Sunday, 23 July 2017

Books that sell in the early twenty-first century

1. Fantasy (Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Amish Tripathi's books etc.) (added advantage of associated series of cinematic adaptations)
2. Examination question papers and preparation guides
3. Romance (with sex, without sex)
4. Simple stories written in simple language (Chetan Bhagat, Jeffrey Archer etc.)
5. Crime fiction
6. Picture books for toddlers and those learning to read
7. Books for slightly older kids but with pictures (Diary of a Wimpy Kid)
8. Motivational -- How to be Rich and Succcessful, How to be Happy, How to be Healthy (What to Eat, How to Lose Weight)

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The four most important Indians of the twentieth century

I am currently of the opinion that the four most important Indians of the twentieth century were

a) Mohandas K Gandhi,
b) a man who followed Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru,
c) a man who funded Gandhi, Ghanshyam Das Birla, and
d) a man who was a Gandhian in his school days, Dhirajlal Ambani.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

পিকাডিলি-র উচ্চারণ

লন্ডনে ফেলুদা--তে ছোট বেলায় এটা পড়েছিলাম।
বরফে ঢাকা আলপসের উপর দিয়ে প্লেনটা না উড়ে গেলে প্রায় কিছুই দেখার থাকত না।
পাহাড়টার নাম জেনে লালমোহনবাবু জিজ্ঞেস করলেন, 'আমরা কি মন্ট ব্ল্যাঙ্ক দেখতে পাব?'
ফেলুদা বলল, 'তা পাব, তবে মন্ট ব্ল্যাঙ্ক নয়, লালমোহনবাবু। এখন ইউরোপে এসেছেন, এখানকার দ্রষ্টব্যগুলোর নামের উচ্চারণ ঠিক করে করতে শিখুন। অটা হল ম ব্লাঁ।'
'তার মানে অনেকগুলো অক্ষরের কোনও উচ্চারণই নেই?'
'ফরাসিতে সেটা খুব স্বাভাবিক।'
লালমোহনবাবু বেশ কয়েকবার ম ব্লাঁ ম ব্লাঁ বলে নিলেন।
' আর আমাদের হোটেল যেখানে,' বলল ফেলুদা, 'সেটার বানান দেখে পিকাডিলি বলতে ইচ্ছা করলেও আপনি যদি পিক্‌লি বলেন তা হলে ওখানকার সাধারণ লোকে বুঝবে আরও সহজে। পিক্‌লি সার্কাস,'
'পিক্‌লি সার্কাস। থ্যাঙ্ক ইউ।'

এই 'পিক্‌লি' উচ্চারণটার কোনো অস্তিত্ব আজ পর্যন্ত খুঁজে পাইনি। এবং যেহেতু পিকাডিলি শব্দটা এসেছে 'পিকাডিল' বা ফুটো ফুটো কলার এর থেকে, ফলে পিকাডিলি-টাই যুক্তি মত উচ্চারণ হওয়া উচিত।

সবাই 'লন্ডন' বানানে দন্ত-ন কেন ব্যবহার করে?

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Politically Entertaining: A case study of the rock band ‘Indian Ocean’

      In 2015, one of India’s most popular rock bands is ‘Indian Ocean’. Despite a major change in the line-up in the last five years, the band has managed to hold on to its popularity. Given that the band’s primarily revenue model is through live shows, as opposed to album sales (in fact their second-last album, 16/330 Khajoor Road (2010), was distributed for free on the internet), they have still managed to hold onto their primary audience, that is college students. Founded in the mid-1980s in the college festival circuit, the band is a regular performer at college fests even to this day. In addition, their immense popularity in India has also led to sponsorship deals, which is not a regular phenomenon for rock bands in India. The band was sponsored for a while by Johnnie Walker, and now appears in a promotional for Mc Dowell’s, under their ‘No.1 Yaari’ theme, for which other prominent and popular musicians have also been hired to endorse. Such sponsorship is often frowned upon by the more politically inclined, especially for those artists whose music is often considered as being political in nature, such as exhibited by a large number of responses to Bob Dylan singing ‘Love Sick’ for a Victoria’s Secret commercial. Perhaps the criticism in Dylan’s case was also based on a patriarchal prudishness to lingerie commercials.
      Given the heavily commercial nature of their music, it is perhaps to be expected that they are primarily an entertainment band. Music can of course be classified into several categories, such as funeral music, religious music and political music among others. Entertainment is also one of the functions of music. Indian Ocean’s entertainment value, suggested by the rock concert atmosphere of their shows and the dancing into which their audience often breaks into, is perhaps the reason why it is extremely popular in India among young college students.
      Despite being an entertaining rock band, their songs, which have a verbal component, are very often political. The political message of the songs, some may argue, is perhaps lost among the dancing and the commercial nature of their music. On the other hand, because the songs are extremely popular, the audience is often encouraged to go home and look up the lyrics and the story surrounding the composition of the song and the background of the lyrics.
      When Indian Ocean started in the mid-1980s, it was primarily an instrumental band, Asheem Chakravarty’s table and Susmit Sen’s guitar. On their basic choice of instruments, one ‘eastern’ and the other ‘western’, the label ‘fusion’ is easily applied. However, this ‘fusion’ nature of the band’s sound is what made the band’s music unattractive to record companies in the early 1990s in both India and England. As shown in the 2010 documentary on the band, Leaving Home, Indian record companies felt the sound was un-Indian and hence refused to sign them on. At the same time, English labels felt the sound was not ethnic enough.
      Rahul Ram, with his environmental work and more famously Narmada Bachao Andolan background, brought in ‘folk’ songs, such as ‘Ma Rewa’ (Kandisa, 2000) and more verbal music. This addition of verbal music is not something that Susmit Sen felt too comfortable with, as he wrote in his memoir Ocean to Ocean (2014). Given the more commercial feel to verbal music, as opposed to instrumental music, the pressures of a professional band to be successful commercially compromised with the creative aspects, felt Susmit. In fact, it was Rahul who persuaded the band to incorporate verbal elements.
      It is worth pointing out here that the band ‘Shakti’, which was together for about three years in the mid-1970s, had a similar approach, and played ‘fusion’ instrumental music. The violin, the mridangam and the ghatam were also leading instruments in Shakti. However, the band did not last for very long. They were together for only three years. Also, a band like ‘Shakti’ was not a rock band. The popularity and influence of a rock band, especially among the youth, cannot perhaps be challenged by an instrumental fusion band. The choice of concert venues also changes with the genre of music. It is difficult to imagine Shakti being popular in the college fest circuit. Music, such as produced by Shakti, required a quieter ambience, preferably in a closed-door hall with good acoustics. Without the addition of vocals, the mid-1980s Indian Ocean probably would have been restricted to being labelled such a fusion band and perhaps would not have been dubbed a rock band. Thus, the addition of vocals was perhaps a significant genre-changer for Indian Ocean. Having mentioned that, it is also worth mentioning that the sound of Indian Ocean—the guitar, the tabla and the drums—is as distinctive a sound for Indian Ocean as its verbals. It is not as if the verbal component of the songs far overshadows the non-verbal portions. In fact, most of their songs have perhaps as much non-verbal portions as verbal portions. Thus, post-the introduction of vocals in Indian Ocean’s music, it is difficult to completely separate the verbal and the non-verbal components of Indian Ocean’s music. It is not as if the verbal components dictate the tone of the non-verbal component. On the contrary, it may be argued that the non-verbal musical component is perhaps more overpowering since it is similar (it has to be given the number of band members and the number of instruments) in a lot of their songs. However, the verbal lyrics are an important aspect of Indian Ocean’s music and are the focus of the rest of this essay.
      Indian Ocean’s first post-Susmit album, Tandanu, featured three explicitly political songs – ‘Gar Ho Sake, ‘Roday’ and ‘Cheetu’. It is true that these songs were many years in the making and Susmit was never interested in political songs in the first place, unlike Rahul. Rahul Ram, who talks about his life’s experiences quite often, talks about ‘Cheetu’ even in the documentary Leaving Home. For a band which seeks commercial success, featuring three political songs seems an unusual move, unless one considers it across the entire lifespan of the band. The reason why Indian Ocean is important from an ethnomusicological point-of-view is in fact from their fusion of entertainment and politics.
      Their second album, a fortuitously recorded live album from a show organised by the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (Safdar Hashmi, the political playwright, died after being attacked by a mob while performing a street play), Desert Rain (1997) contained some of the songs of their first eponymously titled album, which was a studio album. In Desert Rain, the first song also titled ‘Desert Rain’ borrows strongly from North Indian classical music, which Susmit was almost listening to exclusively of all other genres of music, for a while in the 1980s. The song ‘fuses’ rock music and North Indian classical music, and perhaps encouraged their solely rock-music hearing audience to also listen to North Indian classical. The second song, ‘Village Damsel’ borrows its verbal portion from a popular bhatiyali song (boatman’s songs). The fact that the band members had Bengali roots led to bhatiyali music being a part of their growing up. Their 2010 album 16/330 Khajoor Road, also had a song, ‘Bondhu’, which is a modern composition but its themes are bhatiyali. While folk songs and classical songs have always been incorporated into commercial music and should not be a special cause for celebration, yet it is important to point out the wide range of sources that Indian Ocean was borrowing from. The third song, ‘Boll Weevill’ has lyrics in Bhilali, by adivasi activist and poet Vahru Sonavane of the Bhoomi Sena (from the cotton plantation zones of Thane, in Maharashtra) that was translated into Bhilali by Shankarbhai Tadavale of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath (Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh), an independent trade union working to organise the Bhil and Bhilala communities in central India for rights to land and forest. The song ‘Cheetu’ in their 2014 album Tandanu is also based on the life of Cheetu Bhil, an adivasi warrior whose ‘fortress’ was turned into a police station, and in which Rahul Ram was incarcerated for a while, during which he picked up the song much to the delight of the officer-in-charge who later fed him with food cooked in his house. Cheetu Bhil is a forgotten figure in history. In fact, a web search does not reveal anything about the person except in connection with this Indian Ocean song. Popular music has this ability to raise consciousness about forgotten characters from history, about being didactic while being entertaining. The sixth song, ‘From the Ruins’ is a prayer for peace from the Katha Upanishad. The lyrics of the song are in Sanskrit, which like Bhilali, is not a language that most of their audience members know. Yet through songs like these, they perhaps encouraged their audience to know more about the history of such songs and cultures.
      Their third album, Kandisa (2000), borrows its title from an Aramaic hymn. Three songs in the album were written by a friend of the band, Sanjeev Sharma. One of them was ‘Kaun’ which no explicit political theme, though ‘Kaun’ has lines in Kashmiri written by Amit Kilam’s mother. Amit’s mother, Indira Kilam, a Kashmiri Pandit, banished from her homeland, writes lines about peace and moving on, a strongly political emotion. The song ‘Roday’ from Tandanu also features themes of exile, with lyrics in Kashmiri, Sindhi and Bhilali. Similarly, ‘Ma Rewa’, the song that Rahul borrowed from the Narmada Bachao Andolan is not explicitly political. It is a popular song of the Narmada area, yet through its association with the Andolan, which must be termed political in its strongest non-party political sense, it becomes a political song, and thus the song raises political awareness for the inquisitive rock music fan. ‘Hille le’ is the only explicitly political song in the album. The lyrics are by the Bhojpuri poet, Gorakh Pandey.
      Jhini, their 2003 album, borrows its name from a poem by Kabir. The band’s philosophy ties in with much of Kabir’s philosophy as well, such as living in communal harmony and practising non-violence. It may not appear political in itself, but songs such as ‘Bandeh’, composed for the Anurag Kashyap film Black Friday, a film that dealt with the Bombay riot and blasts, attain a political significance through their usage and their context. ‘Des mera rangrez re babu’, a political-satire song, written by Sanjeev Sharma, was also used in the film Peepli Live, a film that dealt with the media spectacle of tragic events among the downtrodden. Here, both the song itself, and the later film in which it was used, are strongly political in nature. The song ‘Darte ho’, also used in the film and later released as part of 16/330 Khajoor Road, is a musical adaptation of a poem by the Pakistani poet Nazar Muhammad Rashid. The poem though not explicitly political, becomes a political poem through its use in the film. ‘Naam Myo Ho’ is of course a Buddhist prayer. There is nothing political in a religious prayer, unless one thinks of it as trying to foster a sense of communal harmony. The song ‘After the War’ was written after the 2002 riots in Gujarat and addresses the theme of communal violence.
      The band’s latest album, Tandanu, was released in CD format by Times Music. The CD booklet has lyrics to all the songs written in the Devanagari script and published much like political pamphlets. The lyrics of the song ‘Gar Ho Sake’ are published with illustrations of stars, fists and question marks. The stars are a strong symbol of the communist movement. Think of the flags of the Soviet Union, China and Vietnam. Though Rahul Ram keeps saying that the band is not political in nature, because the songs have to be musically appropriate to their style first in order for the band to cover them, and entertainment is their primary concern, yet, with Indian Ocean’s entertainment, comes politics. Unintended it may be. Or perhaps not so. Given the distinct choice of themes which covers almost all of their verbal compositions, the political consciousness is undoubtedly intended. Yet, the band does not put too hard a finger on it, as it may dissuade the non-converted from attending their concerts, or even turn away their old fans by taking away the entertainment value that an evening at one of their concert affords. It is true that a lot of their fans also listen to their songs at home, away from the concert atmosphere and in a more private setting, which affords greater engagement, at least with the verbal aspects of the songs.
      Like a lot of popular entertainers, Indian Ocean offers both entertainment and didacticism. It is up to the audience to choose either or both. It is also significant that in India, college fests have been one of the primary venues for their performances. The nature of college fests ensures that it is just not their fans or fans of rock and roll, but also the student out to have a good time who gets a chance to be exposed to this rare blend of entertainment and politics. It is up to the curious student turned fan to look up the history of the songs and choose to be exposed to not only new knowledge but also different ideas and ways of thinking.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

বাড়ি ফেরা

বাড়ি ফেরা

ক্লান্ত, শান্ত, নিংড়ানো দেহটা,
বাস-এর রডে্‌র থেকে ঝুলে ঝুলে,
যৌবনের আশা ত্যাগ করা মনটা,
বস্‌-এর গালি খেয়ে ফুলে ফুলে,
বিদ্যা, ক্ষমতা, প্রতিভা থেকেও,
কর্মে আদর্শ, নীতি ত্যাগ করে,
সাধারণ বাঁচার চেষ্টা সত্ত্বেও,
হাঁসফাঁসিয়ে দৈনন্দিন রোজ বরে,
বাড়ি ফিরে হাঁসি মুখ ও গায়ে,
আলিঙ্গন ও চুম্বনের মিষ্টতায়,
উবে যায় গ্লানি, হতাশা, ক্ষোভ, ভয়,
শুষ্ক জীবন প্লাবনে ভরে যায়,
মৃদু বুক-স্রোতের নব উষ্ণতায়,
সব আশা-নিরাশা কবিতা হয়।

Monday, 24 November 2014

Synecdoche, power, archives and digitisation

    The word ‘synecdoche’ is used to either refer to occasions when a part is used to represent a whole, or when the whole is used to represent a part. An example of the latter use, of when the whole is used to represent a part, is a sentence such as ‘India defeated Pakistan by 11 runs.’ The sentence actually means that some Indian cricket team defeated some Pakistani cricket team. Yet the term ‘India’ is used. It brings into question whether 11 human beings (or say 16 or whatever number of players, including substitutes, constituted that specific team) can be representative of 1.2 billion human beings.
    Publishing, bibliographic profiling, archiving and digitisation also follow a similar pattern. Out of all that human beings think/ feel and do, very few of such activities are written down. Out of all that human beings write down, very little is published. The sampling continues. Not all published material make it to some bibliographical list. Very few of even those items are archived for long-term future use. Digitisation of non-born-digital material is also a rare event. Very few material artifacts are digitised. Thus, there is a constant sampling or creating representatives of what to select.
    This diminishing selection is obviously closely related with power. Not many people have the power/ capacity to write. Illiteracy and leisure are two major constraints. Publication is an exercise in appeasing the powers and the moneyed. Bibliographical lists are based on a sense of elitism. Lists are only made of elite collections and publishers. The rest are termed ‘ephemera’ or temporary material artifacts. Archiving is again a matter of taste. Digitisation again brings in an element of elitism when only certain collections are considered important or elite enough to be widely representative of archives.
    Thus archiving and digitisation are activities in synecdochal expressions of power.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A list of open-access (no author-fees, no reader-fees), peer-reviewed, English language, ISSN journals on textual studies

Post last updated: 29th October 2014
Please post details of other items in the comments section.

Title: Textual Cultures: Texts, Contexts, Interpretation
Organisation: Society for Textual Scholarship
URL: http://scholarworks.iu.edu/journals/index.php/textual/index
Country: USA
ISSN: 1933-7418

Title: Scholarly Editing
Organisation: Association for Documentary Editing
URL: http://www.scholarlyediting.org/
Country: USA
ISSN: ?

Title: Text Matters
Organisation: University of Lodz
URL: http://www.degruyter.com/view/j/texmat
Country: Poland
ISSN: 2084-574X