Telescope IV: Music and Me

I have been on a hiatus that I can only apologize for – sometimes you need to take some time away. Sometimes you need to disappear. I needed some space to breathe after some rather serious “creative combustion”. Instead of talking about that, though, I thought I would talk about music.

If you see me walk down the street, at my desk at work, or even standing in Hyde Park after my evening run, you will see someone plugged into headphones, in a world other than the one that you and I presently occupy. Likely looking up into the sky – either at the clouds or the moon or planes passing by. I have found a little nook in my mind that music seems to create. I can’t quite describe it. It’s like a space in which a random selection of notes, played in sequence don’t just create a melody, or a harmony, they create something more. They create magic. And that magic creates peace. One way or another, something is created.

Let me walk you through what I have been experiencing. I have been listening to this Punjabi song called Baliye/Laung Gawacha. I do not understand Punjabi and I do not have a clue about what the song means. I don’t want to because I have ascribed emotional meaning to this song and I’d rather keep it that way. You can find it here.

It starts off as a typical quote, unquote Rock song – frolicking in drums, harmonies, riffs, and inconsistent beats as Haroon Shahid sings his lungs out. It is energetic, it is frenetic, it is…desperate. It’s like standing out in the open and seeing that bolt of lightning in the cloudy sky at night when you know, you just know that a thunderstorm is on it’s way. The kind of thunderstorm that causes roads to flood, dirt to wash out, rats to drown. But it’s just lightning and by 3 minutes and 10 seconds into the song, you lose hope – the rain won’t come. As the reverb of the last guitar chord fades into the air, you feel as if the wind will carry the clouds away and with it, the rain.

And then…it begins, as all good things do, in silence. It is a moment that I have come to subconsciously associate with closing my eyes until that gentle thump of a beat. As soon as I feel that thump, my eyes open, as if for the first time. The next minute is magic.

A plucking of some guitar strings – electric and acoustic, some violins pulsing as if blood flowing through veins.

Thunder is born.

You hear a voice, a strong yet gentle voice beginning the classiest megh malhar (a sanskrit raga that was said to make it rain) you will ever hear. Quratulain Baloch plays off of this…thunder. She is you as you look at those clouds that teased you with the lightning. You look at them with every ounce of will that you have as you try to make it rain. But you do not fight it, you are one with it – just like her voice glides on the music rather than cuts against it. She isn’t pleading with the clouds to make it rain, she is merely seducing them. She knows it will rain.

At around 4 minutes and 19 seconds you see the bass guitar player twist and contort his body, slithering like a snake trying to stand as the music, the thunder, takes you over. You feel it in your bones, in the very marrow that makes you human.

And then…the drums. The rhythm quickens as the clouds begin to open up. It’s working. But its a drizzle, not a downpour, not yet. That requires more. The clouds demand more. The instrumentation gets more complex, but you keep going – her voice, your voice now in it’s own element within the frame that is the music. The harmony acting as the wind and carrying your demands, your desire, your voice. You don’t need to sing any more, you just need to be patient.

Finally, after the music, after the clouds themselves are in the position to create your reality,

Magic.

With the slightest of effort, the most eloquent of tongues, the most languid of glances,

Mera laung gawacha

The music now in full flow, the rain beginning to pour, rain that you have created through your will, through your intent, through your faith, through Iman. She is a part of the music now, they feed off of each other. You are one with what you have created, it isn’t hard, it just is, because you have willed it to be.

Creation is the single most combustive act you can partake in. Creativity requires energy, it requires effort, it requires action. Whether it is to write a blog post, to make music, to self publish a book, whatever it may be – creating is an exothermic expression of love that is fueled by faith.

I took that time away to find what it is that I wanted to create – did I want to write a book? Did I want to make a movie? Did I want I want to make a million dollars in revenue?

None of it.

I wanted to create me – myself, my world, my reality. And I will. I won’t settle for less than exactly what I want. Neither should you. All it takes is love and faith. All it takes is Iman.

Welcome to my world.

 

Telescope III: Tuyo

I went back home to Dubai for the Bank Holiday in England. The scorching sun felt good on my skin, driving on the charred roads with smoothness that is customary when two superheated objects rub against each other.

There was a strange moment after I reached home:

My satellite family – all four of us once living in 4 different corners of the world, were now in the same room. That room wasn’t a hotel in London or San Francisco, neither was it the living room in my mother’s apartment in Doha. It was at home, in our kitchen. A concept, an occasion that seemed to have become rarer as the years went by thanks to the operational difficulties and opportunities of life. But that didn’t make it strange, it was just rare.

The strange part is what happened next – I plugged in my iPhone and started playing music. My music, the songs that I had been listening to, as the four of us prepared what could best be describe as a pre-all you can eat, dim sum extravaganza snack. Someone mixing olive oil with garlic, chili flakes and salt; someone slicing some fresh baguette; someone frying a little bacon; and someone preparing a little hard Iranian cheese with fresh mint.

As we did this, Rodrigo Amarante’s Tuyo played on the speakers: the guitar flowing like water off of a waterfall, the drums rhythmic but not overbearing, and his voice crooning lyrics that can only be described as succulent –

Soy el fuego que arde tu piel
Soy el agua que mata tu sed
El castillo, la torre yo soy
La espada que guarda el caudal

I am the fire that burns your skin
I am the water that kills your thirst
I am the castle, the tower
The sword that guards the fortune

None of us speak Spanish and at that moment, none us needed to speak Spanish. We were not connected by a language, we were not connected by music, pulsing over speakers that are too large for a kitchen as we each prepared something to bring to the table. We were connected by something deeper – if the air was skin, the music was the subcutaneous pulse, the blood flowing through the veins beneath the skin, you could feel it, you knew it was there. It was a moment of subconscious harmony. Amarante continues,

Tú el aire que respiro yo
Y la luz de la luna en el mar
La garganta que ansío mojar
Que temo ahogar de amor
¿Y cuales deseos me vas a dar?

You the air that I breathe
And the moonlight in the sea
The throat I want to wet
That I am afraid of throttling
And what desires are you going to give me?

I remembered another similar moment after we all whipped up a meal in a kitchen that was thousands of miles away from Dubai as I played this song on a small, but robust docking station. I watched two people dance to this song. It was mother and daughter: mother showing daughter how to lead, daughter following clumsily, studiously. Their eyes locked in a way that only a mother and a daughter can ever lock eyes – drowning into mirror, into the same pair of eyes. Even then, there was this subcutaneous pulse created by more than just the music. 

The then and the now – so far away yet so close – bound by this song in this language that I can barely claim to have a passing understanding of despite having studied it for years, and being exposed to it for even more. Both moments were, in their own way, expressions of love, expressions that we genuinely care for one another, and they were framed in these whimsical lyrics. And as the song slowly drifted to a close,

Dices tú: Mi tesoro basta con mirarlo
Tuyo será, y tuyo será.

You say, “My treasure is enough just by looking at it
It will be yours, it will be yours.”

Something occured to me –

When you love someone, you tell them.

When you care about someone, you show them.

When someone is special to you, make the effort.

It could be as easy as framing a moment of togetherness in a song that completes an image that you will carry with you forever. It could be as stupid as that grand gesture that you make without knowing whether or not it will even be received let alone achieve what you want it to. But you do it anyway. What is life otherwise?

So be bold, be brave, be foolish, be crazy, be stupid, be you. Don’t wait, don’t sit around and feed unrequited emotion – it will squeeze you, it will suffocate you, and rest assured, it will kill you.

Have the faith, the Iman, that regardless of whether or not you get the reaction or the outcome you desire, that you, my friend, have made someone feel special. And you have done so, by doing something special, because at the end of the day – special people do special things.

The rest is up to them, and to Iman.