On Thursday I had the realization that I had made no trips around town by myself. Although I had seen some of Chennai with new friends, I hadn’t made the effort to really figure out where to go and how to see more of it myself. So this weekend I made a big effort to go out and see stuff!
On Saturday went to the Fort St. George museum, which is supposedly the biggest attraction in Chennai. It just so happens to be inside the main army base of Tamil Nadu... Classic India.
It was a really interesting place. First of all, hardly anyone was there and it was very hot so not a typical museum. It had three floors. The first was a badly cleaned exhibition of coins, cannons, and guns from the Empire with grammatically questionable signage about the crown. The second was given over to wall-length portraits of white people in wigs. The third floor had AC and was all about independence. I thought that was very interesting. What I took from it was mostly just how awful Britain was a to India and how they are still feeling the effects of economic and social exploitation even today. It’s a major bummer and I think it explains why I don’t see a lot of smiles on the street. For one thing fewer people smile in India. But even more importantly I think when people see someone who looks like me it just brings up a whole bunch of very negative emotions. I would have those too and they have absolutely every right to feel those and direct them at me. I hope it helps but I doubt it does.
Then I went to the beach, There was some smiling there.
It’s the longest Urban beach in the world but on weekends 30,000 people go hang there so it was actually pretty crowded. It was a fun place. Streamers. Horses. Cows (always gotta have cows here)
Sunday I went to a new and larger concert hall downtown and visited Kapaleeswarar temple. Man that was crazy. Every half an hour they have a percussionist and a Nagaswarnam player play something and they just go so hard. It’s awesome. They also had all these little girls doing classical Indian dance and the rhythmic stuff that they can do is wild. And to them it is not a big deal at all.
To tell the truth after these excursions I have been very happy to have some more days around the apartment. India is amazing but it can be really overwhelming. None of these trips were more than three or four hours but I needed to take an hour or so to clear my head after I got back each time.
Musically it has been more of the same. I’m starting to feel the effects of working on this stuff. It’s hard to describe but it reminds me of something Simone Shaheen said when he came to Oberlin. I don’t remember the particulars but he talked about how his music is mostly focused on exploring “a long sound.” The music I’m practicing is supposed to be played all in a row without mistakes or stopping. If you mess up you go back to the beginning. I have to admit it takes some getting used to. But now that I’ve been doing it for a while I’m starting to feel the difference and the impact of a “long sound.” Something about the rhythmic precision, the scalar repetition and the harmonic monotony gets me into a nice place… What Jay Ashby would call a “mantric vibe.”
All in all I’m doing well and I’m excited for another week.