laced ever so gently with the promise of a light that never seems to come. The listeners’ only cue as to what will come next is the movement of the pianists’ back – he moves with the ebb and flow of the music, his thoughts guide the music and the music moves his frame. The notes begin the slow, inexorable climb, the crescendo to the climax and as his fingers move faster and faster, deft, nimble, a touch here, a hint there, the room seems to grow more silent, as if silence spreads and hungrily occupies fresh space everywhere. Tension spreads her wings and people catch their breaths as the pianist plays, obsessed now, oblivious to space and time, his back straight as a rod, the notes spinning in a dizzying spiral, climbing higher and higher and higher, kissing the peak…
… and suddenly there is deathly silence. Not one single breath. Possessions are discarded. Papers lie on the floor quietly. Stillness. The air is heavy.
Somewhere in the distance, a child drops his prattle and begins to cry and the sound is almost too bold, too rich for the full silence in the room, startling its occupants to life. Breaths are exhaled, fingers release their hold on table edges, the women slowly start fanning themselves. More children pick up the cry and begin to wail.
The pianist stares into the distance. His eyes suddenly break their hold and drop to where his fingers lie on the keys. He slowly rises, turns and bows to a room that applauds almost relievedly. Curiosity begins to simmer once again as they try to memorise his features. The pianist senses the questions to come. He bows again – a quick, stiff bow – and looking no one in the eye, he slowly hobbles out of the room.


The Spirit of Bodhi Tree

… and I’m back in Bodhi Tree.
The reasons are too complicated, and anyway this post is not about why I left last year or why I re-joined this year.

Last night, I was trying to find some sleep at about 00-15am (too early by standards), my window was open, when suddenly the sound of a guitar being strummed and male voices streamed in like light through the window.

I got up, changed, and made my way up the stairs that lead to the music, conflicting emotions raising hell inside me as usual.

I pushed open the door and walked in to find Shubham strumming, and both Shubham and Vistar were singing. Not much of a Hindi-music-knower (or even English for that matter), so to speak, I had no idea what they were singing. A laptop was lying open on a folded rubber sheet, and some lyrics were on it. These guys were sitting on some chairs haphazardly arranged.

I went closer, and bent down to take a closer look at the laptop, and read the lyrics of a song called Kandisa, (by Indian Ocean, Shubham later told me). Manan walked in and joined them. Kandisa was followed by ‘I want to Fly’ and ‘Tu Hi Meri Shab Hai’ and a couple of other songs.

And I listened, my head turning from one to the other as they un-self-consciously sang, fully enjoying what they were doing.

Between them, were: one guitar, two mikes, three guys and a simple passion for music that I listened to and tried to understand. It wasn’t a public performance, it wasn’t the poshest of settings, there was no stage, they weren’t singing for or because of anything.

It was disconcerting.

They were simply singing, three people, united by a love for music, utterly, simply happy to sing in that room at at 30 minutes past midnight, uncaring of who was listening to them downstairs, and jamming in no particular structured order.

It was initially beyond me. And I’ll tell you why.

Here I was.
I’d spent sixteen years learning a classical form of music.
I’d spent eleven years performing that form.
I’d sang solo and group on the stage.
I’d thought real music didn’t exist beyond what I’d learnt painstakingly for years and years.
Structure, formal learning, practice, my keywords to music.

And here were three guys with one guitar and some mikes, in an unfurnished room inside XL, singing away to their hearts’ content.

And here was the crux: This was real music too. As real as it gets. They loved it. They sang it. Simple.

And with that came the dawning realization – the spirit of Bodhi Tree- which I hadn’t understood in a whole year. Or maybe it’s my interpretation of the spirit.

It doesn’t matter what you sing.
It doesn’t matter if it’s on stage or off stage.
It doesn’t matter if you’re singing after years of practice, or an off-key singer in the mood to experiment.
It doesn’t matter.

What matters?
To love music, to breathe music.
That’s all that matters.

And to me, since past midnight yesterday, that’s become the spirit of Bodhi Tree.
Feel free to disagree- this is my interpretation of it.

I learn, and I grow. 🙂