The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

This is a post that touches on music, technology, people’s movements, loss of memories, and memories of loss. Readers are requested to forgive me for attempting to straddle all of these in one post, there is no way I can help it today.


“Remembering things about a person is an expression of compassion and concern. Forgetfulness shows a lack of compassion, a lack of responsibility.” These words by Daisaku Ikeda started my day as I settled in with my tea to watch the live telecast of the 54th Grammy Awards. I was looking forward to the show for the Beach Boys reunion and the Paul McCartney performance. However, the run up to the show saw the death of Whitney Houston and the awards ceremony was a proof of how the show can go on without compromising on compassion and concern. With presenters and and performers alike making it a point to honor those who are not among us today at a show that is precisely planned and televised live, it is a living testimony to what the arts and technology can do together.


The weekend had me reflecting on how the new technology and social media can actually create a brave new world. The internet with all its shortcomings continues to be one of the few spaces where the new generation can go to find the memories of their predecessors. One of the more painful drives in Hyderabad is the one on Tank Bund where one is faced with the defaced pedestals and missing statues of Telugu luminaries whose presence angered some people. Counting the defaced pedestal that are still standing made me realize yesterday that I was not aware of the life and times of many of these people. Thanks to the internet, I was able to look up who they were and what they did. What the internet failed to give me was any rationale behind this act of vandalism, though it did show me that I was not alone in my grief and that the largest expression of opinion about this was that of sorrow and disgust. This digitization and virtualization of our collective past is rapidly becoming the norm, with museums, galleries, libraries and book stores giving way to virtual storehouses of memories and information. I realize this as I see the second hand books and magazines Sunday market at Abids shrink a little more every time I visit.

This comes with its plus and minus. The new generation of internet users, though often accused of being fickle and short of attention, is capable of processing far more information at a much faster pace than any earlier generation. They are quick to receive and honor new ideas and 1expressions, and equally quick to reject them. The evolution of the social media space to where it allows convergence of all media across a wide range of platforms and devices has only added to this movement.

People can come together using the new medium to not only share their creative expression but also to express their opinions about their own welfare. In many ways, people are today able to impact public policy by using the power of the internet to mobilize, crystallize and publish the will of the people. Censorship and restriction on the freedom of expression or access to information by governments and corporations have proved futile. The Arab Spring and the recent global uprisings against failed capitalistic institutions and principles are evidence of this power. Many people are quick to point out that these “people’s movements” are naive, misguided, and either fizzle out or get hijacked on to somebody else’s agenda. It is perhaps prudent to keep in mind that these are the early days of this movement. There are few precedents and the failures of these movements are but lessons that will strengthen the future of the free internet.

Today’s television event of the year, at least for music lovers, is streaming live not only on the official websites, but on Youtube itself, long perceived as a threat to traditional television and the commercial audiovisual industry. The internet today is emerging as the future of all media. The Grammy’s three hour delayed telecast to the West Coast continues this year in spite of having lost all its relevance in the age of the internet. To adapt the words of the legendary Gill Scott-Heron who too was remembered at the awards show, the revolution is not being televised, it is live.

Enough of this socio-economic stuff. Let me get back to the music.

Since this post was written in the backdrop of the Grammy telecast (or is it the other way around?), I need to share my big takeaways from the ceremony. The Maroon Five and Foster the People tribute to The Beach Boys was the perfect introduction to the iconic band performing together for the first time in god knows how many years, even if for just one song. And that was followed by Sir Paul, Eagle Joe Walsh and Diana Krall singing My Valentine from his new album Kisses on the Bottom. Glen Campbell! was as much fun as the superb all-star tribute that brought him on. Tweets paused for a while as Jennifer Hudson sang Whitney’s all time classic I will Always Love You with the intensity that had people tweeting that she was channeling Whitney’s spirit. I had always wanted to know about the music that Nicki Minaj made, and her strange act at the award ceremony gave me some idea. Though it was roundly dismissed by viewers the world over, the pyrotechnics, the speaking in tongues, the levitation, and the rather meaningless religious symbolism made me realize that we live in a world that holds the cultural vacuum of sensationalism (Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj) and genuine artistic expression (Adele and even Taylor Swift) in one impartial embrace.

For me personally, the highlight of the show was the McCartney recreation of the closing tracks from perhaps the best Beatles album Abbey Road. The guitar climax with Dave Grohl, Joe Walsh, and Bruce Springsteen joining in to trade licks was a treat. At a time when new music is challenged to match the greatness of the past, this year’s performances showcased the best of the new generation standing very ably shoulder to shoulder with the giants of yesteryears. A heartening sight indeed.

If you have not already seen these two posts of mine, you may want to check out

1. Band on The Run - Paul McCartney and the Wings - 25 years later
2. My tribute to a legend. Whitney Houston

28 comments:

  1. Each passing year, the only redeeming feature of the Grammy night comes from the oldtimers. I am proud to belong to their times. What on earth was the Nicki Minaj act all about? I totally agree with you about the vacuum of new music. I don't see much in the Adeles and Taylor Swifts either. Nothing inspiring anywhere.

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  2. This is so true. Singers have lost the talent to be awarded, though.

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  3. Music is steadily losing its charm.
    Singers aren't talented enough.

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  4. Nice to see a fellow Paul McCartney fan. Do you know what was trending on twitter yest? 'Who is Pail McCartney'! That speak volumes, doesn't it?

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  5. @David - Thanks for keeping up with SJD. Was pleasantly surprised. Well, this Grammy night introduced me to who Nicki Minaj was. I am not sure how to feel about it. My aversion to this artist and others like Lady Gaga can perhaps be attributed to ignorance, but man, is that bliss or what?

    @Prerna - Hope is eternal. I strongly believe that great good is always preceded by great darkness. Maybe that is what we are seeing now in popular music. The classical art forms are dying for lack of patronage, folk forms are selling out to remixes and "beats," and popular music is developing two separate strains, one of aggression and revolt, and the other of glamor and objectification. With such darkness, can the light be far behind?

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  6. @Serendipity - I totally agree with you. On the other hand, listeners too no longer have the time to put out for serious music. I cannot recall the last time when I felt excited by an entire album, as opposed to a hit single. I remember the hey days of Kishore Kumar when each of his compilations would result in a one-stretch listen, or even the albums by Steely Dan or Sting (to leave out the more obvious concept album bands and artists).

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  7. @Zach - Thanks for leaving your comment behind. I am a total and irredeemable Beatles fundamentalist and completionist. I am not ashamed to admit that I have (I guess) every album that McCartney recorded in all his avatars, much of which is really mediocre in terms of content (not craftsmanship as a musician/songwriter) compared to his Beatles years.

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  8. Tweets and trends during the show ranged from the who is Paul McCartney that Zach mentioned, who is Adele, who is Glen Campbell, to what the hell was the Nicky Minaj act about, a true tribute to the cluelessness of our times.

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  9. watched the grammys yday and i was touched at how well it was organized and presented (unlike say,the oscars which is too much of a bore these recent years). in short, a classy fare. i get it that the post isnt just about the grammys, but may i please just rave about the awards pretty please? =)

    i was charmed with taylor swift's improvised performance of her single "mean". inspiring even. and was over the moon with joy when adele was awarded and lauded. hey, she is what music ought to be about. in her own words, "i love lady gaga's and katy perry's boobs.love it.but that's not what my music is about.my music is for the ears,not eyes".

    guess i've made my point!
    cheers =)

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  10. and like you, i cant understand or appreciate whatever the hell lady gaga and nicki minaj have to show.

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  11. I have no idea on Grammy and foreign musics, will hear and stop...
    You have brought up some great points i must say...
    Music today has been losing it purpose, nude dances and half nude dances seriously spoils music and Indian film industry is slowly appreciating it
    sad :(
    -

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  12. You write so well !

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  13. Another wonderful musician lost forever.. Nice tribute to good music from you

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  14. Very interesting post..and agree largely to what you wrote..though at times I also think the internet has given rise to instant encyclopedias..out to make an impression, without the capacity to have a sustained interest in that knowledge base.

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  15. Hey Subho, I have a surprise for you. Please visit this link, I'm sure you'll like it. :)
    http://akkishaki.blogspot.in/2012/02/liebster-blog-award.html

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  16. WH's death is a big loss to the music industry ..

    Legends like Whitney never die but live forever !!!

    RIP WH!!!

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  17. You've been tagged! :D

    http://miracleshappen13.blogspot.in/2012/02/tag-thon-i-got-tagged-d.html

    Visit...!

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  18. It was a nice mix of music,internet and our animal instinct in form of vandalisms.

    Enjoyed reading the mix.

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  19. your post was very informative. especially the knowledge about grammys. I liked your style of writing

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  20. @Raphael - I must admit, both Taylor Swift and Adele have been amazing so far. Taylor has managed to walk the pop line without sounding like anybody else, and Adele has created a space for herself with her own unique style.

    @Deepak - Like Raphael pointed out, this post was not just about the music but about the way we are seeing an erosion of values in every area of our lives. The magic of SD Burman or Ilyaraja, or a Geeta Dutt or Kishore Kumar can hardly be matched by several of the new artists put together.

    @Anju - You make me blush. Your writing is very clever and powerful. Following your blog. Thanks for visiting and commenting, hope you will keep coming back for more.

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  21. @Farila - The road (the demands on superstar singers by their fans) has claimed way too many great musicians. Creative talent seems to have a self destructive tendency that is just waiting to be triggered. Jackson, Winehouse, and Whitney now. Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Hendrix, and King Elvis earlier. It is truly a great loss.

    @Maitreyee - Welcome to SJD. I had the good fortune of associating with a group of professional content writers, a content mill so to speak, and their resumes make them out to be real encyclopedias, thansk to their web search tools. Yet a conversation with them is limited to gossip, bollywood, and gadgetry. Tragic waste of intellect in some ways.

    @Rahul - Did you get to watch the funeral for Whitney? It was a telling tribute to what she achieved with her life.

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  22. @Akshay and Pranita - Thanks a tonne, guys! It is an honor, not just to be recognized by you, but to have you as friends and readers.

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  23. Sir. It is great to see that Your blog has become very popular. Now you are writing a lot of serious articles. They are nice also. Hope you will not forget us. You can tell your experiences again. Means people will learn to live. I watched half of the Grammy live but not with gap like you.

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  24. @Neeraj and Vasanth - Welcome to SJD and thanks for your encouraging comments. Please do keep visiting.

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  25. Congrats, you got an award! http://deathknightwrites.blogspot.com/2012/02/awards-and-stuff.html

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Tanya. Truly thankful.

      Delete
  26. I like your point of view. Points well made. I truly enjoyed the Grammy Awards program this year.
    I just stopped by from BPOTW and I'm glad I did.

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  27. You're a versatile blogger. Don't believe me? See this- http://abhyudayadoses.blogspot.in/2012/02/looks-like-i-am-versatile-blogger.html

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