Counterculture in India — Music

“Fuck you, I wont do what you tell me” – Killing in the name of by Rage Against The Machine

Rock music as counterculture

Jazz, swing, rock and roll, grunge, Hip Hop and now Indie music – all have emerged as countercultures. The popular phrase “Rock and Roll is dead” came into prominence when the labels picked it up, packaged and pushed it – it became a part of mainstream culture, and thus signaling its own demise with overkill. Hell, that’s happened even with Bhangra music – the moment every second song became Bhangra, its popularity waned, barring the occasional hit.

In India, Rock music never really became mainstream, and still survives without much label support…given the blinkers that mainstream labels don, it’s likely that rock wont have mass appeal since it is primarily in English. Sure, Pakistani bands are popular here, and a at least one band has experimented with death metal in Hindi, but the labels haven’t yet created an Indian rock band. It’s likely that rock music, and its appeal of not being what your chaiwallah or panwallah blares on radio all the time, will last. As a friend once said to me: India’s the only country in the world where Guns N Roses is still popular. There are radio stations that have experimented with rock music in the past – I remember that Times FM, when it launched in Delhi in the early/mid nineties, mostly aired rock music. Current radio stations, bogged down by dictats from advertisers, and now a ratings system, have almost all gone the mass way.

In a way, that works for Rock. Kids want that kind of unfamiliarity – for their moms to go “what’s that noise?”…or their dads to barge into the room, like in the video for Michael Jacksons Black or White — that’s where the fascination begins. I think hip-hop is also gaining in popularity – and there are Indian “wiggers” (biggers?) who some of us find amusing. Each generation will have its own counterculture, and I guess there must be music today that I’m not familiar with (I don’t like hip-hop) that’s counter-to-my-culture.

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Counterculture often has political significance, and I’m focusing more on media countercultures. Of course, this is an aggregation of random thoughts that have ocurred to me over the past few months, so feel free to dispute any or all of this. Preferably, tear it to shreds with counter arguments.

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On Fandom…

Well, we’re right back to where with were — just six points separating Chelsea and ManU. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a 4-1 win against Bolton. Eight matches to go in the season, and with Gary Neville out, I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but skeptical now. Neville’s been critical for United in defense, and made some excellent runs across the right wing. Alongwith Ronaldo, he’s been critical for United this year. Patrice Evra hasn’t had a good year, and Heinze has been sorely missed. Both Vidic and Carrick have contributed immensely, and with Van Der Saar, we know what we’ve been missing for the last few seasons.

Anyway, I just read about a fantastic goal from Paul Robinson. Video clips below, followed by a goal by Beckham, who, in my opinion is still a damn good player – just that his fame works against him.

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and

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If you read the comments to that last video – interesting how people have said that they were fans of the game once, but no longer are. I wonder if they were fans of particular players, who’ve since retired, because of which they’ve lost interest in the game? That happened to me in case of Basketball and Michael Jordan…

Do you think fandom can be separated into different kinds? Here are some categories I’ve developed, on the fly, while writing this post:
1. Proximity based fandom (Clubs/Country): because you’re born there, and its your club/country, so you’re emotionally attached to the club/country and support it no-matter-what.
2. Performance based fandom: You back a winner. They win the championship, you back them. They do well, but don’t win the championship – you still back them until they start losing badly, in which case you decide that xyz is a better team, and you back them. You’re a neutral.
3. Personality based fandom: You watch the sport for the star, who may or may not be a performer. The star retires, and your interest declines. I think that happened to basketball with Jordan – and it will happen to cricket when Tendulkar retires.
4. Rebel’s day out: Everyone in your family thinks Death Metal is from hell. You’re a rebel, and you become a fan.
5. Ideological synergy: I was a fan of Everton (football) three seasons ago, of Bolton and Wigan last year and of Reading this year because the teams fought it out for each and every game. Some aren’t as passionate anymore, and I’m not much of a fan of theirs. In contrast, I wasn’t a fan of Kevin Keegan’s Manchester City, because they had an all out attack philosophy, which I didn’t agree with.

So..why are you a fan? Any more categories?

While on fandom, do read Henry Jenkins’ Confessions of an Aca/Fan. I haven’t read much of it (work increases with each week), but I do like what I’ve read so far. Jenkins’ book on convergence culture is on my wishlist…Also, I believe in niche markets more than I do in mass markets. I think we might just see a switch in mandate for mixedbag. 🙂

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The Sanctity of the Queue

The simpleton that I (probably) am, I’m particularly particular about observing the rules of the queue; that –

1. First come first served
2. Each person has to wait in accordance to his distance from “window”, hence no breaking the queue.

Given the population in India, and the USSR-inspired partly communist way of functioning of governments in India for decades, the queue is an everyday reality, and more importantly, a part of government psychie. I’ve had to stand in line to – buy concert tickets, book and cancel railway tickets, submit exam forms, get information from the inquiry counter, meet the branch manager of the local MTNL exchange, get forms signed/attested/verified… there’s really no escaping it. I tend to play truant when in line, and often am the first to someone to get in line. Usually, support from the rest of those queued up follows a little later.

This may sound chauvinistic and politically incorrect, but I think women are among the worst offenders: they set up a ‘Ladies line’ where none exists, and often with a smile and some sweet talk, get ahead in line. Of course, they’ve got every right to take advantage of whatever’s left of chivalry in society. T, in Pune, was particularly adept at submitting forms in spite of long queues, often submitting four or five forms in a single go. Possibly the only places where such a problem doesn’t occur is in girls college (Aishwarya?).

The point of this post? Well, the good people at Harvard Business School conducted a survey on The Cost of Cutting in Line, which is quite interesting. Professor Felix Oberholzer-Gee decided to pay people to allow him to cut in ahead of them. Some of his observations were rather surprising, but I guess that depends on which part of the world you’re from; I won’t break the suspense so go read it.

I believe that having to stand in line is a complete waste of productive time, and the system needs to be reworked and made more efficient to reduce these delays. Networking and automation has already saved us a lot of trouble, but there’s still a lot left to do. It’s a remarkably anti-consumer funda – that instead of having the seller waiting on the consumer, the consumer is being made to wait for the seller.

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Lessons from the Browser Wars: On distribution and diffusion

A study by the Harvard Business School confirms something that I discovered when preparing a presentation on the Cola wars – that distribution is the key to diffusion – and other considerations are secondary. In case of the colas, the comparion only influences decision making when both are available simultaneously, but that rarely happens. How often have you seen Pepsi and Coke placed side by side at the same stall/shop?

Anyway, it’s one of the things that strikes you as fairly obvious when it becomes obvious – after all, how will diffusion take place if the product isn’t easily available. 🙂

Even in case of technology, distribution is the key diffusion and technology is secondary. Which is probably why most people still use IE instead of clearly superior alternatives in Firefox and Opera. With the kind of extensions available with Firefox (blogging, tagging, download managers, RSS readers, easy to use bookmarks, tabs, small search engine toolbars) I can’t imagine switching back to IE anytime soon.

Do read this interview of Pai-Ling Yin at HBS: Lessons from the Browser Wars.

Interesting quote about Firefox users: “those users are on the tech-savvy end of the user spectrum.”

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What does ‘creative’ mean to you?

Languages change: they grow, diversify and adapt. Like people. Gay referred to things bright and pleasant once. Chutney was only a Hindi word once. I remember being told in school that Hindi evolved as the common mans language, and eventually took over from Sanskrit because Sanskrit did not change or evolve. English survives and grows because it continues to absorb words in everyday use, albeit slowly.

Arun Verma of Creativegarh has an interesting blog called Cre8ive Ignition where he, alongwith posting rather nice photographs, also blogs about creativity – the how to and why not of it, how freedom inhibits creativity (and how inspiration is better than random, wayward thinking), targeted creativity and more. One post, titled “Don’t say you’re not creative“, caught my attention.

While I agree that everyone can be creative, I didn’t quite agree with Arun’s examples:

Ajit, a 20 year old Engineering student and my neighbour uses his deodorant as a room fresher whenever his parents have to visit him. And he says he isn’t creative.

And,

Gautam, my investment banker friend says he is in a boring and ‘uncreative’ profession. Everyday he spends all his time thinking and implementing new ideas to invest his client’s money and give him maximum returns. And he says he isn’t creative.

Arun reasoned that “Creativity is about finding solutions. And that is something that we all are capable of.” I wrote that “Someone who invents a paintbrush is creative, the person who paints an original painting is creative, but the one who uses the paintbrush for scratching his back is not.” Arun quoted a ‘Reapplication Theory’ which is about “going beyond labels, conventional uses, removing prejudices, letting go of expectations and assumptions and discovering how something can be reapplied.”

I guess ours is a difference based on perspectives: Arun in looking at it from the utilitarians and theorists point of view, whereas I’m looking at it from the language perspective. I thought I’d look it up.

According to the 1969, and possibly out of date edition of Reader’s Digests ‘Use the right word’:

  • Creative suggests the entire process whereby things that did not exist before are conceived, given form and brought into being.
  • Original is more limited in its scope and more specific, pointing to the creator not as a maker but as source: the new idea, the different approach.
  • Imaginative has to do with the imagination. Great literary works are produced by the creative imagination, but these people are themselves called imaginative, not creative. Creative is used pretentiously to mean novel, new or different. Imaginative is related more to visualisation
  • Inventive is like imaginative, but the inventive person works out how to put things together in a new way so that they will function
  • The resourceful mind solves its problems despite limitations, finding whatever means are available and adapting them to its ends.
  • The ingenious person is both inventive and resourceful, but above all, he is briliantly clever.
  • But that was in 1969, and I’m sure the language has evolved. Possibly, a person scratching his back with a paintbrush is creative in today’s world, where synonyms blend into each other.

    What does creative mean to you? Does it mean all of the above listed synonyms, or only some? Do tell.

    (do you scratch your back with a paintbrush?)

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