Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Rowdy Sabha

There are times when blog posts become a medium to register protest; in my case, disgust. A bill was tabled in the Parliament yesterday that proposed that a third of the seats in the Parliament be reserved for women. The bill was tabled in the Rajya Sabha (the Upper House of the bicameral legislature). Members of the Rajya Sabha are not directly elected by the people of the country. On paper, the Rajya Sabha contains elite politicians, academics and people who have been very successful in their respective fields. That, however, was the last inference one would draw, looking at the incidents that unfolded yesterday. Whether or not you support the reservation of seats for women in the Parliament, you simply cannot ignore the unruly, urchin-like behaviour displayed by our top lawmakers yesterday. The sad thing is that no punishment was meted out to the culprits. Take a look at this video.

I don't remember snatching microphones, assaulting the speaker and tearing up the bill being legitimate methods of protesting in parliamentary debates. I just wanted to take this opportunity to express my extreme sense of shame at what happened and my extreme disgust at the fact that they all got away with it. May someone teach them to behave themselves.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Staffs, Strikes and Rolling Stones

Ever heard a legendary Bob Dylan song called Like a Rolling Stone? Have you ever noted the distinct sound of the organ that outlines the song? Turns out that the guy who played that piece was then a nobody called Al Kooper who wasn't even an organ player. He sneaked in to the band when the recording director had gone out to receive a call, and was allowed to stay on because (in Al's words) "the director was a gracious man". The sound of that organ playing in the song is distinctive essentially because it lags the rest of the band. That was a natural consequence of the fact that Al Kooper had no idea what he was doing and only played the note by copying what the rest of the band did. That's one of the many great back-stories to a lot of legendary Dylan songs that I found in this rock-umentary called No Direction Home (which I was double-timing with Oye Lucky Lucky Oye earlier today). The feature primarily discussed the rise of Bob Dylan from a lanky youngster who sang at the March on Washington in 1963, to the legend that he is today. Also discussed, was the rise of this genre of music called "protest music".

The song was originally about 10 pages (about 51 verses) long. As I play the song in the background while writing this post, I find that it's still long enough for me to be able to type out a lot of this post by the time it finishes. I also reflect on a certain conversation I had had with M a few months ago, when with much angst, he shared with me the horror of having had to sit through some hip-hop video. Protest music was essentially a product of the political turmoil of the 1960s. The civil rights movement, the cold war and the raging Vietnam war provided enough material for someone who wanted to protest prevailing social conditions. I realize that that period produced many of the greatest musicians the world has ever known. That was a time where African-American music wasn't about drugs, hustling, bling and buttocks. So your ideal African-American musical hero would be a B.B. King or a Miles Davis making it big on that streak of rebellion, and not a worth-his-weight-in-gold-clad Snoop Dogg.

What is the conclusion that I'm trying to draw from this? That political turmoil provides great breeding ground for fantastic music. Or perhaps it used to. We may not have those "I have a dream" moments happening too often anymore, but there's still enough turmoil for everyone to churn out profound verse and yet, there seems to be a distinct absence of those voices of protest.

Either they've stopped talking, or we've stopped listening.