June 19, 2007
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published books.
Every year, I read a book I cannot stop recommending to friends, family, and blog readers. Last year, that book was Alison Bechdel's heart-wrenching graphic memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. I discovered this year's evangelical project a few pages into Anosh Irani's novel, The Song of Kahunsha. At times stunningly sweet and tragic, Irani's tale of an orphan's quest for his family in Bombay is sure to draw comparisons to Dickens, and deservedly so, but his lyrical prose stands firmly on its own merits.
In his novel Ignorance, Milan Kundera writes, “If in the past people would listen to music out of love for music, nowadays it roars everywhere and all the time ‘regardless whether we want to hear it.’” Kundera quotes the German composer Schoenberg here, who states that “Radio is an enemy, a ruthless enemy marching irresistibly forward, and any resistance is hopeless.” Schoenberg is resigned to the fact that radio forces music down our throats irrespective of whether we have the ability to digest it, understand it.
There is no need to elaborate on the musical garbage that reaches our ears in elevators, cafes, dentists’ chairs, and so on. When music is fed to us, it tastes like hospital food, and all of us have our sick bowls nearby in case we need to retch. But in spite of all this, there is something to be said about that chance encounter, that moment when one is not looking for music, when one is not looking for anything at all.
I was in a taxi in North Vancouver, on a dreary rainy night about eight years ago. Being a recent immigrant, my mind was an attic for the mundane: phone bills, health insurance, student loans, social insurance number. Through the speakers, a voice came on. It grabbed me like Death itself, but a life-giving death, a death unsure of its own function. When the song got over, I asked the Persian taxi driver who the singer was. “Leo-nard Co-hen,” came the answer. His words and music ripped apart my phone bills and made me care even less about health insurance. I was not expecting Cohen, but he came anyway, unannounced, and took charge with his haunting, inspiring work.
That’s what the city of Bombay does to me as well. It haunts, it inspires, it takes charge. I have always thought of Bombay as a cross between a nightingale and a vulture: Beauty and Death. And the songs that I have chosen, in some way, have that same quality. Most of these songs are in a language that you might not understand, but it does not matter because they will make your soul soar, they will make you feel like you are the last man or woman on earth.
1. Take This Waltz: Leonard Cohen
2. Bulla Ki Jaana: Rabbi Shergill
3. Tere Bin Nai Lagda Dil Mera Dholna: Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
4. Woh Lamhe: Zeher Soundtrack
5. Mere Sapno Ki Rani: Kishore Kumar, Sachindev Burman
Anosh Irani and The Song of Kahunsha links:
reviews of The Song of Kahunsha:
also at Largehearted Boy:
Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
guest book reviews
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)