A day in Santa Monica

It was Saturday and my colleagues craved beach breeze. We were in Pasadena, a graceful town not too far from the Santa Monica beach.

Although I had my eyes and mind set on visiting the Griffith Observatory, my colleagues had planned to take a cab—first to the beach and then to Hollywood. Calculating the time and effort it’d otherwise take me to get to the Observatory, I caved to peer pressure, spending the afternoon with my colleagues and then taking public transportation to the Observatory. After all, it was closer from Hollywood than it was from where we were staying.

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As we walked down the wooden ledge that led to the Santa Monica pier, I wondered if I made a mistake. Rows and rows of cars lined the parking lots and crowds of people swarmed every restaurant. Flashy candy floss, drippy ice creams, and crunchy pop corns jumped out at my eye. Thousands of people bathed on the water while a hundred more sniffed at the fresh seafood platters on their table. Kids of all ages and sizes ran about, liquidating their parents’ credit cards for merry-go-rounds and two-hour crash courses on the trapeze.

None of them were locals. The whole place was more touristy than I’d ever imagined possible.

While I turned my attention to the many souvenir shops along the way, I couldn’t help but nod along to the live music around. Individual string artists demonstrated their prowess as passers took to applauding and Instagramming their appreciation.

Standing inside a souvenir store, I realised Santa Monica was exclusive for visitors of California. It’s a nice ocean spot for those who don’t have beaches at home, and it’s a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon—swimming, eating, musing with live music, and a day of rest and relaxation. It’s not for everyone, however, it sure is ideal for those who can afford to spend the time and money. It’s not for me, I understood, but the experience did show me a lifestyle, which although I’d never adapt, was still interesting to watch.

To end the eventful afternoon, we spent some time overlooking the ocean from the pier. After spotting exotic birds no one knew the names of, taking selfies to preserve a lifetime of memories, and strutting along as if we knew where we were doing, we left Santa Monica for our next spot: Hollywood. But that’s another post altogether.

Experiencing Indo Soul

The previous piece I wrote about Indo music, was about Karthick Iyer’s single. After all the mixed feelings that song had on me, I got hold of the rest of the album. My first impression wasn’t at all that great. Which is a great sign. I’m not easily impressed; it took me over three months to fall in love with my favourite musician’s latest album (now though, I can’t get enough.)

Boundless is a boundless musical blend of the miruthangam and some devilish strings. It’s a small song; just two and a half minutes. But throughout, you’ll experience so many emotions go back and forth. I didn’t hate this song, but it didn’t awe me either. In fact, with the strange beginning, I thought my audio was faulty; it didn’t seem appropriate to begin a song with a music that painfully reminds you of this.

TV_noiseAfter the initial shock however, the music gradually pulls you into the song. Not to mention the artsy crescendo. Out of the blue, the miruthangam rises and suddenly from nowhere come the strings to blend in so well that you can actually feel the pull. And the repetitive beat that starts at 1.50, and lasts for a few seconds — wow. I don’t like lengthy musicals — except in extremely rare circumstances. And I’m certain that I wouldn’t have liked this song one bit if it had lasted any longer. This song just proves that you don’t need much time if you know how exactly you want your audience to feel.

Clown Junket
I can’t say it enough, but I am a string lover. The guitar and the violin are one thing, but the bass adds another dimension altogether. Though it’s a part of the violin family, both the cello and the bass are much deeper than the violin and viola. And that’s the magic of this song. It’s a beautiful song, but the first two minutes were too slow. You’re left to wondering what exactly is happening. It might put you off, unless of course, you decide to listen through. Once you wait for the second half, you wouldn’t regret it, I’m sure.

The introducing of the violin into a well set tune was beautiful. The violin just waltzed into the mass that was bass, and fit right in. And the touches of miruthangam here and there – perfect accompaniment to the classical tune. Every time I hear it, it feels a little odd that the violin should blend classical and western, but I’m getting used to the idea — and I’m starting to like it too.

Mid air
No beating around the bush — this song just gets right into business. And I like that. Perhaps to make up for the slow songs in the album — nevertheless, it’s gets off to high start and maintains the energy throughout. Just listening to this song, I can picture it bringing modernity to our traditional society. I love the fact that the bass and the miruthangam get a lot to say along with the violin and guitar. The guitar interlude – brilliantly brings in a little western touch to the classicism.

This is a great song with an amazing blend of both worlds. It’s a bit long though — it would’ve been more powerful had it been a little shorter. This song reminds me of old television advertisements — can’t pinpoint which exactly though. Weirdly though, this song made me nostalgic.

A Saranga Convergence
Love the beginning — great slow start of the violin. The first 30 seconds were awesome, but then he let it slide a bit. He brought it back at 1.40 though – with powerful strings and strong miruthangam. Loved the transition at around 2.40 where the drums take and hand it over to the guitar, and then coming back to the bass. And then the vocal just blooms out of nowhere. It was such an unexpected surprise  — though it lasted a bit longer than I expected. Nevertheless, I truly enjoyed the equal distribution of instruments in this song. Maybe because it’s a lengthy piece, but it wasn’t tiring — just a lot of smoothness, one or two glitches here and there, but overall, nice to listen.

Loved the ending as well — smooth. Gave me the mental picture of a cherry sliding off a melting ice-cream cone. 😉

Rejoicing in Raguvamsa
First 50 seconds – pure classical treat, and an incredible transition to the percussion — loved every bit of this song. Beautiful bass solo at 2.40, and nice takeover of the miruthangam assisted by some classy percussion. And yet another beautiful ending. Karthick has found himself a versatile team; three strings, a classic miruthangam and a totally western electric guitar.

Combined, these instruments do such a great job to captivate the listener. And the team’s done it so well. There’s so much room to experiment, to succeed and to make mistakes as well. This is a great album to listen and to keep. It’s not the perfect collection of songs; there are some parts I could live without, and some I couldn’t. Team Karthick Iyer Live knows their audience, and they’re not trying to please everyone. And that’s the way to go.