A tone deaf girl’s experience of loving and living with a musician.
Growing up, `Almost Famous’ was a cult film for anyone who considered themselves artistic. For most aspiring writers, William was a role model because he was the culmination of two wonderful worlds - writing and music. For me it was Penny Lane.
Perhaps as a result of this lingering fantasy, or mere coincidence, or both, I landed up right in the middle of the so called ‘Indie music scene’ in my city. And it was enthralling. From being an outsider and a fan, I suddenly became an insider in the veritably cool scene overnight. It was like a long jump into the quintessential ‘hipster kids club’ and as the fascination with messy hair and superfluous joint rolling skills grew, the childhood dream of finding a well-behaved surgeon or engineer began to seem increasingly boring. I started dating a musician. Let’s face it, at 21 all I was thinking is how to have the best time of my life. Besides the only friend in Kolkata who wasn’t dating a musician was a Marwari!
Dating a musician
There was also demographic at play here. There are four kinds of people in Kolkata. The first three are either aspiring doctors and engineers or writers and intellectuals or the B.Com MBA clan that my Marwari friends dig. In the case of all three, moving to another city or country is essential, which leaves us with the fourth kind - the non-conformists, the musicians. So technically if you are spending your college years in Kolkata and looking to date, there are 60% chances that you are going to end up with one of them and 90% chances you will meet them at Someplace Else (a pub on Park Street). Unless you are ok with long distance and/or vegetarian dates. Of course, there are exceptions to the gross stereotyping I have done, but you know what they say about exceptions…
That was my destiny in 100 words and the route to finding love.
At my boyfriend's gig
Dating is hectic, but dating a musician is a whole other ball game. The initial years are great. It’s heart-stoppingly exciting to see someone you love on stage, while a whole crowd of swooning women/men can’t seem to stop screaming (and possibly imagining them in bed). It’s thrilling to be a part of this world, even if vicariously; to know what gigs are coming up, to know the set list, to be able to sing along to songs that are being played live for the first time because you have spent so many hours at their jam pads running cigarette errands, rolling spliffs, connecting cables and disentangling lead wires. After a few years, the excitement wanes, as it always will, and that’s when the problems begin.
Yeah, he only looks at his guitar
Listening to a song is uplifting, listening to the process of a song being composed, practiced and created is the exact opposite of that feeling because what you’re hearing is not a melody. Instead, it’s a string of random chords in different scales and tempos as they attempt to arrive at an agreement about the ‘sound’ in their heads. It’s cacophonous, it’s jittery and on a bad day, it can inspire you to diabolically break their guitars when they’re not looking.
Added to that is their artistic eccentricity. It’s taxing. For example, they will play a song they’ve just finished recording for your feedback. This involves a long drawn and complicated process of first hearing it on headphones (and ONLY their headphones), then hearing it again on monitors. In most cases, you cannot spot the difference, which heralds a longer more complicated process. As someone who is tone deaf, most things sound great to me. But if you fail to point out any mistakes your opinion is not valid. Then they spend another hour doing various things with their guitars and on Cubase - play, sleep, play, repeat. This is where the real test begins because 90% of the time the song still sounds the same to a humble non-musician and you have to rack your brain to come up with something that sounds informed. I usually stick to three responses
“I think you should reduce the snare,”
“The bass is too much!”
“Wow, that intro is great!”
And when I'm feeling adventurous, “I love the synth in this!”
An emotionally abusive relationship ha ha
Things get tricky when both partners are working from home. It’s the cliched relationship - space issue. After our shift to Mumbai, this hit us hard. When deadlines come into play, it becomes a battlefield in our kitchen over who gets the table to work. Ofcourse it’s possible to work in one room, as long as you have a decent pair of earphones. But with musicians, that’s never possible because their work involves making enough sound to not allow even the neighbors a peaceful afternoon.
They wear shades at night
Let’s talk romance. You can forget about feeling like the ‘the special one’ if you’re with a musician because you can never replace their instrument. Once after a huge fight I woke up feeling empty, but to a beautiful rainy afternoon. My boyfriend held my hands, looked deep into my eyes and said, “The weather is so great today babe…” I had already started thinking of excuses about why I wouldn’t make it home for lunch when he went on, “I am going to play the guitar as soon as you leave!”
Now this one shouldn’t be an issue but…music is the answer to everything. A cheque being cleared, depression, a bad day, a good day, a good shit – everything is celebrated by either making or listening to music. Perhaps the worst part of it all is that he assumes I enjoy it as much as him and thinks that it makes for the most ideal way of spending time. The truth is, dating a musician can suffocate you with so much music and music talk, that despite once being an iPod worshipper I have turned into someone who yearns for a few moments of simple, old-fashioned silence!
The other struggle is partying with him and his friends. Otherwise laidback people, their intolerance for genres of music different from the ones they play or like, is appalling. On more than one occasion I had a good mind to ask them to SHUT THE F&%K UP and ENJOY Rihanna twerking because for chrissake it's Saturday, and I couldn’t care less about what a great musician Bob Dylan is because if I wanted to listen to poetry I’d be at a Slam Poetry event not at a friggin' party! But after having been pounced on and shouted down, I have started carrying earphones and taking long loo breaks to listen to my jam.
A happy ending
Seriously speaking and in their defence, they have it pretty hard. It tends to become a little nerve-wracking when the same people who call you to find out where to score highly overpriced hash from, cringe and make faces when the entry to a gig is anything over Rs. 200. Most people don’t seem to understand that beneath all the happening lifestyle there is a great struggle, there are hours of practice, jamming, commuting, communicating and maintaining equipment. It’s not easy when even playing six gigs a month don’t pay for the pedal you really need and if on a certain month the sound card goes bump, then the word ‘struggle’ truly begins to gnaw at them. A musician’s life is not easy and being with a musician isn’t easy either.
But every now and then after a long day when I let myself into the house and he is just jigging with the acoustic guitar, strumming something he wrote years ago, humming in a low voice, it makes up for all the drama. And if by a great stroke of luck he has also had a bath you end up feeling really special!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Suman Quazi
Photographs by Suman Quazi and Soutrik Chakraborty