Pahari Noises (Or the musical muses of an unmusical fan) – Growing up with music
I’ve reached an age (31) that I’m surprised whenever I like a new song.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Ask anyone in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond, and they’ll all rue of a bygone ‘golden era’ in popular English music. The funny thing is that, in many cases, that golden era is completely different. In the 50s it was swing, jazz, and blues; in the 60s it was rock-and-roll; in the 70s, rock evolved into something greater, while disco was born and mercifully killed; 80s were punk, thrash metal, bad hair, and Michael Jackson; the 90s started with grunge and were dominated by hip-hop; and house music exploded into our eardrums over the past decade.
Every generation has a different interpretation of the true ‘golden era’. And every generation complains that “they don’t make music like they used to anymore”. Those who grew up loving the music of the 50s couldn’t stand the Beatles, Beatles fans were outraged by punk rock, fans of the 70s rock gods didn’t consider Nirvana ‘real music’, those who grew up on rock thought rap music was just random words and stolen beats, and most of us non-millennials think that every trance song is basically the sound of an spaceship taking off.
(The history of Hindi music back home in India remains an interesting exception. Every new generation is exposed to the ‘Golden Oldies’ of the 60s and 70s; while tastes and popular opinion changes every decade, these oldies remain a common thread that ties most of us together).
But with so many varied opinions, who among us is right?
The answer, my friends, is forever blowing in the winds of changing time.
With a few notable exceptions, I feel that the favourite music for most people is the music they hear in their own personal, most transformative years of life. Different types of good music has been made for hundreds of years, but choosing a favourite song usually has more to do with our own states of mind than the song itself. Roughly speaking, the soundtrack of our lives between the ages of 15 to 25 remains the major soundtrack to our lives forever. This the age that we change, explore, adventure, and find our true identity. It’s the age when we mature into our personalities and our politics. For most of us, it’s the age after we begin to grasp our independence from our caregivers and before we have to become responsible caregivers ourselves. We meet many of our closest friends and love interest(s) in this age, and the music we discover, listen, or sing-along to during these most exciting years becomes ‘our music’ forever.
No genre or era is exempt, and time of release doesn’t matter. There were 18-year-olds in the year 2000 who began to appreciate Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin for the first time, and have since adopted the soundtrack of Woodstock ’69 for their own lives. There were teenagers in the mid-80s who still refuse to sing anything except Prince or Def Leppard classics on Karaoke. Those in the late 40s and early 50s will find it ridiculous that anyone can consider anything released after the Beatles ‘real music’.
For me, personally, the best era of music was roughly between the mid-90s to early-2000s. This is when I discovered most of my favourite hip-hop (Biggie, Nas, Jay-Z, Wu-Tang, Eminem), my favourite contemporary rock (Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana) and my favourite classics (Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Bob Marley). Times have changed, new artists have come and gone, but the aforementioned have remained a constant in my playlists forever.
Many younger people now may like the same music as I do, or they could delve into house, auto-tuned rap, or the newest video pop sensations. For them, the era of David Guetta and Avicii could represent music at its finest. (I shudder at that thought, but I must accept it nevertheless.)
Once we cross over our personal ‘golden ages’, it becomes tougher to appreciate new music as we used to. The feeling is never the same again. We can hardly relate to the songs like we used to. Many of us end up either exclusively listening to our ‘golden oldies’ or search only for those new artists that remind us of the old.
Although I’ve been trying to broaden my horizons as much as possible, I’ve been guilty of the same, too. I guess we all have to be a little more open-minded about our choices. The past will never return, and music may never make us feel the way that it once used to.
But don’t worry: the beauty of good music that it always has the ability to pleasantly surprise us. And as each new generation defines its youth by the music they discover, perhaps we can all remain youthful if we, too, give new music an opportunity to impress and surprise us.
Karan Madhok is a freelance writer based temporarily out of Landour, who has a lot of music opinions and very little music knowledge. You can find him wherever you find Mutton Fried Momos. Follow him: @hoopistani
- Karan Madhok / @hoopistani