Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘MIA Dappan Koothu’

When westerners think Indian art, they immediately look towards AR Rahman, our poster boy with kooky hair, Amitabh Bachchan, the has-been who now sells B-grade toiletries on local TV channels and Aishwarya Rai, our toned down, family-friendly version of Paris Hilton. During the Sixties, according to the West, the Indian art scene comprised Ravi Shankar, men of yoga who got a free pass to Woodstock, half-assed spiritual gurus and any bearded dude who knew how to play the sitar. Forty years later, the misconception continues, only now we are subject to a remixed version of their ignorance.

See folks, we do more than make frighteningly dumb music for NRI discotheques to wax nostalgic over and magically transport our heroes and heroines to Switzerland for elaborate dance sequences. I mean, we still do that a lot but our homegrown artists have many a times been spectacularly original too. Our fixation with American pop culture and Broadway’s song-and-dance routines, as fucked up as it is, is reserved only for the glossiest of the mainstream; and with our media only throwing the spotlight on whatever/whoever is easily marketable, that’s all the rest of the world gets to see and brand as ambassadors of their mediums.

Just so you know, AR Rahman is not our finest musical talent; he can only  touch himself (or the Pussycat Dolls) to that notion while the maestro Ilaiyaraaja keeps creating some of the finest Indian music you could ever possibly hear. Silly primadonnas with Khans as second names are not amongst our most gifted actors; they are stylized puppets who cry on soap commercials, take off their shirts when there is a crowd of more than ten, play 25 year-olds in movies, dance with 22 year-olds in music videos and feed off the puppy love of 12 year-olds in real life – all at the ripe old age of fourty.

People like Raghuvaran, Sarita, Tabu, Cochin Haneefa, Boman Irani, Pratap Pothan, Nanditha Das, Atul Kulkarni, Nagesh, and Naseeruddin Shah are just some of the few who can act circles around the goddam Khans and Rais. And how movie critics like Roger Ebert and Peter Bradshaw are so convinced of their dedication to worldwide cinema when they have never watched a K Balachander or Balu Mahendra film is some sort of a sad mystery to me. I’m sure they have watched Sathyajit Ray’s entire collection but their relevance is outdated considering the wealth of cinema that came thereafter (Is Kurosawa the only Japanese director they speak of? No!).

The worst of all however is reserved for our musical inclinations…the grand misconception that either bhangra or Ustad Amjad’s meditative fiddling represents the average Indian’s sentiment towards what constitutes to good music.

Look, we are at ease with the fact that the West is enamoured by our Third World culture and if it helps us out with getting financial aid, screw it, continue thinking that there are little kids here in cities that need saving from Bengal tigers, King Cobras and erratic castrations. I certainly can’t deny that only a handful of countries are as socially backward in thought as India; however, for fuck’s sake and the sake of every Indian artist who didn’t look towards the West to find his/her muse, do not, for one second, think that our art is as insipid as your opinion of it.

Dappan Koothu is one of those largely ignored forms of South Indian art. Dappan Koothu is a percussion-based form of rural music that has its roots in South Indian folklore. While the more populist Carnatic music genre caters to classicist pop in the sense that it is based on precise rhythmic patterns, Dappan Koothu is more of freestyle jazz; mostly based around the wildfire rhythms of the tharai thappattai (a local drum). So intensely against the rules of a conventional melody, it puts both the musician and the audience in a trance-like state, with its mesmerizing mix of random beats.

In fact, a section of South Indians hires tharai thappattai drummers to play at their funerals; intoxicated, they wreak havoc on their percussion instruments and dance in front of the funeral procession to both signify the joyousness in the life once lived and to provide a memorable passage for the dead to move on.

I’d hoped that MIA’s fantastic Kala and Arular albums would be Dappan Koothu’s climb to prominence, considering that she uses many elements of it in tracks such Bird Flu, Sunshowers, Bucky Done Gun, Fire Fire and a few other gems. Despite collaborating with AR Rahman for that movie’s soundtrack, she is one of the few non-Indians who actually understands Indian art for what it is – diverse. Her track Bamboo Banga even has a brilliant sampling of a classic by India’s greatest musician – Ilaiyaraaja (the wonderful Kattu Kuyilu Manasukkulle track from Thalapathi).

Download

Ilaiyaraaja – Punnagi Mannan Theme

Ilaiyaraaja – Johnny Theme

Ilaiyaraaja – Paartha Vizhi (Guna)

Watch

MIA – Bamboo Banga

Ilaiyaraaja –  Kattu Kuyilu

Dappan Koothu freestylin 1

Dappan Koothu freestylin 2

Advertisements

Read Full Post »