Death of a friend

I feel compelled to write a little eulogy for my friend who committed suicide – he was found dead on some train tracks in Bangalore a few days ago.

I could hardly believe the mail when I read it but in truth I wasn’t surprised as over the past few years he had went from not being contactable to sending distressing mails to his whole address book. These mails talked of accounting for sins and the mistakes he had made in this life. After some digging I found out that he was on psychosis medication and he had moved back from the UK to India where he was living with his parents.

I first met him in the UK when we were working together on tech projects. He was from Kerala and we soon became friends as a result of our common love of South Indian Carnatic classical music. He was a Brahmin and had clearly been well educated. I remember him telling me how he used to enter quizzes in order to get money for university. He said he was a ‘professional quiz competitor’ and he did well due to his photographic memory. He was erudite on tonnes of topics, unafraid of controversial statements and awkward situations and to top it off he was really funny with it. His grasp of English was better than most English native speakers. He used to tell me I was prone to hyperbole 😉

He hooked me up with a number of musicians in the UK and I recorded a light classical/folk album for him with some leading lights in the UK scene. We did it in his friends living room and it was a great experience. I really must release it.

When I mentioned that I was looking to go out to India to do some music for a few years it was him who advised me to “go to Kerala as it will be safer for you – you won’t be ripped off or hassled as much” He was right. He even helped me with connections in customs in order to be able to take a tonne of music equipment into the country. He opened up his friends in Kerala to me and was very generous indeed.

The last time I physically saw him was when he visited my place in Manchester. He was clutching a book on Symbols and we hung out in the garden under the night sky talking about the stars and life. He told me about how he was sad that the arranged marriage he was due to be involved in fell through. He discussed how difficult it had been living in the UK and that would return to India. He forgot his book of Symbols the next morning and it’s on my bookshelf today.

Near the end he had became obsessed with a variety of cults and suspect philosophies. He was lost to nearly all. I miss him.



Mr Suicide

In memory of my band The Good Hurt splitting up I searched for some iconic Greek imagery to commemorate it.

This is much better – it’s Mr Suicide. Stick him in your bath tub and when you are done pull his lifeless plastic body out and watch the dirty water dissapear.


Mr Suicide

VIDEO : Bismillah Khan the great Shennai player dies

I got a phone call yesterday from Greece to tell me that the great Shennai player from India, Ustad Bismillah Khan, had died of a heart attack. His health had been bad for a while and his playing had naturally reached it’s peak a few years ago.

The gentle genius of Bismillah Khan is perhaps single handedly responsible for making Shehnai a famous classical instrument. Traditionally used to play music during marriages, Shehnai is the counterpart of south indian nadaswaram. It is also used to play music in temples.

Born in a small Bihar village in 1917, Ustad Bismillah learned shehnai from his uncle who used to play in the famous Vishwanath temple of Varanasi. He brought Shehnai to the center stage of indian music with his concert in the calcutta All India Music Conference in 1937. There was no looking back.

Ustad Bismillah Khan is the third classical musician after Pt Ravi Shankar and Smt M S Subbulakshmi to be awarded Bharath Rathna, the highest civilian honour in India. However even though he was well respected and used by the government as part of the Indian culture promo list he wasn’t really kept in the manner he should have been and he even threatened to hand the award back if he didn’t get a cheque….he got one eventually. Bismillah had the onus of feeding a hundred persons, ten sons included. He travelled across the world but didn’t like flying. In India he would mostly travel by train.

Bismillah had a retinue of 8-10 accompanists – quite a large number. He would travel to the railway station by cycle rickshaw, heading a caravan of 4 or 5, waving to familiar passersby, no less happy than a prince in a Rolls Royce! He was very well loved by the people and his healthy perspective and example on the overlap of being both Muslim and Hindu was well noted by the people.

I myself was touched by his playing and his rendition of Multani at the banks of the Ganges was what inspired the ElectroRaga Version of Multani recently in Manchester. You can hear me triggering and chopping his Shennai playing.

And here is the original performance that I took it from as hosted on Patrick Moutal’s excellent website on Indian music.

This news of his death didn’t make it to the UK newspapers or websites as far as I could see. Let us not forget this link with the old world of magic as handed to us in the form of Bismillah Khan. His kind are less every year.

Rest ye well.