Saturday, August 23, 2008

Music Lessons

I was a deprived child! My parents never thought of giving me music lessons. So even though I would beat away at an Egyptian leather pouffe as though it were a tabla, or stage home ballets using the fridge door as a spotlight control, and could whistle in tune since I was five or six, I didn't have music lessons. I thought I could sing beautifully, but the nuns in our school were, presumably, tone deaf, and couldn't appreciate my voice. So I was never encouraged to sing. Though of course that never stopped me from singing, as my long-suffering offspring will affirm.

I have found an encouraging friend in Robert Fulghum, a kindred soul.
I quote, from his book ‘It was on Fire When I Lay Down on It’, ‘……I am a singer. ……I sing. It is what I do. God did not put my desire together with the necessary equipment. My voice is what you might politely call ‘uncertain.’ I can hear the music in my head, but I cannot reproduce what I have heard, though it sounds fine to me……….I liked being a parent to my children when they were young and had no musical standards and would uncritically sing with me…….Singers are those who sing. Period.’

Whether I could sing or not, I was, by the time I reached college, a passionate but ignorant listener of Hindustani classical music, especially vocal music. The radio was a great friend, and my major source of all music.

When I left home and started working in another city, I decided to fulfill my long dormant desire to learn music. So a colleague and I acquired a harmonium and found a music teacher near by. We obviously lacked the necessary commitment, or inspiration, and after a few months we quit.

After several years of marriage and family life, we moved to Kochi, when my youngest son, A, was five years old. None of my other children had ever shown any great interest in learning music, and neither had this child. But somehow my long dormant maternal aspirations came to the fore, catalysed by the interest of my friend J, who was, at the time, a single working mother with a six year old son, N. We were bus-stop friends, as the boys used to go to the same school and we lived in the same building. In the afternoon I would bring both boys home from the bus stop, and N would go up to his grandmother. I cannot remember how J and I decided that our sons should learn vocal music, but we did. J being local found the teacher, but since she worked all day I was the one who had to supervise the lessons, which were held in my sitting room. J explained to me the ritual of the first lesson: a tray was set out with flowers, betel leaves and an oil lamp. The betel leaves were presented to the teacher, and the new students touched his feet. We didn’t have a harmonium and were wary of buying one, so decided to make do with an old Casio keyboard

Ah, the students. They were around six and seven when the lessons started. My son, A, had a regular kiddy voice. J’s son N had a really deep voice even at age seven.
You can imagine one thin squeaky little voice and one really deep voice going ‘saaa’ and
‘SAAAA’ at the same time. The teacher certainly had his hands full, especially as after the novelty of the lessons wore off (I think they were held twice a week), the boys completely lost interest. Two wrigglier bottoms were never seen. The teacher was a kind and honest man. After completing the first month, he declared that the boys were not yet ready to learn music, maybe they would be more receptive later on. I think he was most relieved. The boys certainly were!

(Young A did learn to play the Congo drums in school. His teacher would also give him private lessons at home, during hot and humid, sleepy afternoons. Those drums have been in storage for a while. N does play the guitar).

Another friend and I decided that it’s never too late to learn! She acquired both the harmonium and teacher, and I would go up to her flat for lessons two or three times a week. Neither of us was musically endowed, but we enjoyed our lessons and loved hearing our teacher sing. As busy wives and mothers, we were bad at practicing our scales and lessons, but we thought we were reasonably sincere. Our best times were after the teacher had had his tea and left, and then we would sing to our hearts’ content, lovely old semi-classical songs that we were probably murdering, but we both enjoyed our own singing! After several months my life became complicated with serious illnesses in the family, and my lessons just had to stop. My friend did continue for a while, but then she also lost her motivation.


Although I insist that I’m a contented person, I do wish for a couple of things,
which don’t seem possible in this birth. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other, and seems most foolish and irrational, and that is my desire to be tall and slender.
The other is to have a great singing voice. In the meantime, I will cultivate friends who have no ear for music, and who will (faints) actually applaud my singing. Any takers?

22 comments:

Suki said...

LOL, Dipali. You know you have a wonderfully sweet speaking voice, but I've never heard you sing. Given that I've let my voice rot in the past four years - I'm willing to join your club!
Actually, was singing yesterday evening with friends. I KNEW I was terribly out of tune, but no one except Baby would acknowledge that. Felt nice, you know!

Mampi said...

Well I have not had the chance to hear your sweet voice that Suki has had. But I am sure yours is wonderful, a hunch it is.
I would love to be a willing listener to whatever you sing. You are such fun to read, I m sure it would be a greater fun to hear you sing.
You would rock, Girl.

choxbox said...

can you sing on the phone?!

Mira's mom said...

:-). Hey, believe me, the desire to be able to sing well has been bothering me for many years - in fact, for a while I convinced myself that I had everything in me to sing well....but husband's unequivocal feedback :-) plus sudden unexplained cracking at high pitches forced me to take a humble standing. Would love to hear you some day!

churningthewordmill said...

sing dipali, i am all ears :)i think
singing is a really good stress buster.. i am ok-types of singing and break into a song once in a while...i just make sure i dont have an audience when i do so!:P
ever thot of learning an instrument?my mum's learning the harmonium these days and she;s loving it.

A Muser said...

Dipali, if you're looking for an appreciative audience, come sing to my kids! They love to hear me sing even though when I start, my husband claps his hands on his ears and runs out of the room.

Banno said...

Oh God, this could be me writing about me. Just a few days ago, Dhanno said what would you wish for if a genie gave you 3 wishes, and the first one I had was the ability to sing. How I envy those with any form of musical talent. I am such an ignoramus where music is concerned.

As for being tall and slender. I wish.

Sue said...

You can sing to me/around me. No issues.

Roop said...

i think i posted something here but it got lost in a broken internet connection. anyway, im back. please join me in ur club too of singing-wannabes!!! :) i dont know if i ever can. never tried! although i'd like to learn to play tabla hmmmmm.

either way, i shall give u a call sometime and we'll work out how terrible ur voice is which i am sure it's not.! :)

Penguin said...

Sing, and don't care what others think! I learnt this from an ex-boyfriend who insists on singing loud and clear at every opportunity, and I must admit there are these moments when he suddenly sings really well!

I would like to believe that he's become better because of my encouragement and the display of foolish bravery on my part. Hahaha!

dipali said...

@suki: Singing and speaking are two different things! You may run a few miles away if you hear me warble!
@mampi: See above!
@chox: No, thanks. What I need is a fun time with friends followed by a singing session!
@mira's mom: I was quite sure that I could sing beautifully, but this zaalim zamaana has broken my heart!
Don't let a mere husband discourage you:)
@churningthewordmill: I need to stop playing Boseji and sing for myself again:) I'm still a wannabe singer, not an instrumentalist!
But hats' off to your mother.
@a muser: I'd love to! I actually have a fantastic repertoire of children's songs:)
@banno: soul sister! What were the other two wishes?
@sue: I will sing to the wee Bhablet if I can get him to sit in one place long enough! You promise you won't clap your hands over your ears?
@roop: Never sang? Not even in the bathroom?
@penguin: Your kind words brought to mind a Carpenters' song
Sing
Sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong
Don't worry that it's not good enough
For anyone else to hear
Just sing
Sing a song.

In which spirit, that's just what I'm going to do! Thanks:)

Mystic Margarita said...

Was going to mention the Carpenters' song, but I see you've done that in one of your replies. Popol and I will be looking forward to hearing your singingnin person!

Anonymous said...

Carpenters ke baad, listen to this:

"Ohhh Thande thande paani se,
Nahaana chahiye,
Gaana aaye ya na aaye
Gaana chahiye!!!!"

sorry, that silly song from a long ago sanjeev kumat film (can't recall which one) came to mind.

dipali said...

@mysticmargarita: I promise to regale young Popol with The Ugly Duckling and Thumbelina:)I think I should stick to kiddie songs- can't really murder them:)
@anonymous: But of course- that is from Pati, Patni aur Woh.
Gaana toh chaahiye:)

eve's lungs said...

Sing girl ..am all ears

DotThoughts said...

I think you need to give us all a virtual concert :)I bet you have a nice voice.I think singing is such a great stress buster!

Indian Home Maker said...

LOL I have been through similar experiences with my kids :)
If you sing for yourself, if you sing with pleasure, if you don't care how 'perfect' your singing is...you must be such fun to be with :) I have neither much of an ear nor much understanding, but I love to sing while driving, and to listen to my son, and willing friends sing to me.

Gauri said...

Oh ! Plenty of takers Dipali :D

Next time I'm in Bombay am sure going to speak to you and well - you're on Dipali - I'll listen to you singing on the phone. Something tells me you're going to be really good at that too :)

dipali said...

@eve's lungs, dottie, indian home maker, gauri: You are all too kind! But I seriously don't see myself singing on the phone, Gauri:)
I am getting back to singing for myself while alone at home, thanks to all my encouraging friends:)

churningthewordmill said...

therez something on my blog for you!

DotThoughts said...

I have something for you on my blog!

the mad momma said...

me too me too - my kids too! there - more takers than you imagined? :)