Category Archives: Music

Birds

At Auroville, about 3 times a week I’d visit the center of the community – the beautiful golden dome called Matri Mandir. More than the dome, it was the meditation chambers around the dome, or petals as they call it, that i wanted to isolate myself in. They’re a marvel of art and tech. Unfortunately you won’t know anything about it until you actually visit it. I’m glad they keep it that way. I spent anything between 45 minutes to 2 hours in there every few days, and it was always the best start to my days.

My last day there, while I was walking out, I saw this guy talking to my friend Jonas i wanted to say goodbye to. I couldn’t help but ask this new guy his name – Yoann. His warmth i could feel from a few yards out. I told him i was heading for brunch to one of my favourite joints ‘Bread & Chocolate’, and he said he had some work, but he would drop in after.

This lovely girl Lea, who wanted me to teach a yoga lesson to her batch of yoga students from Paris had promised me lunch at B&C before i left Auro. So i get there with Jonas, who i love but he never stops talking. After he’s gone, Lea and i catch up on her India trip. In walks Yoann. He goes to the counter to place his lunch order and sits, politely, at a different table cos Lea is still talking to me. I’ve got this really strong urge to just hug the guy and I don’t even know why. So I ask Lea if it’s ok i invite my new friend to our table, and she’s totally fine with it.

They start chatting, and me, as always – playing the role of listener/observer/whatever while i shove my majestic banana-date-walnut smoothie down my throat, and then order another one. It’s during the course of their conversation that i get to know more about Yoann. He looked Spanish, he knew great French, but he was from Israel.

‘Don’t see too many Israelis hanging out alone.’

‘Me, i’m just traveling with my girlfriend and 2 guitars. In fact till i met my girlfriend, I’ve always traveled alone.’ Totally my kinda guy.

We talked about music, we connected too much over funk. About his time in Australia and the Philippines, where he gave me directions to the most amazing people living on a remote island fishing and farming and playing ukulele. And of course, we spoke about war.

Born in Paris, he spent 20 years there till he felt a strong urge to go to his homeland. And as is routine there, soon as he got to Israel, he was enrolled in the army.

I noticed the tattoo on his arm.

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I have yet to see a more balanced-in-the-head Israeli. If you heard him talk about the war, it was like he spoke about ice cream flavours. Calm, composed, and his contagious straight-from-the-heart smile never left his face.

‘I have friends who are Arab. When i meet them, there is no hostility or danger, i don’t even feel a little bit threatened. We smoke together, we eat together. I know I’m safe with them. Except on the battlefield. Then there’s no identity except for politician or corporation you’re representing. Nobody realizes it’s the same corporations delivering guns to both sides.’

You can’t expect them to have a bus full of school children shot up, and not react. We’re humans, that kind of ugliness has repercussions’, still smiling.

‘So why did you enroll?’, i enquired.

‘I was naive. I thought it was my purpose. I know better now, much better. No regrets though, none at all cos i made some amazing friends in the army.’

‘What’s the song on your tattoo?’

His smile got twice as beautiful, ‘knockin on heaven’s door’.

My heart sank a bit. I was conflicted between what a clichéd song it was and whether it was the Dylan version he liked or the GnR version. Either way, i did not really like that song too much.

Even if it was the first song I ever learnt on the guitar.

‘What’s the birds for?’

‘Oh these are for my two friends. Same team during war. Such good guys, hearts of gold. I remember this bonfire we had once, a few of us around the fire, and these two sang the most amazing version of the knocking on heaven’s door. And we promised that night right next to the fire that after the war, we’d take a looong holiday, go to India, and smoke a BIIIG FAAAT CHILLUM with the babas, the three of us.’

Just for a second, and only for a second, his smile disappeared, when he said ‘they both died two days later.’

It came right back with ‘so i came to India, and i smoked a massive chillum, and i know they know i kept that promise!’

And i hugged him.

Over the course of the next 24 hours, we were literally inseparable. He bought his guitars and came over to where i lived. I cooked while Maya & Jay from the same guesthouse brought a ukulele and then it never stopped.

Some connections lay perspective to the little issues and worries in our heads that we turn into gigantic blackholes.

Connections are important. Perspective is importanter.

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Auroville’d

Last night’s red earth ‘dance floor’ in the midst of this little forest in Auroville was packed by happy sweaty kids in the 15-80 age group, kicking up a dust storm. Glorious sight. They don’t know Johnny B, but DJ Bijou is a pretty sick DJ i tell ya.

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It was hot, but nobody wanted the music to stop. ONE MORE! They kept screaming at midnight. Then again a few minutes later. Then they convinced the 70 yr old owner of the place to let me play 10 more minutes. Never thought I’d go beyond Pune/Bangalore deadlines here. What was familiar was a query I’ve barely heard recently but keeps reminding me of 1:15 am in Bombay ‘Where’s the afterparty??? Where are you playing now? Can you bring your music to my party instead?’

I gratefully declined all offers to play any afterparty, and went home exhausted to my bed for a full 9 hours of sleep. I’d started the day at 7 am to teach yoga, and ended at 1:30 am as a DJ in a pirate costume. Subconsciously, maybe that was my tribute to the piratebay. Last week I was at Solitude Farms, harvesting tomatoes, papaya, eggplant, basil, radish, bananas and a hundred other kitchen ingredients between 8 am and noon, but fucking hell it’s hot, I cant do that anymore.

I have no idea how time just flew this last month, but 6 gigs, one rescued puppy, yoga lessons, and a few steak visits to Pondicherry later, I think it’s time to head to the hills a little west. If its not cold enough, maybe ill head North.

Before I got here, the memories I had of Auroville are visions of a dry and arid desert terrain, scorched red earth, and plants fighting for water and survival. I was still in school when my dad dragged my ass to the Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry and then for a day visit to Auroville, and it’s a far cry from those days now. Now there are forests, gardens, treehouses, huts, eateries, swimming pools, pizza, and snakes too. So far, they’ve kept their distance from me, and the one I found in my shoe, popped out before I slipped my foot in.

For those living under a rug, Auroville’s an international city. More like a village for me, given the 10 pm deadline, but it’s just what I needed. There’s more than 50 nationalities living here, and the population is around 2500 aurovilleans, and a few thousand other visitors, guests and newcomers applying to be Aurovillean. You have to live here for 2 years to be considered an aurovillean, which then comes with privileges like food and shelter, and basic living costs. But that’s way too long term. If you’re coming in for a visit, its possible your weekend plans get extended to a few weeks or months, if you’ve got nothing better to do.

For the budget traveller, there’s permaculture farms you can live in for about 150 a day (Buddha Garden) provided you put in a few hours of work every day on the fields. There are regular backpacker guesthouses like Reve for 300-400 a day. Then there’s the top end place like Afsaneh, at around 3000 a night, you have homes that looks straight out of a new-age home design magazine, and a pool that looks so exquisite, I felt bad to dip my dirty foot into it. And there’s something for every budget in between.

Food joints range from 30 bucks for 2 kerala porotas and chicken curry at Dinesh, to Rs.800 a meal steak-houses. Italian omelette and coffee at Marc’s is addictive, the pizza at Tanto is beautiful. Considering the wide range of nationalities living here, there’s every kind of food available too. Sort of like Goa, but a little more authentic in its hippie-ness. Alcohol is frowned upon, though a visit to Pondicherry will help you bag alcohol at Goa rates. Pondicherry is just about 10 km away, and boasts some of the finest steak joints I’ve ever been to.

There’s gigs every week, Solitude Farms’ Krishna MacKenzie has the title of being the king of gigs in this little town, promising a gig every Thursday night at his farm. Krishna himself is the singer-guitarist of Emergence, having toured US and UK in the last decade. You can volunteer at his farm for a couple of weeks and come out feeling pretty enlightened about growing your own food. Sve-Dame, Well Café, Youth Centre and Yatra are other popular gig venues. Once you get in the know, there’s everything from Salsa nights to Jazz concerts. You can forget about drum n bass and techno though. None of that noisy shit works here. A- there’s no drugs and alcohol, B- there’s not many angry people, C- I already told you about the 10 pm deadline.

In the last month the only downer was an hour of Hibiscus Art Festival during my first week here, when 2 dudes played under the name Midizen, and played the kind of shit techno-indian-fusion that gets those Kasol chillum lovers on their feet, but for the rest it sounds like someone threw us back to 1993, when the flute theme techno remix of Jackie Shroff’s Hero was a hit. That music died in the 90s and should stay dead for everybody’s sake. The rest of that festival was amazing, with crepes, acoustic performances, drum circle, handmade jewellery, and mint juice. I cant believe I said mint juice.

Destiny – last night it was me replacing that bunch of boring DJs, for a set that Auroville won’t be forgetting any time soon. I should come a little closer to the earth now.

 

AAAAAOOOOOMMMMMMMM…

 


The Music Festival Guide to Drugs

Having walked into a dozen or two music festivals and having tumbled out or escorted or thrown out by security, I’ve had first hand accounts of the harmful effects of drugs on naive festival-goers. First up, hide it well when you’re going in. Secondly, there’s no doubt that drugs are bad for you, including the ones you get across the counter at medical stores and chemists. In case you’ve been blinded by TV commercials and Shah Rukh and MS Dhoni’s Royal Stag testimonials, even alcohol is a drug.

According to the WHO, A drug is any substance (other than food that provides nutritional support) that, when inhaled, injected, smoked, consumed, absorbed via a patch on the skin, or dissolved under the tongue, causes a physiological change in the body. – wikipedia

‘Drugs’ as per the commonly abused definition of the word, are against the law. Then again, in India and most other ignorant countries, so is homosexuality. The law is dumber than the dude who decided this demonetization thing. So if you get caught, you’re on your own – like I learned at NH7 Weekender 2010, 2012, 2014… and still learning. In this post, we’re only talking about the drugs that the lawmakers and music festivals talk about.

More often than not, you don’t hear of scary stories. But there’s that one idiot who gives the whole crew a bad name by overdosing on some suspicious material, or mixing it all up and then face-planting into the sound console. So before you go all into your fear & loathing at the festival mode, it’s best to educate yourself about what to expect when you’re tripping balls. And luckily there’s enough ways to stay safe and alive.

  1. Weed/hashish/charas – the good stuff can be sniffed out from a football field away. So if you see those big bouncers running towards you, empty your pockets immediately and be ready to beg them to not tear your festival band up. Also stay close to the food stall so you don’t get lost trying to satiate your munchies craving. Caution: Do not mix with hard alcohol.
  2. Alcohol – yes, just because all your festivals are sponsored by them, and your dad drinks, and your grandpa drinks, it doesn’t mean alcohol is not a drug. It is, but the morality of it being legal is a different discussion. Stay hydrated. Eat well. And go easy. You don’t want to projectile at some unsuspecting chick dressed like a fairy. Caution: Slow down. Do not mix the darks and the whites. And remember all that coke and sprite and whatever mixers you use, have an obscene amount of sugar content. Make sure the ice is made with filtered water. Or skip the ice.
  3. Cocaine – now we’re going hard. It ups the energy levels. But it can also up the douchebag levels. Tends to make some feel aggressive. If you have that tendency, stay off the coca. Do not walk around like you dipped your face in snow. Caution: stay hydrated. Don’t start a fight. Somebody will clock you out.
  4. MDMA/extacy/molly – everybody’s fave party/rave/festival drug. Will help you dance 15 hours straight, but the body ache recovery post festival will take 10x that time. Also, you’ll be feeling the love a lot. But don’t get too touchy-feely with random strangers, aaite? The bouncers are always watching. Caution: There’s a lot of bad MD going around, especially at festivals when those greedy scumbag peddlers are out to make a fortune. So go easy. Watch out for really bad downers and anxiety attacks. Both cocaine and MDMA tend to increase your tolerance for alcohol. But when they wear off, the alcohol side effects will make life hell. Very dehydrating, so carry a ton of oral hydration salts or glucon d.
  5. LSD – magical colours, patterns, and love will exist where they never did before. Also this is probably the least harmful drug, physically. But if you have any case of mental or emotional trauma or baggage, stay off absolutely. LSD takes a while to wear off. And if you’re stuck in a painful psychological trip, you might even consider killing yourself to get out of it. Please don’t give the drug a bad name by dying. Caution: stay hydrated. Fresh juices/fruits are best.
  6. DMT – if you take this at a music festival, you’re probably out of your mind. Literally. And some of those EDM acts while tripping on DMT can be akin to sitting in a pitch black torture chamber listening to nickelback for days together on loop. Caution: certainly not to be mixed with other chemicals or alcohol or greasy food.
  7. Ketamine – aka fertilizer aka horse tranquilizer aka don’t touch that thing. But more often than not, this has been passed around as MDMA among unsuspecting festival goers. Given its low cost, its also become a popular choice of drugs among the youth. But honestly, I cant think of a worse drug than ketamine. If you DO end up using, make sure you stay hydrated and keep chewing gum as well. Those jaw clenches can be gnarly. And really, the 3-4 terrible days of recovery period – where your tongue burns and your jaws hurt and you have no appetite – is hell.

So yeah, I’ll recycle this post just in time for the next festival season. But keep these general tips in mind anyway, and stay psychologically undamaged/alive.

 

 


Gentleman’s Club

(Post from Jan 28, 2015 – that i just found in my drafts. Somehow escaped my sight, so here it is)

Location: Tarapoto, Amazon Basin, Northern Peru.

Life after the jungle has been surprising. The rules are as follows. No spices, no citric, no fats, no coffee, no carbs, no meat, no tomatoes, no onions, no drugs, no sex, no weed. For at least 30 days.

When i got out of the retreat, i came straight to Colores, the same place i had spent 10 days the last time i was in Tarapoto. This time around, there were 3 men when i checked back in (with Juan Carlos). So it’s now officially a gentleman’s club. That’s an awesome strategy to keep all horny thoughts away, for a straight guy at least. We occupy hammocks in boxers all day and have farting contests. The one that makes everybody run for fresh air wins. Fernando is the current unbeaten champion. Dora the dog comes in a close second, but she doesn’t win any prizes cos she’s female. At other times, we play poker. I suck at it though.

We watch movies, from my collection of 10 flicks that i carry everywhere, on J-C’s big screen. I’ve even downloaded spanish subtitles so they can all understand, and i can learn spanish too. Sometimes J-C takes the tv into his room to skype. I bet skype sex is better on a 50 inch screen. But i sure hope he’s not cheating on the diet. He’s broken up and patched up with his girl 4 times in the last three weeks.

He, and every other fucker here has a bad habit of putting used matchsticks back in the matchbox, and if i berate them they just laugh and tell me to fuck off. ‘Hahahahah fuck off you indian guy’. So i spend my time reading Palahniuk, watching TV shows (just finished Homeland S04), my fave movies on repeat with Spanish subtitles, listening to amazonian music, playing the guitar, playing with Dora, and removing used matchsticks from matchboxes. Not the most exciting life i’ve led, but definitely the most peaceful and contented. Sex, drugs & rock n roll can take a vacation.

Last week, on 22nd Jan, we opened an Indian veg resto ‘Bambu’ as part of Colores. The place was mostly done up by Miro, the one-man-army from Halifax, Canada who came here to start a new-earth project in the jungle. For cycling down the Nevada desert naked in the early 90s, he deserves his own post on this blog. Our chef is Margie, who lives 10 blocks away. She spent 12 years in India, Poona to be specific, and she makes amazing chole-bhatura. My job was helping Fernando and Gabriel (from the Canary Islands) to paint the logos and signs outside, and playing bollywood music on opening night. Dished out my favourite tunes growing up, from Amitabh Bachchan movies to Aamir Khan flicks, to R D Burman and Kishor and even some Rahman thrown in for eclectic feels and all that. Bollywood night in an Indian veg restaurant in Peru. How we never cease to surprise ourselves…

The next day we were in the papers. There’s a pic of me hiding behind the laptop screen. I’m going to make a youtube playlist for Margie to play every night. Maybe i’ll share it with you.

This week i’m in San Roque de Cumbaza, where the town is gearing up for the carnaval, the biggest festival all over south america. Every nook and corner is going to be a massive party. And i’m headlining act on Sunday night. AND, i’m going to be playing sober. But there’s no other way than to nail it inside out. I’m living at this gorgeous place over the hills called San Roque Centro de Artes, where artists from all over the world come down to do a residency, teach kids, art instalments, etc. It’s run by Daniel, who was with me in Cumbaza for the ceremonies, and his wife. Daniel has literally shown me the light a couple of times in the last month, especially since i’m blind at night . There’s a gorgeous cat here, that Daniel brought with him from Cumbaza, and Arco, the white lab. I’ll be here till Monday. Then another 10 days at Colores, and back on the road post that. Can’t wait to climb some snow-capped mountains, or hit up an oasis, or just go surfing again.


Throwback Goa – The Hippy Days

Ever since the post that featured Goa Gil, i’ve come across him a few times on various other links.

This one came up on my fb timeline today. A heart-wrenching look at what happened to Goa in a few decades. To think we were not even born during the best days.

It’s a thing with human beings; find something beautiful and destroy it. We’re all guilty. That’s why I’ve spent most of the last two years in sparsely populated lands.

And yes, when a man from the 60s tells you that cocaine and heroin killed the hippie era, stay off that shit.

This dude right here, if you can find him, spend as much time as you possibly can.


What’s in a name?

This is the prequel to the last post.

The previous week, we’d bumped into Adrian. Lovely guy. Adrian’s the only person i know, who’s been married twice in his life.

Once to a woman, then to a man.

We bumped into him again, as we were exploring our Saturday night plans. He looked at me with fire in his eyes. She looked at me with a clear ‘no fucking way i’m sharing you with a guy‘ stare.

On the prowl, shack to shack, zipping our bikes, hunting for a place with barely decent music, given what a whiner I am at these commercial music shitholes, we went all over Anjuna. Some dude was supposed to play ‘tropical bass’ at Lilliput at 3 am. Sounded interesting, but we had lots of time to kill.

Stopped outside Hilltop Lounge to gauge the music – SO shit. Kept moving, reached Waters Lounge and rode our bikes into an empty parking lot. There was silence, but the bouncers were setting themselves up at the gate. So I went up to have a word. It was midnight, and the bouncer said the dj would start at 1 am.

‘Which DJ?’, I enquired.

I heard him say Goa Gil.

‘Right. Here.’, I flayed my arms at the empty parking lot.

‘Yes, people will come by 1 am.’

‘Entry?’

‘Free now, charged after 1 am.’

So i told my two lovers, ‘WE ARE BLESSEDD!!!! Let’s run in NOWWW’.

So we walked into the empty club, thanking our stars, that we didn’t even have to be in queue or pay entry for a Goa Gil gig. Goa Gil has chilled with Albert Hoffman. Albert Hoffman is the man who created LSD. So this is the Godfather of DJs we’re talking about. I mean, at gigs in South America, when people knew I was from India, they’d come to me just to talk about the Goa Gil. Like those evangelists talk about Jesus.

www.goagil.com/

That’s Mr.Hoffman (a personal hero of mine) on the left, and grandmaster Gil on the right, in 2003.

A few minutes passed, we opened the menus to get something to warm up to. It was half past midnight and still no people.

I was bewildered. So i asked the manager if they’d promoted this gig.

‘Yeah, we put it on our facebook page.’

Wow. Nice. Very confident of you. I’m still raving to my people, how lucky we are..

‘So where’s Gil right now? Is he setting up? Are you sure he will play even if nobody turns up…’, I ask the manager.

He started to give me the desi head nod and suddenly stopped.

‘He…? Sir, which Goa Gil are you talking about?’

As far as I know, there’s only one bro, I say. The old wizard that plays 10-12 hours. Him. Goa Gil.

‘No sir… our dj is a young girl.’

My heart shrank into itself till there was a vacuum where it existed.

Young girl? What the fuck are you talking about man?

‘Yes sir, young girl. Goa Gail. Gail.’

Holy mother of God. My old friend Gail. Even she’s a DJ now. But couldn’t she have chosen a better, unique name? GAAAAIL. There’s an A in that name you numbnuts, i wanted to scream to every one of their staff.

By the time i turned to my peeps, they knew something was amiss, from the look of plain horror on my face. I had to apologize, explain this miscommunication thanks to my Goan brothers’ pronunciations. And we sheepishly walked out. I didn’t even have the air in me to go talk to my old friend Gail.

We went to Curlies, where Adrian looked at me with more fire in his eyes, my girl went in to dance, and i slammed some calamari. Calamari for life. Calamari for sad days. Adrian proceeds to tell me what he felt the first time he saw me.

I’m not Mad Max. I’m #AwkwardMax.

I downed two beers and we made our way to Lilliput. And danced to shit music all night. Not really all night.

There was one DJ there, who as of two weeks before this night, i had seen as part of the REGGAE RAJAH CRU MAHN PULL UP PULL UPPP PWAAAAA. But by this night he was already fired by the RAJAH ARMY CRU MAHN PULL UP PULL UPPP PUULLL UUUUPPWAAA. Personal reasons, he said. He played the only decent music I heard this whole time in Goa.

There was this absolutely smashed birthday celebration crew of 20-21 year olds there. Sweaty as pigs, and hugging me all night. I still don’t know why.

What happened the next day, you already know. Else, catch the post below.


Funky Breaks

To lighten the mood a little after the last post, here’s my latest mix. A generous dose of hip hop, funk, breaks, disco, and even some latin beats i picked up from the other side of the world.

Dance, enjoy, share, use it as a warm up for your weekend. But like my preview listeners said, don’t raise your expectations based on this when you go out and listen to that other dj.

Here’s wishing all animal killers meet a fate as cruel as they bestow. As they reap, shall they sow.

Cheers lovers, take it easy.