I believe in searching the soul in a musical piece, unraveling its innermost pulses one by one. To me, the soul of a song hinges onto the sensitivity of the voice that sings it. Childhood memories bring me back picturesque folk melodies that my mother hummed as she tidied up the living room. Her untrained voice did not always hit the right notes but they had a soul. The rise and fall of her voice weaved stories of unknown characters into the songs that she hummed effortlessly. Somewhere between the ages of 5 and 7, I became stubborn enough to demand that she played raven black colored LPs while I ate my supper and the condition for finishing up the greens and other goodies was that the LPs had to play on. Curiously enough, I also liked to hold on to a vinyl disc while I listened to another, perhaps to be assured that the musical strains would not leave me.
At a much older age, when I was allowed to rummage through the carefully amassed record collections of my father, my favorite pastime would be to play the records again and again to search for the soul in those musical compositions. Most often than not, my attention was focused on the voices meshed in with the orchestra in the background. Once in a while I would try imitating the voice patterns as the records played and this filled me with a strange sense of accomplishment.
Then there were the evenings where my father would sit with me and sing songs in Bengali. My father’s open voice would beckon me to shed away my fears and join him in spontaneous singing. Undisciplined as it was, my awkward imitations of his intonations, accents, and musical notes defined a deep rooted sense of music appreciation in me. As my father often explained, the important point was discovering a bigger picture out of every composition. It seemed to me the songs that haunted me most were the ones that had less orchestra and more voice, where the voice themselves would be the best instrument. Even now I am mesmerized more by a voice rather than the orchestral arrangements because it’s the voice that can access my most inner thoughts, make me sad or happy and ultimately win over my soul.
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