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Archive for April, 2013

Instruments from India — 8/ Shehnai & nadaswaram

IN September 2012, I had begun a monthly series on Indian musical instruments. The aim was two-fold: one, to make Indian readers aware of certain artistes they might not have heard before, and secondly, to expose relatively new audiences, mainly from the West, to the melodic or rhythmic beauty that various Indian instruments offer.

In this series, I shall not go into too many technicalities and playing styles. I shall focus on how the instrument is used in different genres, and mention the leading performers in each style. However, while I have tried to name all the main musicians, the lists mentioned are by no means exhaustive or complete. In all parts of the series, I shall use a similar format to maintain uniformity, and some portions on the concert structure may be repeated verbatim if needed.

The earlier parts of the series talked about the violin, sitar, bansuri, sarangi, different types of veena, the sarod and santoor. This month, we feature the shehnai and nadaswaram.


WHEN one talks of the shehnai, only one name comes to mind. For over six decades till he passed away on August 21, 2006, Ustad Bismillah Khan was single-handedly identified with this wind instrument, making it popular in Hindustani classical music and elevating it to concert stage status.

Khan was a recipient of the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, and his records were, and still are, compulsorily played on many auspicious occasions like marriages and religious ceremonies.

While the shehnai is immensely popular in north India, a similar instrument — nadaswaram — is played in the south, again mainly on auspicious occasions and in temples. Both belong to the family of double reed instruments, and are made of wood, with a metal bell at one end. However, the nadaswaram is much longer, and even louder. In fact, it is considered to be the world’s loudest non-brass acoustic instrument.

Here, we shall discuss both instruments separately, mention the main musicians playing them, and talk about how some western musicians have also played them. But before that, we shall try and figure out what reed instruments are.

Reed instruments: They use reeds, which are thin strips which vibrate to produce sound, and can be classified into single reed, double reed or free reed.

In a single reed, one piece of cane vibrates against the mouthpiece, whereas in a double reed, two pieces vibrate against each other. In a free reed, which need not necessarily be found in wind instruments, sound is produced when air passes a vibrating reed in a frame.

Single reeds are mostly used in saxophones and clarinets, whereas double reeds are found in the oboe, bassoon, English horn, the European shawm, the Arabic mizmar and many ethnic instruments, besides the shehnai and nadaswaram. Free reeds are used in various global folk instruments, and also in the harmonica, accordion and harmonium.

Shehnai: Like the santoor, discussed in the previous part of the series, the shehnai has relatively fewer practitioners compared to the sitar, sarod and bansuri (bamboo flute). Yet, it remains hugely popular among Indian classical music fans, mainly because of the serene and spiritual music it produces.

The shehnai is played largely in north and west India, but one hears it even in Pakistan and Iran. There are various theories about its origin. One is that is a derivative of a Persian instrument called surnai. Another is that it was played by a barber (Hindi word: nai) in the court of a Shah (king), and hence the word shehnai. A third is that it was named after a musician called Shehinia. A fourth is that it is a combination of the words ‘sheh’ (meaning breath) and ‘nai’ (reed or flute). And there are some who believe it combines the words ‘Shah’ and ‘nai’ (flute), and is thus a ‘king’s flute’.

The shehnai has between six and nine holes, and requires immense breath control. It has a range of two octaves.

How shehnai is played: In any concert, the musician sits cross legged. He could either play it alone with tabla accompaniment, or as was often done by Bismillah Khan, assisted by three or four other shehnai players.

At times, the instrument is also used as a duet (called jugalbandi) with other instruments. While the jugalbandis between Bismillah Khan and sitar legend Ustad Vilayat Khan are simply outstanding, the maestro has also played with violinists VG Jog, N Rajam and L Subramaniam, the last being in north-south encounters.

A concert usually begins with the rendition of a classical raga, the melodic mode used in Indian music. After that, shehnai players usually play many light, folk pieces or devotional pieces like the thumri, kajri, chaiti, hori or bhajan.

Main players: Though Bismillah Khan became synonymous with the shehnai, those who have followed Hindustani classical music closely would have also heard Pandit S Ballesh, Anant Lal, Ram Lal, Raghunath Prasanna, Ali Hussain Khan, Krishna Ram Chaudhury, Lokesh Anand and Ali Ahmed Hussain.

For his part, Bismillah Khan symbolised the instrument. Among his numerous achievements, he played at the Red Fort, Delhi, on the eve of India’s Independence in 1947 and also at the ceremony held a day before the country became a republic in 1950. For years, India’s national television channel Doordarshan telecast his live performances after the prime minister’s speech on August 15, India’s Independence Day.

Bismillah Khan rarely accepted disciples, but because of his close association with Sikh spiritual leader Satguru Jagjit Singh JI, taught a few musicians who played the stringed instrument tarshehnai at their religious functions, and guided them on how to play the wind instrument. His other disciples included Sailesh Bhagwat and Bageshri Qamar, who is also one of the few females to play the instrument. The maestro has also guided thumri singer Soma Ghosh, his adopted daughter.

Nadaswaram: Like the shehnai is in north India, the nadaswaram is considered very auspicious in south India. It is played in many Hindu weddings and even in temples, accompanied by the percussion instrument thavil, and sometimes by a wind instrument called ottu, which provides the backdrop drone.

The nadaswaram has seven finger-holes, and five holes at the bottom which can be blocked to modify the tone. It has a range of two and a half octaves, similar to the bansuri. However, because of its high volume, the nadaswaram is said to be more suited for outdoor concerts.

Main players: The well-known nadaswaram practitioners include Thiruvavadudurai Rajaratnam Pillai, Thiruvengadu Subramania Pillai and Thiruvidaimaruthur P S Veerusami Pillai, besides the Keeranur, Thiruveezhimizhalai, and Semponnarkoil brothers.

Use of shehnai and nadaswaram in other music: Both instruments have been used regularly in film music and also by jazz musicians, who see a similarity with the saxophone and oboe.

Bismillah Khan played the shehnai through the 1959 Hindi film Goonj Uthi Shehnai, which even had a duet between him and sitar maestro Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan. He also played in the 1977 Kannada movie Sanadi Appanna, which is about a shehnai player.

Some film songs have used the shehnai appropriately. Music director Naushad often used it, notable examples being ‘Dil mein baji pyaar ki shehnaiyan’ in Kohinoor and ‘Khuda nigahbaan ho tumhara’ in Mughal-e-Azam. Khayyam used it in the title song of Kabhi Kabhie, along with the lines Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khayal aata hai, ke jaise bajti hain shehnaiyan si rahon mein.” A R Rahman had shehnai stretches by Madhukar Dhumal in the instrumetal version of ‘Yeh jo des hai mera’ in Swades and by S Ballesh in the Rockstar instrumental  ‘The dichotomy of fame’, and also in ‘Raanjhanaa’. Recently, Amit Trivedi used the instrument in the Kai Po Che song ‘Shubharambh’.

In jazz, the shehnai was sometimes used by American saxophonist and flautist Yusuf Lateef. The Rolling Stones song ‘Street Fighting Man’ has a small shehnai stretch played by Dave Mason, originally from the group Traffic.

Likewise, the nadaswaram was played by jazz alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano, who studied it on his Indian visits. The instrument was also attempted by German saxophonist Roland Schaeffer.

On the classical side, American musician Phil Scarff has incorporated shehnai technique to play his soprano saxophone, rendering full-length ragas.

While the fusion experiments have been few and far between, the best way to get into the shehnai is to hear the recordings of Bismillah Khan. A good beginning would be his Shaadi Ki Shehnai CDs released by Saregama HMV,his ragas Malkauns, Yaman, Bhimpalasi, Gunkali, Shivranjani and Bhairavi, or his duets with Vilayat Khan on sitar. It’s pure magic all the way.


The timeless melodies of Guru Dutt films


I RECENTLY watched a DVD of Nasreen Munni Kabir’s documentary ‘In Search of Guru Dutt’, made in 1989 for Channel 4 TV, UK. It’s an elaborate and well-made 85-minute feature, focusing on the oeuvre of the legendary filmmaker and containing interviews of various people associated with him. One of the highlights, obviously, is the music used in the backdrop.

The films directed or even produced by Guru Dutt have been characterised by exceptional music. Ranging from the serious to the funny, the romantic to the pathos-filled, many of the songs are hummed even today, 50 or 60 years after they were released. How can true-blue followers of Hindi film music ever forget the gems that graced Aar Paar, Mr & Mrs 55, Baazi, CID, Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool, Chaudhvin Ka Chand and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam?

In the documentary, ace lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri has said that the beauty of Guru Dutt movies were that they were artistic and commercial at the same time, which was a rare combination.

The same can well be said about the songs. They were artistic in that they definitely had depth, and in fact some of the most intense lyrics ever written. And they were commercial, not in the general sense of the term, but definitely because they were successful and their appeal lasted over time.

The list of hit songs from Guru Dutt films is long, and those who’ve followed music from that era would obviously know them. But let’s take a few songs from each film mentioned, just to travel down melody lane.

  • Baazi: Tadbeer se bigdi hui, Aaj ki raat piya
  • Aar Paar: Babuji dheere chalna, Yeh lo main haari piya, Sun sun sun zaalima, Kabhi aar kabhi paar
  • Mr & Mrs 55: Thandi hawa kaali ghata, Jaane kahan mera jigar gaya ji
  • CID: Leke pehla pehla pyar, Boojh mera kya naam re, Aankhon hi ankhon mein, Yeh hai Bambai meri jaan, Kahin pe nigahen kahin pe nishana
  • Pyaasa: Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye, Jaane wo kaise log the jinke, Hum aapke aankhon mein, Sar jo tera chakraye, Jaane kya tune kahee
  • Kaagaz Ke Phool: Waqt ne kiya, Dekhi zamaane ki yaari, San san wo chali hawa
  •  Chaudhvin Ka Chand: Chaudhvin ka chand ho, Babul se milan hoga, Mile khaak mein mohabbat
  • Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam: Na jaao saiyyan, Bhanwra bada nadaan, Meri jaan o meri jaan.

Besides these, Jaal had the eternal favourite ‘Yeh raat yeh chandni’, and Sailaab had ‘Hai yeh duniya kaunsi’ and ‘Yeh rut yet raat jawaan’. And we have listed only some of the songs from each film.

These songs clearly stood out because of their melody and, in many cases, their words. Obviously, the people behind these songs made a huge contribution. Let’s look at them, from the music directors to the lyricists to the singers.

A majority of Guru Dutt’s films were divided between two music directors. OP Nayyar did Baaz, Aar Paar, Mr & Mrs 55 and the Raj Khosla-directed CID, and SD Burman did Baazi, Jaal, Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool. So there were two distinct styles that characterised most of the Guru Dutt films

Besides these two, there were one-off films by music directors Mukul Roy (Sailaab), Ravi (Chaudhvin Ka Chand) and Hemant Kumar (Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam). Again, they had outstanding music, and though Sailaab’s score wasn’t as popular as the others, it had some gems too.

From the lyrical perspective, Guru Dutt’s films had major contributions from Sahir Ludhianvi, Shakeel Badayuni, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Kaifi Azmi. Majrooh wrote for Aar Paar, Mr & Mrs 55 and CID (which also had one Jan Nissar Akhtar song ‘Aankhon hi aankhon mein’). The brilliant Shakeel wrote for Chaudhvin Ka Chand (the title number being one of the best-written songs in the history of Hindi cinema) and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam.

For their part, Sahir and Kaifi came up with truly path-breaking work in Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool, respectively. The former, which is said to be loosely inspired by Sahir’s own life, had the lyrical masterpieces ‘Jaane wo kaise log the jinke’, ‘Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya ho’ and ‘Tang aa chuke hain kashmakash-e-zindagi se’. As for Kaagaz ke Phool, Kaifi was in brilliant form on ‘Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam’ and ‘Dekhi zamaane ki yaai’. Needless to say, each of these songs inspired scores of songwriters.

That brings us to the singers. Rafi and Geeta Dutt were the two obvious favourites. The wife of Guru Dutt, Geeta had major hits in practically each film, with ‘Waqt ne kiya’, ‘Babuji dheere chalna’, ‘Aankhon hi ankhon mein’ and ‘Hum aapki aankhon mein’ being among her biggest hits.

Rafi sang a lot of songs picturised on Guru Dutt, and his voice suited the actor perfectly, though an odd exception was Hemant Kumar singing ‘Jaane wo kaise log the jinke’ in Pyaasa. Interestingly, Rafi also sang songs picturised on Johnny Walker  ‘Jaane kahan mera jigar gaya ji’ in Mr & Mrs 55, ‘Yeh hai Bambai meri jaan’ in CID and ‘Sar jo tera chakraye’ in Pyaasa. All these songs had a certain frothiness that made them memorable.

The other two singers who made a mark in Guru Dutt were Shamshad Begum, who passed away yesterday, and Asha Bhosle, more in the later films. Shamshad sang ‘Kahin aar kahin paar’ in Aar Paar, besides the three CID classics ‘Boojh mera kya naam hai’, ‘Kahin pe nigaahen’ and ‘Leke pehla pehla pyar’.

Asha, who was also part of ‘Leke pehla pehla pyaar’, had three songs in Chaudhvin Ka Chand and four in Sahib Bibi Ka Ghulam, including ‘Bhanwara bada nadaan’ and ‘Meri jaan o meri jaan’.

The combination of all these legends made the music of Guru Dutt films so charming. When one looks at Hindi film music from that era, one normally thinks of Raj Kapoor films, the Dev Anand/ Navketan banner, Mehboob Khan movies and some of music director Naushad’s musico-historicals, if such a term exists.

But obviously, Guru Dutt paid close attention to the music. Just like his films had VK Murthy’s distinct stamp of photography and Abrar Alvi’s marvellous style of dialogue-writing, their music had their own magic. That’s why those songs are so timeless.

What makes a celebrity classical conductor


Sir Colin Davis

THE world of western classical music suffered a huge blow on April 14, following the death of popular conductor Sir Colin Davis. Best known as president and longest-serving principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Colin was one of the most respected names in contemporary classical music.

Known for his interpretations of composers Mozart, Hector Berlioz and Jean Sibelius, Sir Colin was earlier considered to be a rebel among conductors, often rubbing people the wrong way with his aggressive nature. But after a fair amount of experience, he matured considerably and was hugely admired both by audiences, musicians and even young conductors whom he trained.

Sir Colin was part of a breed called the ‘celebrity conductor’, a section which actually forms a fairly small part of the overall classical music scenario. And when you talk that group, very few names come to mind.

Among the others, one could include Arturo Toscanini, Wilhelm Furtwangler, Leopold Stokovski, Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan, Georg Solti, Simon Rattle, Otto Klemperer, Antal Dorati, Kurt Masur, George Szell, Neville Marriner and Mumbai’s very own Zubin Mehta. There are also those who have conducted orchestras but are largely known for their mastery as instrumentalists — people like violinist Yehudi Menuhin, pianist Daniel Barenboim, cellist Msitslav Rostropovich and pianist-composer Andre Previn.

Across the world, there are numerous philharmonic orchestras, and therefore numerous conductors. So what makes some people more famous and respected than the others? After all, in classical music, the orchestra strictly plays whatever is written down by the composer. Unlike other forms of music, there is no scope for improvisation or individualisation.

Whether he is a celebrity or not, a conductor plays a crucial role in the overall picture. And the biggest barometer to gauge his importance lies in the fact that whether one is attending live concerts or listening to recorded music, audiences are normally interested in four names — those of the composer, the composition, the orchestra and the conductor.

Each orchestra also consists of a large set of very talented musicians. But rather unfortunately, their names are normally unknown to the audience, unless they play a concerto, where one instrumentalist gets a lead role, or unless the conductor specially announces their names for playing a known passage, or unless they are celebrities in their own right.

In 20th and 21st century classical music, the conductor has had many roles to play. Let’s look at some of them:

  • He acts as the face of the orchestra, even though in concert, he has his back to the audience.
  • He selects and mentors the musicians, whatever instruments they play.
  • He decides the choice of the orchestra’s repertoire and specific programme. Thus, he has the power to influence the musicians on the way they express themselves, and even learn and play rarer pieces to add variety.
  • He is completely knowledgeable of a large variety of compositions, getting into granular detail about each note played by each instrument and even suggesting ways to make it sound more beautiful to the audience.
  • He is the backbone of each rehearsal session, guiding the musicians over matters such as timing, volume and expression, so that when they actually perform in front of an audience, the show is flawless. One mistake by one musician in a 100-piece orchestra, and the conductor is blamed.
  • In a live set-up, he ensures coordination in timing, especially during the start of a piece. With his sheer presence, he motivates and inspires the musicians, even though most of them don’t look at him, but at their music sheets instead.
  • He is an authority on auditorium acoustics, and knows how to produce the best sound at vastly different venues.
  • He trains younger musicians on the art of conducting, thus acting as a role model.
  • He acts as a team leader, encouraging camaraderie among musicians, and even ensuring that there are no personality clashes that would affect both the performance’s quality and the orchestra’s image.
  • He’s an expert manager, actually playing the role of a chief executive officer.

Despite all this, there are many who believe that the conductor is just a mere figurehead who sways to the music with his baton to attract the audience!

Anyway, that brings us to our main point. What makes some conductors better-known than others? Why do only some of them make it to the celebrity league? And strangely, why haven’t we seen any women in our list of conductors?

The third question doesn’t have any logical answer. Even though women like Marin Alsop and Simone Young have broken the gender barrier, conducting primarily remains a man’s job. The only reason one can think of is that traditionally, men have taken the initiative of managing large orchestras, and that’s something that has just stuck on.

Now, let’s talk of big names as against not-so-big ones. There are a few reasons why some conductors become celebrities. One is their overall personality, right from their looks to their demeanour to their communication skills to their media-friendliness. Take Bernstein, Karajan, Rattle, Mehta or Sir Colin. Both on and off stage, they looked special.

The second is their interpersonal and management skills. The better they were with such qualities, the more likely they stood a chance to stay at the top for long. With the number of years they put in, they came to be identified with their orchestras and even with the music of specific composers whose pieces they often conducted.

Finally, there’s the orchestra’s name and prestige. As mentioned, there are numerous orchestras around the world. Most of them are really talented. But some of them carry a larger weight because of their location or track record.

Anyone conducting the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra or Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and even reputed orchestras like Royal Concertgebouw and Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra would be more visible and more prolific than some of the lesser-known but equally talented orchestras scattered across the globe.

Besides all this, the celebrity conductor would be perfect practitioners of the roles mentioned in bullet points above.

Like the others mentioned, Sir Colin fit all the requirements of a celebrity conductor. The classical world has lost a gem, and one hopes the younger lot of conductors and musicians draws huge inspiration from his achievements.

My Pink Floyd story


EVERY classic rock fan would have his or her own Pink Floyd story. This is mine. As the rock world celebrates the 40th anniversary of the landmark album ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ this week, I thought I’d pen down a few memories of growing up on the band, and also mention my extremely brief encounter with its singer-bassist Roger Waters over a decade ago.

Undoubtedly, Floyd is one of my favourite acts ever, across genres. But curiously, the first time I heard the group, I hated them. I wondered how on earth they could have such a large following, when their music seemed so complex. The ringing of alarm clocks and jingling of coins weren’t my cup of music.

It must have been 1979 or 1980, and at 16 or 17, I was still to be bitten by the rock bug. Growing up in Delhi, the major source of music was radio – shows like ‘A Date With You’, ‘Forces Request’ and ‘In The Groove’. Those days, my personal taste largely revolved around ABBA, Boney M, Bee Gees, Brotherhood of Man, Donna Summer, a few evergreens, a bit of country, lots of disco. Get the hint?

I liked some of the Beatles love songs, but rock was yet to enter my life. The stations regularly played Pink Floyd’s ‘Time’ or ‘Money’, Uriah Heep’s ‘July Morning’ or Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke On The Water’, and I would lower the volume. What kind of people could possibly appreciate them?

By 1981, as I entered college, the rock phase began, first with the Doors, then with Traffic and majorly with Jethro Tull. In a year or so, I had got into Bob Dylan, Santana, the Moody Blues, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin and even Deep Purple, but still found Floyd and Uriah Heep too highbrow. The only Floyd song I liked was ‘Another Brick in the Wall Part 2’, though I didn’t care to listen to the rest of ‘The Wall’, which was a rage at that point. Today, ‘Another Brick In The Wall Part 2’ is probably the only Floyd song I stay away from!

I had my own personal tape recorder then, and the drawing room had a record player. I bought a few vinyls, but most of my collection was on cassette, which I used to get recorded from a place called Pyramid in Palika Bazaar. Since Tull was my favourite at that time, I had a large collection of theirs, which I kept bragging about.

My college friend Rahul Dutt wondered why I was so fond of Tull. We had a lot of common tastes in both rock and ghazals, the Indian soft music form which had become a craze, but he wouldn’t appreciate Tull. And his favourite band was Floyd, against whom I still had a bias. The only thing we argued about was ‘Tull Vs Floyd’.

When Rahul went on a holiday to Calcutta, he asked for some music. I happily gave him some Tull. He said he would take it on the condition that I would accept some Floyd tapes he would lend me. We agreed, and he gave me ‘Dark Side’ and ‘Obscured by Clouds’.

When Rahul returned, the first thing he exclaimed was: “Tull is too good. What a band. Ian Anderson is a star.” And my response was: “Pink Floyd is the ultimate. Wonder why I took so long to appreciate them.”

THAT was just the beginning of my Floyd era. I found their sound not only distinct, but also very deep and, of course, psychedelic. It took me to another zone, another planet, another mindspace.

The next step was to get deeper and deeper into their music. To begin with, I bought the ‘Dark Side’ LP and played it daily, at least a couple of times. Though each individual song was a masterpiece, it was one album I had to play from start to finish. I just couldn’t start with ‘Time’ or ‘Money’ and go to some other song. It had to be the complete thing. Forty-two minutes, fifty-nine seconds.

By end-1984, I moved to Jaipur to work for ‘The Times of India’. I carried my Lucky Goldstar double deck two-in-one, but didn’t have a turntable there. So I got a few cassettes of Floyd recorded.

Each C-90 cassette would have two albums. One had ‘Dark Side’ on one side and ‘Obscured by Clouds’ on the other. Another contained ‘Wish You Were Here’ and ‘Animals’. The third had ‘Atom Heart Mother’ and ‘Meddle’. And yes, there was one which had ‘The Wall’. At that time, I didn’t have the first two albums, or ‘The Final Cut’.

Coupled with a lot of Tull, the Moody Blues, Dylan and some jazz, Floyd would be a daily necessity. The ‘Wish You Were Here-Animals’ tape was played the most often, followed by the ‘Echoes’ part of ‘Meddle’. There were many favourite songs by now — ‘Mother’, ‘Dogs’, ‘Sheep’, ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’, ‘Echoes’, ‘Have a Cigar’, ‘If’. ‘Wish You Were Here’, ‘Goodbye Blue Sky’, ‘Comfortably Numb’, ‘Free Four’, to name some. As for ‘Dark Side’, there was no favourite song. Each one was equal.

In the absence of much reference material and also because I didn’t own the LPs, my knowledge of the band was limited to knowing the names of the musicians and the songs. Roger Waters had left the group by then, and there was talk of guitarist David Gilmour, keyboardist Richard Wright and drummer Nick Mason working on new material under the Floyd name.

But when I went to Delhi on a holiday, I met friends who possessed the LPs, and had huge discussions on Floyd. We talked of Waters’ role as a songwriter, and how the songs he wrote alone had their own stamp, compared to those written with Gilmour or with all the others. We talked of Gilmour’s guitar style, and also the influence founder-member Syd Barrett had on the band, now that I had heard the first album ‘Pipers At The Gates of Dawn’ extensively. I also learnt about saxophonist Dick Parry, singer Clare Torry and engineer Alan Parsons, who created some great music on his own too.

The Floyd phase lasted a few years. I made up for whatever I hadn’t heard — ‘A Saucerful of Secrets’, ‘More’, ‘Ummagumma’, ‘The Final Cut’ and even Barrett’s solo work released in the late 1960s. Soon, I was tripping on ‘A Momentary Lapse of Reason’, even though Waters was absent. ‘Learning To Fly’, ‘On The Turning Away’ and ‘One Slip’ became my new favourites.

Some rock concerts were available on VHS, and the Floyd favourite was ‘Live at Pompeii’. For a brief while, I got into Waters’ solo outings, like ‘The Pros and Cons of Hitch-Hiking’, ‘Amused To Death’ and ‘Radio KAOS’, though I never enjoyed them as much as Floyd.

But slowly, I moved onto various other bands and kinds of music. The frequency of listening to Floyd reduced considerably, and very often, was restricted to party sessions with friends. There was a brief ‘Division Bell’ phase, and though I liked the songs ‘Coming Back to Life’ and ‘High Hopes’ it was never among my favourite albums.

Around the late 1990s or so, the Floyd albums became available in CD form. One by one, I began picking them up, and though one always favoured the analog sound of the vinyls, the digital CDs had their own effect too. Moreover, music always seemed more personal if you had the record sleeve which you could read from.

Soon, I picked up DVDs, favourites being ‘Pulse’, ‘The Wall’ and ‘David Gilmour in Concert’. I started reading about the band — first Nicholas Schaffner’s ‘Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey’ and many years later Mark Blake’s ‘Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd.’

Though I didn’t listen to Floyd as frequently as before, I started trying to gather as much information as I could. The Internet helped too, and one read some interesting trivia, like jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour playing an uncredited role in ‘The Wall’ album, and the child’s voice on ‘Goodbye Blue Sky’ belonging to Waters’s son Harry.  And the more I read and learnt about Floyd, the more fascinated I was.

IN APRIL 2002, Roger Waters was scheduled to play in Bangalore. I was to cover the concert for Mid Day, and found myself in a train compartment filled with Floyd fans.

I was keen on interviewing Waters, but I was told he hated the Press. These days, he goes about giving press conferences, but during that tour, there was no question of one. And the entire media fraternity wanted a one-on-one interview.

The organisers DNA Networks ensured that they could catch him for five minutes at the airport. The exercise was mainly to ensure that the media got enough photographs.  There was a barricade between the media and the Waters team, and only a few DNA staffers and sponsors could stand near Waters.

As I knew Venkat Vardhan of DNA well, he arranged for a DNA shirt of my size, so I could get close to Waters. The condition was that I wouldn’t ask any questions which would make them suspicious. I just listened for those few minutes, but I did manage to get his autograph on my rock encyclopaedia and on a cover of his album ‘In The Flesh’.

Waters was in his element when the media rattled off their questions. One journalist asked: “How contextual is your music?” Looking totally zapped, even insulted, he snapped back: “That question is totally out of context.”

“What is it like being away from David Gilmour and the others, and touring on your own?” asked another. The answer: “I wouldn’t tell you even if you were to write my authorised biography.”

“How does it feel to be on your first visit to India?” The quip: “As I don’t want to get into trouble, you can conveniently say that I am feeling thrilled.”

Somebody asked him to sign a ‘Division Bell’ CD, probably not knowing that Waters wasn’t part of that album. He just turned back, and walked towards his car. End of media session, thank you!

Waters and his troupe stayed at the Windsor Manor. The following day, some band members were giving interviews, and I got to speak to guitarist Snowy White, singer PP Arnold and Waters’ son Harry, who’s a keyboardist. I wanted to meet guitarist Andy Fairweather-Low but he was out shopping.

That evening’s concert was simply memorable. As the Sunday paper’s deadline was early, I was actually SMSing and calling my colleague Kimi Dangor in Mumbai, who compiled it to produce an excellent piece.

Nearly five years later, in February 2007, Waters played in Mumbai. The highlight of this show was that they played the entire ‘Dark Side’ album at a stretch. It was an out-of-the-world experience. After listening to the album hundreds of times, it was a completely different trip to see it live.

Undoubtedly, ‘Dark Side’ remains a milestone in the history of rock. Its 40th anniversary definitely calls for a grand celebration.

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