So yesterday I was at one of my favourite ethnic home decor shops. Their colour palette is predominantly on the warmer spectrum, and being a sucker for everything orange, yellow and red, I was having a field day, picking up everything I liked.
And then this piece of music came on the store speakers. It took some time, but the song got to me. Like really got to me. It was melodically simple, but the groovy refrain line was plain infectious. So much so that I caught myself walking over to an empty corner of the store and swaying to the music. It sounded like a very rustic piece of Rajasthani folk music, which in all probability was recorded on the streets. I impulsively pulled out my phone, and at the risk of looking like a complete fool, I held it up to the speakers on the ceiling and captured about a minute and a half of the music. I also sheepishly asked the folks at the store if they could tell me the title of the song. Apparently it was being streamed from their central office, so no, they could not tell me anything about the song.
I got home, with the tune still looping constantly in my head. I tried googling whatever words of the song I could decipher, but nothing turned up. I told my friend about this whole thing. He quickly suggested using SoundHound, the app. Of course I had used it previously to successfully find out information on numerous pieces of music. But I was skeptic in this case, probably because how obscure the song sounded. And that was probably why my first impulse earlier was to record the song, instead of using music recognition technology.
I went ahead with it though. The first few tries were disappointing, but SoundHound finally gave me a match. And yes, it was the exact same song I had heard earlier! I could stream it again. I could buy the whole album in a few taps. Everything right on the little device in my hand.
A couple of things about this whole experience moved me. One, that a record company had taken the pains to capture a largely unknown song in all its glory, into a format that is potentially accessible by millions. The song was recorded in a very minimal setup, in what looked like a village house in Rajasthan, as revealed by a video in the record label’s YouTube channel. Two, that there exists technology that helped me track down the song. You’ve got to give it up to the algorithm behind it. I mean, I heard the song from the ceiling speakers on a store, captured it on my phone, and played it back through my home speakers. That’s so many levels of distortion right there, and yet here I am with the song on my phone. And three – this might seem trivial – a centuries old song got stuck it in my head even when I heard it passively, and left me animated until I found out more about it. Did I mention I also wrote a mail to the store’s customer care in frenzy asking them if they could give me any leads about it?
I’ll never forget how this whole thing has made me feel. Music truly is powerful, and technology is making us do unbelievable things with it, be it in creation, cataloging, or discovery.
And yes, today is World Music Day.
PS : To those of who are wondering, the song is ‘Girdhari Maara Laal’, performed by Bagga Khan, Meisa Ram and their group from an album called ‘Mitha Bol’ brought out by Amarrass Records.