Comic Verse About Indian Music, part 2

“Oral Tradition: Some Hidden Aspects — or, The Ustad’s Advice.”

When I was in my early days,
I fell in love with raags,
Though my mother said the singers
Sounded more like frogs.

I learned to sing the alap,
I learned to sing the cheez,
My taan became proficient,
But still it failed to please.

I asked an ancient ustad,
how to make a lovely note.
“My son,” he said, “it just requires
a clearing of the throat.”

“You start down in the glottis,
and gargle up some phlegm,
then bring it through your larynx
for a truly great ACC-HEM!”

“My son,” he then continued,
“Your music won’t be great, ’till
You can make a wad of mucus,
Stained red from years of betel.”

I listened to the records
Of the pandits and ustads;
’twas true, I found: the greatest singers
Made the biggest wads.

When Bade Ghulam Ali Khan
Throws all his weight around,
His taans, alaps, and gamaks
Produce a stirring sound.

But he’s got something else, my friends,
Which modern singers lack:
A wonderfully resonating way
of going “Aaaaaaak!”

I heard the maestro Faiyaaz Khan,
who sang in days of yore:
He’d scrape his learned larynx,
and bring up more…and more.

Paluskar’s hack was beautiful,
And likewise Amir Khan…
But now this great tradition,
it seems cannot go on.

The modern crowd of singers
Will stay forever small,
For though they may sing sweetly,
They cannot cough at all.

An Obscure Genre: Comic Verse About Indian Classical Music, part 1.

“Intonational Variation in Oral Tradition — or, Tutti Shruti”

In bygone days in India, the emperor Akbar
Had in his court a singer who was known both near and far.

He had a wondrous repertoire, there was no doubt of that —
But every note in every raga came out slightly flat.

Because his voice was out of tune, they called him Besur Khan,
He founded a tradition, so his gayaki lives on.

For he had some disciples, and they disciples too —
And all of them sing ragas in a loud, discordant moo.

And if you ask them nowadays, “why do you sing so flat?”
They’ll say, “it’s our gharana.”
That’s all there is to that.

17 Jan 2012, 12:43am
atheism Education humor Personal:

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  • So true…

    While I haven’t heard all of these, I’ve definitely heard a lot of them.

    I Have Fourteen Minutes, Fifty-Eight and a Half Seconds Left In My Allotment.

    A friend posted this clip on Facebook, and something about the scene rang a bell.

    Ah-hah! It was the first half of the “Concert For National Integration” at Shanmukhananda Hall in Bombay on Republic Day, 1986. I was in the audience; I had traveled from Pune along with Bhimsenji, who was singing a duet with Balamurali Krishna in the second half of the event.

    Why is it interesting? I mean, honestly, most of these Hindustani/Carnatic jugalbandis aren’t that satisfying. This one’s no exception; I’m including it in this post for the sake of completeness. The whole ending frenzy is IMO totally inexcusable.

    The next day Bhimsenji and his accompanists flew back to Pune; I was a member of the party. I received more than the usual amount of respect from airport personnel, who seemed to go out of their way to greet me courteously. On arriving in Pune I found out why.

    Doordarshan’s cameraman had found me in the crowd, and given me a full-face closeup, which is reproduced at 33:47 in the televised video:

    I was famous!

    On seeing this, my wife commented that I looked like someone who was forcing himself to enjoy something against his own will. That sounds about right.

    11 Jan 2012, 10:33pm
    humor music:

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  • Breathe Deep!

    I am in the long-term process of digitizing all my lps. Recently I’ve been processing some of my blues records, and I recently came across this gem on the back of a Lightnin’ Hopkins collection. I would call this one of the most, um, evocative liner notes I’ve ever read.


    The Magnificent Montague is a real guy. I think I’m going to get his book; it looks like a lot of fun.

    27 Nov 2011, 10:11pm
    humor Jazz music vocalists:

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  • What We Did On Halloween…


    My daughter stood out from the menage of Harry Potters, Cinderellas, Fairies, Ghosts and Goblins.

    My daughter was a Parasauralophus.

    For purposes of comparison, here is an image of an actual Parasauralophus:

    Our Parasauralophus was made with plaster-impregnated gauze wrapped around two balloons. The whole head was mounted on a Sono-Tube with slots cut for her arms. The eyes are rubber bouncy balls. Looks pretty good to me.

    22 Nov 2011, 1:26pm

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  • I’m Glad I Haven’t Been Forgotten Completely

    It’s been a long time since I got one of these in my inbox!

    Attn Please:

    Payment of your Contract/Inheritance Fund Value US$7.7M.


    We have on the 13th of April 2011 received a payment credit instruction from The acting president of the Federal Government of Nigeria and in Collaboration with International Monetary Fund (IMF) to credit your account With your contract funds valued at $7.7m (Seven Million Seven Hundred Thousand United State Dollars) from the government reserve account through ATM CARD or BANK TO BANK transfer.

    These funds have been programmed for immediate release but we can not Transfer it directly to you, as we are having a little problem with International Monetary Fund (IMF) and secondly a woman from the united States by name (Mrs. Janet White) came to our office with an application Letter stating that you gave her the power of attorney to be the beneficiary Of your Outstanding Contract/Inheritance fund, she made us to believe that You are dead and that she is your next of kin.

    We got your email address from the initial contract file and decided to send You a notice mail through this address hoping to find out if you are dead or Alive and to find out if you, at any time gave this woman the power of Attorney to represent you because we are almost ready to transfer part Payment of US$7.7m part of your outstanding funds to her nominated bank Account stated below:

    Bank Name: Washington Mutual Bank
    Address: 1723 Palmdale Bulv.
    Palmdale Ca. 93550, USA
    Acct #: 3573813158
    Rout #: 322271627
    Swift code #: WMSBUS66
    Beneficiary: JANET WHITE.

    Be informed that every arrangement regarding your cash payment through ATM has been made and will be released to you as soon as you reply this email .

    If you are not aware of these above instruction and development, do respond to this email immediately by contacting the Payment Officer for Debt Management Office, Remittance Dept Central Bank Of Nigeria,

    Email Address is:(
    PHONE NUMBER:+234-806-390-4037

    Finally you are required to forward to him an Acknowledgement email with your full details below:

    1) Your Full Name__________________
    2) Married/Single_________________________
    3) Current Home Address_______________________
    4) Your Telephone Number_________________________
    5) Age and Sex_______________________
    6) Occupation______________________
    7) Copy ID or International Passport for Identification


    The Governor Central Bank of Nigeria

    Therefore, I offer you this:

    Year 2, Month 8, Day 22: shut up he explained.

    In the Not-News-To-Anyone-Who’s-Been-Paying-Attention category, the August 4 Minnesota Star-Tribune reports that (unlike none of the other Republican presidential aspirants) Tim Pawlenty is a gutless, opportunistic, sociopath:

    Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s position on climate change has now shifted from “one of the most important issues of our time” to questioning whether humans have had any effect on climate change at all.

    In a wide-ranging interview with the Miami Herald, Pawlenty said that “the weight of the evidence is that most of it, maybe all of it, is because of natural causes. But to the extent there is some element of human behavior causing some of it — that’s what the scientific debate is about.”

    It wasn’t too long ago that Pawlenty took a much more muscular approach to climate change. Shortly into his second term as governor, the Minnesota Republican made a big push for clean energy.

    When he was named chair of the National Governors Association, Pawlenty had the theme of “Securing a Clean Energy Future.” He touted Minnesota legislation that set an ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent by 2015 and 80 percent by 2050. In 2007 he said he wanted the Upper Midwest to become “the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy.”

    On the other hand, he gave me the opportunity to cite, in its entirety, one of the funniest sentences ever written in English. Sent August 5:

    It’s not just greenhouse emissions that are bringing on an unstable climate. Republican politicians and the Tea Party adherents to whom they are pandering are emitting steadily increasing quantities of ignorance. While we must give these anti-science, anti-environment zealots credit for absolutely right in their own minds, the facts suggest that they’re absolutely wrong everywhere else. Tim Pawlenty’s suggestion that climate change is triggered by “natural causes” reminds me of Jimmy Breslin’s Mafia-themed comic novel, “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight,” in which “Raymond the Wolf passed away in his sleep one night from natural causes; his heart stopped beating when the three men who slipped into his bedroom stuck knives in it.” Yes, Mr. Pawlenty, global warming is a totally natural response to an anthropogenic overdose of CO2. But I doubt that’s what The Governor Who Couldn’t Talk Straight meant; I think he’s been breathing too many tea fumes.

    Warren Senders