Saturday, 28 July 2012

My life in the Opening Ceremony soundtrack



So, by now everyone agrees that Beijing had money but the London Olympics opening ceremony had soul and that it was gloriously, quirkily, eerily British. Yet, the reason this event resonated with so many of us around the world is because it spoke an universal language. Danny Boyle’s real genius lay in the eclectic yet strangely familiar soundtrack he drew up to accompany the visual spectacle of the evening.  As one song after the other rolled, rocked & strummed its way through the evening, I wondered why the music made me feel jubilant, excited yet uncomfortable.
Perhaps, because I don’t get no satisfaction took me back to a bus ride as a teenager through the dusty streets of Bombay, listening to the bootleg recording of the song on a borrowed cassette, on my walkman as I mourned the loss of the first crush who had introduced me to the Rolling Stones;  I had looked around that crowded B.E.S.T bus and realised that not one of the people in that space would have had any idea about the Rolling Stones. A perverse thrill had run down my spine and it made me feel so brave; as if I was breaking new boundaries, doing something quite illicit, the odd one out of the then-ten-million citizens.  Flash-forward twenty years and here I am, perched on the edge of my worn-out-sofa, in the civilized living room of my very British home, listening to the same music; now blared out to the eighty-thousand live audience; and perhaps another billion around the world. In a flash of insight I realized that the musical composition of the opening ceremony had opened a jukebox of memories.
Gosh! That's my life in a music compilation
Jerusalem, sung during a primary school-play at St Joseph’s Convent School. I didn’t really understand the words, definitely did not get the pronunciation, and yet here I am today sounding like one of them today.
God Save the Queen which I had often heard on the BBC World Service. It was my only company as I swotted for school exams late into the night. It felt as if I was the only person awake in the entire Universe, except for the DJ in the music booth on the other end of the radio, somewhere very far away, a country of which I had no comprehension of, except from history text books.
Arrival of the Queen of ShebaI heard this first when I was perhaps ten years old on a classical music compilation which a visiting relative from overseas had left behind. It was perhaps my first exposure to Western Classical music if you didn’t count the music for the opening credits of <em> To the Manor Born</em>, it was a revelation. Even classical music could elicit a certain kind of adrenaline, albeit not quite like that of hard rock, but of a different dimension.
Pink Floyd's classic Eclipse, from Dark Side of the Moon; I wasn’t the only eighteen year old in India, who took refuge in this song, playing it over and over again as I sulked & raged against the injustice of it all. What was I rebelling against? Family, society, the world? Everything. I couldn’t wait to grow up then. Little did I know that I would still be waiting to grow up even as I turned forty.
Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), first seen on black & white television, on a late night showing of The Top of the Pops on Doordarshan, the national broadcaster. With this I discovered music which echoed my feelings. It captured the direction that my teenage hormones were pointing me towards—a course set at direct contradiction with my conservative South-Indian upbringing where dating was unheard of. What a dilemma!
Led Zeppelin’s Trampled Under Footthe Anthem of my youth this was,  forever laced with technicolour memories of hearing it amped up by an Indian Indie Rock Band at the closing night of Mood Indigo—the inter-collegiate festival held by the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. The notes still ringing my ears, I had made my way home shivering in the early morning chill contending with the high from the previous night’s alcohol fuelled binge slipping away while not looking forward to the bollocking I was sure to get from my Mum for having stayed away from home all night.
The James Bond Theme; Ah! Diamonds are Forever is the movie I saw on my first date with a fellow collegian ummm! Suffice to say that I didn’t see much of the screen, busy as I was trying to avoid his over-eager amorous advances while studiously ignoring the snickers from those around us peering to see if/ when we would finally kiss.
Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight, etched in my memory forever, for it was the last song played, on what was to be my last day as a student.  Tradition had it that the last song of the evening at any student gathering during my MBA years had to be a slow song; a chance for couples to have one last dance, before retiring for the evening. The usual choice was Lionel Ritchie’s Lady in Red, but for the farewell party of the senior MBA year, the DJ’s choice was this one.
London Calling—the first song my Anglophile husband—then boyfriend had played for me soon after we had begun  dating—little did I know on that hot Singapore afternoon that this was a foreshadow of things to come.
The Chemical Brothers’ Galvanize, to which I have danced, countless times at the Hoxton Bar—a refuge in my first years in London when the city felt cold and alien. Yet  this track never fails to elicit that feeling of wanderlust, of never having to grow up and take responsibility, of being a free-spirit at heart which the world can never take from me.
MIA’s – Paper Planes, brings me to back to the today. It takes me to the very real landscape of a ruthless Bombay portrayed in Slumdog Millionaire—the movie which led me to re-discovering how much the city of my birth had immersed itself in me. I could run but I could never hide from it. It was in thus acknowledging my roots that I found my voice, and my obsession with a dystopian Bombay set thousands of years in the future, a recurring theme today in my writing. So it seems even though I had grown up in a very different society, in a country many thousands of miles away, I had listened to the same music that someone of my generation would have grown up with, here in Great Britain.
What about you? Where did you grow up and did the soundtrack of the opening ceremony spark off similar memories? Do write in and tell me.
Laxmi Hariharan is a London based author. She is inspired by Indian mythology. Her debut novel The Destiny of Shaitan is available on Amazon http://tiny.cc/szqsew.  Find her at www.laxmihariharan.com