What Storm?

28 10 2012

Well it’s the storm that is keeping me in India – That’s what storm.  So as no one from United Airlines has the slightest idea what to do to help, I’ll show you this sky related item:  A beautiful specialty generic 45 sleeve that Angel in India had made to package their ‘ethnic’ releases.  Very nice indeed I think.  NOW, can I fly home?


26 10 2012

Traffic moves at a snail’s pace and a high db here in Mumbai.  The car horn outranks the conch shell for summoning the gods, or at least warning them that a taxi or cycle-rickshaw is cumming up on the inside.  Here’s a car horn dealership in Chor Bazaar.  Honest, they will blast each one for you.  Just ask.

Keeping the theme going, a recent purchase.  Hey, does Marty know about this?

Sale-ers Delight

25 10 2012

Here’s a pic of Suresh, collector extraordinaire and my erstwhile record guide to the Chor Bazaar (Thieves Market).  Easy to find the record salers here, not just the well-spelled signage, but by the dangling discs.Here’s a few more finds from Chor and from a dealer in the arcade in Fort.  The top two are really my top 2, spanning our ‘Days.”  The Armaan-ies do a Hindi-samba, referencing our last Brazilian Music Day, and the S+Sers cover ABBA, spanning 2013’s Indian and 2014’s Scandinavian Days.  Who could ask for anything more?

An Indian Ocean of Sound

22 10 2012

Yesterday I walked to the Indian Ocean.

Then, visited journalist and author Naresh Fernandes.  Naresh has written the incredible Taj Mahal Foxtrot, a  history of early jazz in India.  And who says it doesn’t mean anything to blog?  Naresh saw the photos of my record purchases I posted and realized I had a Jetliners LP from Ceylon that he didn’t.  Like any respectable collector, he went out on the street and found one!  Here he is showing off our inspiration with the other Jetliners already on his shelves.  Now if he could only find one in as good a condition as ours…






While his latest book is on Jazz, he also collects pop – Here are some some choice items:

And on 45rpm, Oh, Om, how that slo-mo sitar Edelwiess sends me…

What’s great about these “Music Days” is discovering things – like a major Disco producer and songwriter, who gave us the impossibly great  ‘Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas was an Indian identified on record as Biddu.  British based, Grammy Award winning Biddu Appaiah even published an autobiography.  Who knew?

Off to Chor Bazaar , colorfully named Thieves Market to look for vinyls.

Flying Monkey Motorcycle Gang

21 10 2012

Street image of Hanuman, the ever-faithful servant, occasional deity, and leader of that flying monkey motorcycle gang that set much of Ceylon on fire.

Street image of my last meal and first authentic street samosa in 42 years.  It was incredible, and I think I’ll have both of them…

Now there are mysteries that go beyond creating great cuisine and understanding god, and this is one of them: how would an Indian with a flute tree, in India, think to play “El Condor Passa” to sell his flutes?  Is there an AmerIndian-AsianIndian nexus unknown to us?  Is he a Simon and Garfunkle fan?  Maybe it appeared in a Bollywood film? No one from the Andes peddle their skills on the streets here.  It’s just me and my monkey…

I Turn the Floor Over to the Chair to Read the Record…

20 10 2012


20 10 2012

Just realized that I have skipped over a few important things, and so, I would like to show you…

A series of unissued discs from Rupayan Sansthan, The Rajasthan Institute of Folklore,  Jodhpur.  They were graciously donated to ARC by Mr. Kothari, head of the Institute.  He remembers maybe in an edition of 500 in the early 1970s.  We will get others in the set (how many others?) as they search for them.  Can’t wait to get home and have a listen.

The Rajasthan trip included music events beyond the puppet show I have spoken about.  At the Arna Jharna Desert Museum we heard a musical performance by Langa folk musicians.  The museum also featured a exhibition on the ubiquitous straw broom used throughout India.  Honestly simple and beautiful.

On our last night it was off to the races as we took a camel ride into the desert.  (Hey, fellow musicologists, send me pics you took of me on Bessie!).  Here’s a snap of  a troupe of Manganiar musicians that we just happened to bring along with us, performing at sunset.

I honestly can’t believe I can post this sitting on a terrace overlooking the Ganges.  On my last trip to India, 1970, it was nearly impossible to make a phonecall.

How I Got to Where I Am Today

19 10 2012

   OK.  Everything was set for my trip to India except  for the leg from Delhi to Agra to Varanasi.  This would involve trains.  Now trains cannot be booked direct by internet via the US, unless you have an Indian Tel #.  There is a work around, but it didn’t work.  The travel agent who booked the conference I was attending said no tickets avail to Varanasi on the date I wanted to go.

So I waited until in India, and every agent said not possible, and one said yes,  Reassurances abounded, skepticism remained.  I reserved a car and driver to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.  You do NOT want to drive here by yourself – they drive on the left, lanes are only a suggestion, and every trip is a game of chicken.  Agra was swell, driver great, only one flat tire, and so off to the train station at end of day for the leg to Varanasi.

I was prepared for something fishy, as one yes to 100 no’s has meaning.  It turned out that the train station was outside of Agra, 21 km.  OK. Bad, but not so bad.  We get to the station and the train has been delayed .  NINE HOURS.  To me that’s not a delay, that’s a cancellation.  That means the night train, that I paid for a sleeping berth, would become an all day train ride.   Plus I would have to stay up all night at the station (a dismal place it be, with no A/C or security) in the middle of nowhere.  So my driver, Ashesh, rhymes with hashish, who is a saint by the way, asks if there is another train that night.  Yes, but booked. What to do? Back to Delhi and take a plane?  Pay $200 to drive to Varanasi?  Wait for a train that may never come? Then I become my old self.

I ask a porter if he can get us on the train that is running tonight, that is completely booked.  He makes some calls.  A guy shows up.  He makes some calls.  We make a deal.  The train is to be here at 8:30.  The guy making the deal at 8.  Both are 45 minutes late.  I pay the $40 for the ticket I have already paid for once, only when I am in my sleeper car, in my seat on the train.  We pay small monies to the porter.  They bribe the conductor.  My driver has stuck with me the whole time, and did I mention he was a saint?

I am now amongst a herd of innocent Danish people, younger than my beard.  The Indian tour leader loves Led Zep and is a hoot.  No one ever asks to see a ticket.  A very fat Indian man on the bunk next to me bought 4 dinners with him and gave them to everyone in our compartment and some things for the porters and conductor.  Fresh sheets and towels, I had a nice sleep, the train was only 1-1/2 hrs. late, and the Danish Tour people drove me to my hotel.  I may have actually saved money in the long run.

I think India is getting to me.  I never got mad, and I didn’t stop trying to work out the problem.  I am now the balcony of the beautiful Ganapati Hotel, sipping lemon tea overlooking the Ganges.


All this by the way has given me an idea. Richard, from the British Library, one of my friends here at the conference, related a story of how once, when out collecting sounds in the Amazon, his travel connection by boat never arrived.  He took the only avail transport he could find, and that turned out to be a boatload of brigands, who raided villages along the coast, putting him in great danger.  Now anyone who has ever gone after music has had a similar, if not as impossible, experience.

Soooo… a book entitled; “The Boat’s Not There – Harrowing Tales of Music, Musicology and the Search for Sound.”

I’m keen to relate my trip deep into Colombia under the protection of a drug cartel to attend a festival, or my days at Fela Kuti’s compound in Nigeria.  I think the hills are alive with such tales, and I welcome contributions!

And had not all of this happened I might never have seen this super amped wedding soundblaster truck!


Pilgrims’ Progress

17 10 2012

I’m going the tourist route here, so music people relax please.

On the road to Jaisalmer, on the edge of the Rajasthan desert, from the moving car, the camera performed like a champ.  Here’s a group of religious pilgrims along the side of the highway, part of a line that went on for miles.

Proof you can be in two places at once: the Eifel Tower and the Taj Mahal.

One pitstop was a Desert Camp.  These cater to tourists, but even locals are skinned 100 rupees for a tea!  Ah, but the sheer beauty of the dining room…

Speaking of room – take a room that is about 12’ x 12’, pack it with 16 people, and whataya got?  A puppet show.

We got a intimate demo of carving the puppet heads, a rundown on the major characters, some face-based acrobatics (balancing on upper lip) and a manic Indian Jerry Lewis barking “one, two three” as he wowed us with some close magic.   I’m working without a net here (internet), but the puppeteers are lower cast Harijans, the ethnic group Naga, and they are represent generations of puppetmakers and manipulators. The language of the puppets is an expressive squawking produced by a boli (split wood mouth whistle) and a bell chain worn around the wrist.  Usually six strings to manipulate, fingers only, subtly and beauty assured.

Translations are sometimes pleasantly muddled, like a list of small treats on the hotel menu labeled ‘snakes,’ or the motorbike rental people suggesting you “Rant a motorbike.”  The ‘Om nan’ was less a religious experience than an omelet on bread.  Of course you don’t always need to spell it out: here’s a good luck sign (hex or yantra) being drawn on the entrance floor of Jaisalmer Fort.

Jodhpur calls itself the ‘blue city’ to draw in tourists who have already visited the ‘Pretty in Pink’ Jaipur.

Path 2 Nirvana

14 10 2012

Backtracking: Last frantic day in Delhi was spent frantically searching the rumored record shop of the elusive Mr. Shaw.   First you go to the cotton market sign in Chowdni Chowk, and into the cotton market, where there is no cotton, only piles of bricks and aggregate.   Walk past Vishnu resting on the cosmic ocean…

THEN, you jig to your left and down a stairwell into the motor pool, or pool of motors, that stretches till the end of time.

Take a left, straight on till dawn, and there you have it.  Mr. Shaw himself amidst his treasures on earth.

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