Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lessons In Serendipity

Every once in a while an old Bollywood number will come to mind - songs last heard in the 80s and 90s and never since. It is easy enough to find them on You Tube and indulge in a bit of nostalgia. J's reaction to this music is both amusing and instructive to watch. She is learning Hindustani vocal music so the language is not completely unfamiliar to her but understanding the meaning of lyrics is way beyond her.

She will hum along and improvise some dance moves to go with the music if she finds it  "dance-able"  but the picturization and the choreography of the songs always have her doubled up with laughter. She simply cannot stop. "What on earth are these people doing ?" she will ask when she is able to catch a breath.  This is specially true for the older Bollywood movies before the song and dance routines had acquired the MTV look and feel about them. She will want to know the meaning of the words - and in trying to paraphrase I struggle not to lose everything in translation. It does not help that J has very limited cultural context.

She does not care for remixed numbers and will ask to listen to the original song instead. I have asked her about her impression of the more more modern song and dance sequences and J says "I don't like them much. They look like they are doing gymnastics.The older songs sound a lot better". So the cool and modern dance moves don't impress her much but she does notice the difference in the quality of the music.

Her reaction to Indian classical music and dance is very different - she takes in the performance in complete silence and with a sense of awe. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact she is learning both and is able to appreciate how how difficult it is to perform at that level of mastery. When I first started J on music and dance lessons my only desire was for her to have develop appreciation for both. It would make me very happy if she could become a discerning listener (of music) and audience (of dance) one day. The serendepitious outcome that seems to have happened along the way is she has become curious about other things India - Bollywood musicals included.

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