Now and Then.

Who the...?

Harendra Kapur.
Kyra Mathews.
Tejas Menon.

Some months ago, I found myself in a personal slump. One of those unfortunate situations where nothing was really going wrong, but nothing was really going right either. So I walked the streets of Kingston, chainsmoking and desperately looking for some kind of answer. Clarity falling from the skies would have been greatly appreciated. Instead, I found myself staring at a poster for London Jazz Festival month. A beautiful festival that would begin at my local theatre with a John Etheridge showcase in a few days time. These were all signs. What else could it be?

So I clutched at this straw. Jazz would save me, like it had so many times before. I considered going alone, but the more I heard about the magic that was Etheridge, the more I realised that would be selfish. So I took my oldest friend and my newest friend, the latter who would soon become my significant other i.e. if we ever fight, I will blame Etheridge.

There three of us stood, in the rain, waiting for it to start - The Jazz Geek (me), The Metal Head (The New Friend - TNF) and The I-Love-Music-So-As-Long-As-I-Have-A-Good-Time-It's-Cool-Person (The Old Friend - TOF). I spent a few moments worrying about the grief I'd have to suffer if they both hated it, but before I could really do or say anything about it, we were sprawled on wooden steps, waiting for it to start.

I was right. Etheridge saved me. As soon as he started with a cover of Miles Davis' classic "Doxy", I felt waves of uncertainty and the burdens of personal disaster leaving my shoulders. Clarity crept into my freezing toes, and for the first time in weeks, I didnt worry or wonder about "what-if's" and "whys and wheres".

After a few songs had been performed, I ventured hesitant peeks at TNF & TOF sitting next to me, and I breathed even easier. TNF sat in silent concentration, enjoyment and understanding washing over the planes of his face with an occasional comment about how beautiful Etheridge's guitars were. TOF spent the entire evening whispering "Thats amazing, did you hear what he just did?" over and over again.

Im not saying that Etheridge saved me to the extent that my slump was resolved overnight. But his music and his humour cleared my head and replaced hyperventilation with steady breaths. A few days later I found myself calm enough to resolve my slump on my own, and I endured the loss by purchasing "Doxy" as a single and driving my flatmates crazy by keeping it on repeat for days.

When I started growing immune to the powers of "Doxy", again I found myself walking the streets of Kingston. This time with a friend who had uncovered secrets of Kingston streets that he was more than willing to share with me. So in the bitter cold, down lanes and through alleys, we walked.

And reached Collector's Records. I've been in love before. With friends, with men, with books, with albums. This is the first time I've fallen in love with a store. Records in racks and shelves and turntables to play them on before you decide to own them. We stayed till almost-closing time, discovering, exclaiming and placing on turntables. I left with Billy Joel, Simon & Garfunkel and more, tucked under my arm, beautifully preserved in their original vinyl selves - the second best thing to owning them as people, in my opinion. And they cost me less than a pack of cigarettes would have.

It comes to no surprise to anyone, that my dissertation has music at its core. I came to London for inspiration and the simplicity of yayness, and I found it. In music. In jazz, my eternal saviour. In shelves of dusty records, that smell oddly like my father. In genres of music, Id always shunned but am now growing a grudging respect for, because my significant other plays it all the time, and after days of plugging my ears, I actually started to listen.
I also realised, my experience with Etheridge, in no way applies solely to jazz. Music will always save you, as long as youre vulnerable enough to let it. Its the reason most people have internal soundtracks to&for their lives, why people listen to mood-appropriate music. We discover meaning and answers in the words and music, and adjust it to our needs. We leave our own personal imprint on the music we listen to.

I may be immune to the powers of Doxy by now (thanks to my own excessive listening), but I'll always remember it as the song that healed me. Even years later if I find it in pristine vinyl on a dusty shelf in a dingily beautiful record store.
Note: WetheWriters to YoutheReaders: Happy 2011 and whatnot.

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