It is no coincidence that World Music Day or ‘Fete de la Musique’, as originally christened in French, coincides with the summer solstice. Music is after all, synonymous with festivities and joie de vivre. This universal language traverses the boundaries of geography, gender, age, and even class.
The way music is consumed may have changed over the last few decades, yet its purpose remains the same – to shut away from the clutter in one’s own mind and be transported to a calmer, positive mental space.
Abnish Sahny is an entrepreneur and the Chief Innovation Officer at Kensho Nootropics, manufacturers of Nootropic-based brain-boosting supplements. He was born in Durgapur, West Bengal in the late 1950s, and credits his knowledge and taste in music to a childhood spent in the proximity of India’s cultural hub, Calcutta.
“My earliest memories of listening to music are from when I was 6 or 7. Some of my older cousins were based abroad but studied in boarding schools in India. They would bring records with them during the holidays and then leave the collection with us when they returned to school. I remember listening to The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and The Chipmunks, on our gramophone. One of my cousins was very fond of Bollywood music, so we listened to some of that too but I never liked it as much,” he shares.
Sahny remembers his bi-monthly visits to the local record store, where his choice of records would be kept aside for him.
However, it was in his college years at St. Xavier’s, Calcutta, when he, in his words, “came to his senses”, and developed a taste for blues, jazz, psychedelic, and other forms. He shares,
“I bonded with my friends in the college hostel music room, which was dark and dingy and meant to house 5 people at a time. Of course, there would be 20 of us packed in, listening to music on full blast!
That’s where we discovered what was good and what wasn’t, and most of all – what we liked. My favourite genre to this day is Classic Rock and I still listen to Neil Diamond, Eric Clapton, The Who, Kris Kristofferson, and other legends.”
16-year-old Adhiraj Singh may have been born five decades after Sahny, but he also credits his love of music to the shared experience of enjoying it with his friends. As a pre-teen with no outstanding extra-curricular interests, Singh was asked to join an impromptu dance performance by his friend, for a school teacher’s day function, a few years ago.
The immense appreciation he received, made him want to continue dancing. Developing an interest in music was the inevitable next step. The past year spent away from school and friends, has been tough on this teenager.
He relied heavily on music to pass the time – listening to it constantly in his room, discussing it with his peers, discovering it through indie YouTube channels, TV reality shows, and Instagram Reels and Stories.
Rani Kaur, child of the 1970s, and Founder of her eponymous music management label grew up listening to cassette tapes on a precious tape recorder gifted to her by an uncle settled in Hong Kong. In college, she wasn’t ‘given permission to attend live concerts, which may have pushed her to develop a fierce love for live music, later in life.
Reading about gigs in newspapers, she began attending live events on a weekly basis around 2010, flying around the country for particularly exciting line-ups.
This led to interactions with artists backstage, and around four years ago, she ventured into curating musical events and managing indie artists herself.
Anhad Anand, Actor & Business Manager, Turnkey Music Publishing, was born in the changing era of the 1990s.
He distinctly remembers saving pocket money to buy cassettes of Green Day’s latest albums. That he would play on his cherished Walkman, and listen to them on repeat. While pursuing his Master’s degree in Prague, however, he began to appreciate the true power of music.
“There I came across underground music for the first time – electronic music that isn’t considered popular. My friends and I would attend boiler room sets, which was such an awesome experience. It would be 100 odd people packed into a small space with a guy mixing music on the turntable live. Everyone was in a kind of trance, and the artist would just take us all into a different realm,” he explains candidly.
The principal Architect at the firm Architecture Discipline, Akshat Bhatt grew up in the 1980s playing guitar for hours on end. He remembers the first moment when the guitar caught his fancy – while watching a Guns N’ Roses’ music video on MTV, with Slash playing the solo to November Rain.
“It was glorious, he was standing in front of a chapel with the wind blowing through his hair — it was absolutely insane.”
And just like that, he was hooked. In time, he discovered other greats like Van Halen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Dream Theater, Megadeth, and shied away from his first influence (Guns N’ Roses).
In order to make up for a lost time, he began spending up to 18 hours practicing the guitar, even causing a 5db hearing loss in his right ear.
Bhatt shares insight on why he was attracted to music at such a young age.
“When I was growing up, studying was limited to reading something and then memorizing and regurgitating it — you were never asked to analyze what you learned.
Music allowed me to do that. There was no YouTube in those days — I was learning how to play by ear or from a friend or a magazine, or from pirated video cassettes from Palika Bazaar.
That struggle to gain knowledge or information also teaches you something as you stumble upon it by chance. Studying music gave me a certain resolve to get to an acrobatic level of excellence in everything that I do.”
Sahny echoes Bhatt’s sentiment, sharing that back in the day, cultivating music as a hobby required an immense amount of effort, making one appreciate it more.
He refers to collecting records as a ‘full-time occupation.’ Since, it requires regular care and upkeep with weekly cleaning, correct storage in its sleeve to prevent scratches, and timely changing of the stylus on the gramophone. Even though collecting music was relatively easy if you had access to it, maintaining that collection took up a fair amount of time and energy.
The effort involved in searching for gigs through newspaper listings, buying tickets, and rearranging social commitments around live concerts, was certainly a part of the pleasure that Kaur derived from live music.
For her, it was the pandemic that changed things completely. With everyone at home, and multiple options of consuming music at one’s fingertips, accessing music has become easier than ever before. Apart from the usual suspects like Spotify and VH1, she now also tunes in to the Clubhouse app.
“It is a great platform because you can actually interact with music industry stalwarts, who are wary of other social media platforms. You can also discover great talent. In fact, for World Music Day, I’ve curated a Clubhouse session with popular singer Peekay, and she will be performing live there at 5 pm.”
Working in the music industry clues one into the latest trends. Since part of his job is to discover new talent, Anand listens to a lot of music and creates playlists of national and international artists on disco.ac, administering a catalogue of 6,50,000 songs.
Where some may consider it tedious to sift through lakhs of tracks to discover one gem, Anand enjoys it. He says,
“I listen to a lot of different music but that’s what I love most about what I do. Music has a profound impact on me. I find it inspirational, as it helps me weather whatever mental space I’m in, and allows me to express the emotions which I can’t otherwise say out loud.
For me, it’s a spiritual experience and it heals. And it has always been like that – right from my teens.”
Music has the potential to motivate and inspire listeners, no matter their age. Despite his young age, Singh uses music as an emotional outlet when he’s sad, angry, or jubilant. It inspires him to work out when he’s been slacking off, and sometimes even puts him in the right mood to study, though academics are his least favorite pursuit.
Bhatt’s love of music found an outlet when he became an avid collector of prize instruments. He boasts a collection of over 80 guitars, amplifiers, pedals, and other music paraphernalia, with many being trophies of long chases over a period of years. His most recent acquisition is an original Ola Strandberg, a headless electric guitar which he acquired from the famed guitar maker himself, in Sweden. Despite his eventual traditional career choice as Architect, his love of music stayed true and steadfast through the years. Encapsulating what music means to him, and to most people, he says,
“music is meditative, it cuts out the rest of the world. After all these years, it has become a part of who I am.”
Amen to that!