Mystical and spacious as the misty mountain ranges. Noisy and chaotic as the busy street markets. Wacky and cheesy as the blockbusters of Bollywood. India’s musical scene is as broad as the country and as diverse as its people. We are tuning in right now, hours before leaving for the subcontinent.
I like to build a soundscape of every place I’m about to visit. A playlist of music, ideally recorded by artists working in that country and city, but not necessarily so. Often times I will hear a song that just sounds like a particular place. And some places seem to fit well with any kind of music—they’re this diverse. London is one good example.
India is no exception. I have a small playlist on Spotify built for our journey. A mixture of songs I knew already, with a bunch discovered lately while combing through YouTube.
Press play and enjoy the ride!
It starts with “Saroja Saman Nikolo”, a very popular Tamil song which we heard for the first time right here, in Warszawa, at a house party of our friend’s, thrown by a group of Indians. Vivid rhythm, drums booming and a the video shows neatly synchronized, wacky dancing by a posse of Tamil… guys. That’s nothing out of the ordinary. If you watch the videos for the top 20 Tamil dance songs, most of them have groups of male dancers.
It’s a very pleasant change from our European standards, where men basically don’t dance. And when they do find their way to the dance floor, it’s plain (and painful) to see just how uncomfortable some of them are staying there, with their bodies showing less motion than a rehabilitation routine for centenarians.
I’m definitively with the Tamils, and all the other wacky guy dancers in India. My mom used to laugh that my dancing “style” is that of a wild man, and my wife to this day escapes the dance floor once I enter. But to anyone who finds my way of dancing unstructured, I like to quote one much regarded dancer:
I had always believed and feared that dancing involved a certain order or pattern of specific steps—as dancing is done by whites. But here (…) I discovered it was simply letting your feet, hands and body spontaneously act out whatever impulses were stirred by the music.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Yes, I’m looking forward to the dancing opportunities in India.