Kerala Kakophonies

Kiarna went for her first Kerala wedding reception. Very odd. Both bride and groom live in England. Both bride and groom’s families live in England. For many years now. And they’re in Kottayam in what is an exotic and alien culture to their kids. Hopeful me thinks, ‘ah roots..’ Cynical me thinks, ‘hmph just so that they can show off. Status and all that sort of thing’. Maybe I should just stop thinking.

The reception was at the aptly named Windsor Castle. While the original castle is grey and short and looks like a castle, this one is white and tall and looks surprisingly like a hotel. As we entered the general ‘heritage’ looking reception area we saw all the priests sitting at a special table and eating away. They looked like white pigeons with their cassocks pecking away at their food. If a bishop came it would’ve been a purple pigeon. If it was a Syrian bishop probably he would look like a crow. I’m rude.

Weddings in Kerala are too many a piece in this season. All the Gelf mals will arrange a wedding with the US mals and the Uk mals will arrange something with the bangalore mals. And so they swoop down on their ‘homeland’ much to irritation of all the young ones concerned.

‘Mone arriyamo?’ Is the oft repeated question. Son do you know me? Nope uncle don’t know you from Adam, Kurien or Varghese. Your dad’s 3rd cousin’s wife’s dog’s brother’s owner’s brother-in-law who lives down the road. Baa Baa.

These Christian weddings are very funny. Most likely the UK born and brought up couple will barely understand the service, though now the relevant portions are now in English. Of course, if a relative wants to sing or play in the service it has to go through various committees and even with permission at the last moment you could be banned. I was prevented from entering the cathedral with a guitar. My brother shouted at the hapless peon, but ah well… what could he do? It was a huge scandal that I played on the Cathedral organ for my own brother’s wedding. One bride’s sister was singing a song and the bishop made his late grand entrance with his topi and everything. My father who is a priest was playing the keyboard and he was poked in the arm with the question,’when will this singing stop’?

The presence of the bishop is very important at these weddings. Somehow it gives that grand touch I suppose. Kind of an expensive human decoration. (Sorry grandpa, not you.) That’s just how it feels. It’s funny how we elevate ordinary human beings to positions where we worship them. My fun friend VA Philip reached out to a bishop and shook his hand, saying ‘hi!’ and the bishop jovially replied ‘hi!’ but the crowd was scandalised. Some of these bishops hold it together while others insist on their churching buying them the latest Mercedes Benz.

I’m glad I didn’t get married in Kerala.

Christmas Cheer

My thoughts on Christmas range from cynical to cheesy sweet. So in order to avoid confusion I resort to (in the words of a preacher) “beautiful thoughts from the heart of sunil, reaching to your heart, in moments of quietness…”.. Groan! The sweetness of it all!

Who came to visit Jesus before the Wise Men? The X-Men!

Santa Claus is known as the patron saint of thieves. Is it because he is known as St. Nick?

Christmas cakes in Kerala are very musical because of the I-sing on them.

People are never content. Every Christmas they want a crib.

From Goodness Gracious Me: The Wise Men actually were from India, which is proven by the song, ‘We Three Singhs of Orient are…’

My real Christmas thoughts sometime later…

Kiarna’s first Christmas! Last Christmas we found out she was on her way. And now we have this gurgling little package.

Cherry MissMass Everyone!

I’m out…

only for a fortnight, and we’re only 2 days in and my daughter is all smiles and gurgles. It’s great to be out of that hole that they call an IT city.

where dust is our fresh air
machines our nature’s sound,
where roads kill,
the back, the person and her soul,
the sky, brown and cold,
the jam, thick and steaming
the nightmare called Bangalore.

why am I still here? Lot of people I love and cherish are here. That’s it. If all of us could just move to the hills… *sigh*

I’m glad

I’m glad…

. . . . . . . you’re born
. . . . . . . you’ve 10 toes
. . . . . . . you cry
. . . . . . . you sleep
. . . . . . . you awake
. . . . . . . you smile

I’m sorry…

. . . . . . . you cry
. . . . . . . you fall
. . . . . . . you hurt
. . . . . . . we fail you

I hope…

. . . . . . . you laugh lots
. . . . . . . you paint
. . . . . . . you sing
. . . . . . . you dance
. . . . . . . you’ll be honest
. . . . . . . you’ll be real
. . . . . . . you meet Jesus
. . . . . . . . . . . . . and play with him
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . in the garden
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . outside the tomb

I’m famous

The other day my name came in the paper. I wrote against a review which was very unfavourable against the Jonas Hellborg concert. The paper published my letter and a steamed up response. Here it is.

Jazz reviews

I’ve been increasingly frustrated with your jazz concert reviews. Jazzebel seems to only enjoy a particular sub-genre of jazz. His trashing of the Jonas Hellborg trio is the latest in a series of concerts which didn’t suit his taste. He didn’t even research Hellborg’s astonishing career which includes playing with John Mclaughlin. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the beauteous Lokuah Kanza, or the avant-garde Der Rote Bereicht, he obviously doesn’t consider these to be quite `jazz’. He doesn’t seem to understand the evolving nature of jazz, nor be open to more contemporary forms of music.

I don’t see the point of MetroPlus carrying reviews of shows which are unfairly shown in a poor light. Either Jazzebel needs to expand his horizon or you need an additional writer or, please, don’t print the articles at all. They are becoming slanderous.

Sunil Chandy
On email

© Copyright 2000 – 2005 The Hindu

Jazzebel replies

I don’t know whether Mr. Chandy expects a writer on jazz to be “objective” like a news reporter should be, but to me it is evident that when writing about jazz I can’t possibly be uninfluenced by my personal taste. Any writer on music would be less than honest in pretending to keep personal taste out of his reaction to a performance and the review that follows. What one can do, and I always try to do, is assess how accomplished the musicians are and how well they perform, regardless of whether I like their sound or not.

Thus, I found the Jonas Hellborg trio did what they did — and at no point did I say that I didn’t consider it jazz — very well, although it had the loud drumming and electronic sound effects that I most dislike in jazz-rock. They came up with astonishing solos and had incorporated influences such as Romanian folk and Carnatic into their music. (My “personal taste” accommodates influences from around the world in jazz, from Latin America through Azerbaijan and South Africa to India.)

The main reason for my dissatisfaction with their concert was the conditions in which it was held, and the unfortunately intensified effect of the loudness of the music in those conditions.

I find Mr. Chandy’s suggestion that I should have “bothered to research” Hellborg and his work with John McLaughlin quite strange. Is a writer supposed to spend all his time reading up whatever has been written about someone instead of trusting his ears and what he generally knows about the kind of music he’s writing about? I usually completely ignore what the handouts say about someone (other than factual details) and if there’d been a handout about Hellborg at the concert, I would have singularly failed to be overawed by the connection to McLaughlin. In fact, it so happened that a musician told me about that connection before the concert started.

In the case of Lokuah Kanza, whom I join Mr. Chandy in considering “beauteous”, I gave him a glowing review — as African (folk) music, not jazz, for the simple reason that jazz, by practically any modern definition, has improvisation (usually solo) in it. I found Kanza’s music didn’t have any to speak of and was much closer to what is labelled “world music” from Africa than African jazz.

I did consider the music of Der Rote Bereich (DRB), on the other hand, to be jazz. And although I think avant-garde jazz can be irritating, I was pleasantly surprised to find DRB were not as outrageous as their handout threatened they would be. I found them to be good musicians and said so, and I only had a couple of complaints, including their failure to develop their solo improvisations well. A complaint I could, and often do, make about purveyors of the kind of jazz that meets my personal taste.

Need I reiterate that all the positive statements I’ve made above appeared in the three reviews cited by Mr. Chandy?


© Copyright 2000 – 2005 The Hindu

All in all quite funny I thought. Imagine a review which shouldn’t have any research done for it. The assertion that jazz ‘has improvisation (usually solo)’ is true, but then so does almost every type of music in the world including Western Classical the most notated of all music. Most pop songs have an improvised solo by an instrument in them.The statement ‘ their failure to develop their solo improvisations well’ is essentially a prescriptive statement as to what the music should do, which in itself is an anti-thesis to the nature of jazz itself.

One thing that was really missed out in the review is the fact the crowd really had a good time. The ironical thing here is that I myself wasn’t that kicked by Jonas Hellborg, but I had a very enjoyable evening. The energy and the humour of the evening made up for everything else. But someone didn’t think so.

Let’s cut the tree and leave the hole alone

… seems to be the philosophy of the caretakers of our city. Roads are as lousy as ever, but they cut trees to make more space on the road. I can imagine the conversation (translated into English as my vernacular is poor other than my mal):

“Sir! traffic jam sir!”


“Lot of traffic sir”

“Ah what to do?”

“Pothole there sir”

“They can drive around pothole no?”

“But some tree there sir”

“Ah! Cut the tree”

“Sir, shady sir”

“Ah what to do, I’m shady enough no?”