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Archive for the ‘Artist, freelancing’ Category

Rock is Dead

In Artist, freelancing, Uncategorized on March 12, 2019 at 14:29

I used to think a band performing live was the coolest thing in the world. Four guys creating music with their bare hands. In cosmic unison. The crowd grooving to it in whichever way they feel right. And; of course, the four guys were best friends, for life. They didn’t have to deal with petty problems like career planning, house rent and hair loss. They were free in the truest sense. Not to mention the life-style and the groupies.

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Imitation is the most base form of flattery. And I wrote for a while, poems that I preferred to call songs and stories that I thought were the best things to be ever put on paper. I even struggled with guitar lessons that cost more than the guitar itself. If it wasn’t for the mercy of day dreams city life would numb the senses before they even had a chance to breathe. But day dreams are best short lived. I stretched mine way too long. My over-aged fingers stiff from typing and twiddling finally gave up. Rock itself died a rather painful death making way for more plastic bite-sized music in keeping with the times. And the bands that did survive had to do reality shows.
Years later, while hurtling through the usual minefield of misguided career moves and misplaced love I discovered stand-up – “Blues for people who can’t sing.”  It was perfect. No rules, no limits and you didn’t even need the three best friends on stage. The only rule – to be funny – could also be worked around. You either aim so low that laughs and forgetability become inevitable. Or aim so high that you can absolve yourself of not delivering. And the third option was plain old hard work. Most careers are a mixture of the three, tending towards one based on mood, belief-system and pressure to pay EMIs. Mine would be no different. The right side of market sentiment is often on the wrong side of history. Artists; of all people, should choose more wisely.
Having been both on stage and behind the scenes I now realize how much commerce pervades everything. The amount of bad tea and bad music the average person has to consume in his lifetime has got to be one of the biggest unspoken crimes of our generation. There must be more strawberry flavored gunk than actual strawberries in the world. Cheap imitations and second copies to the point where we can’t recognize good art even if it hits us in the face with a sledgehammer. It is also true that most artists do not know what they are chasing. Some childish idea of perfection protected by an array of delusions, egoism and border-line insanity. Many do come close but most die in obscurity.
All great stories have already been told and reveal themselves to the true seeker. But the passive consumer only gets to see what the doorkeepers and production houses deem saleable. Some of it is still good in the same way that fast food is still food. History only gets written in auditoriums and arenas after several handshakes and contract-signings. Most successful artists are therefore only good businessmen with a flair for words…or inheritance. Power structures are not in your hand but you own expression is. Always write for yourself first and the audience follows, if at all. Writers write for themselves, copy-writers write for the market.
And if you make it through the war-zone of show bookings, promotions, late payments, contracts, cliques, and constant self-doubt, you may have an outside chance at making history. And that by itself is more than worth the grind.
I still think a band performing live is the coolest thing in the world. But it is only the emotion that is to be chased, not the accessories. Rock is dead but revolution lives on.
– Punit Pania

Power and Money

In Artist, freelancing, Big Brother on November 6, 2018 at 18:47
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Power and money have an almost inherent tendency of accumulating. Sinking. Like gravity. One can try to impede this coalescence with great effort. But the resistance is short-lived, at best. So heavy is the weight of its logic that it does not let trivialities like honesty and justice get in the way.
In fact, it is almost childish to expect the rich and powerful to take a stance. Most of them have got where they are by abetting or turning a blind eye to crime,if not indulging in it themselves. And what is crime anyway? It is merely a violation of generally accepted behavioral aesthetics? And aesthetics are always aspired to but seldom achieved. We expect too much out of our judicial institutions. The sheer abundance of injustice in the world is proof enough of how naive our aesthetics are.
The few noble souls who do manage to get a foothold in circles of power can’t help but get colored by its excess; either out of compliance or for camouflage. The only balancing force is other centers of power. Which is why very often injustice is only replaced by overcompensation. In the French revolution many innocent heads rolled and the Arab Spring ended up being just a blip on the radar.
Power endures because its only allegiance is to itself. In that sense, it is truly agnostic across eons, cultures and religious garbs. And sometimes it merges with a competing center of power. They circle each other in envy and magnetism, each attracted by the other’s darkness. Like two black holes destined to become one. Even the faintest ray of light can’t escape from the absolutism of its influence.
The only hope is to observe it from afar. For to play its game is to be coloured by its darkness. All our heroes have fallen, if there were any to begin with. From tainted godmen to flawed artists blood is on all of our hands. Especially the ones who proclaimed themselves the cleanest. The only thing larger than the universe is the ego. And there is no black hole big enough to contain it.
The only real heroes then, are people you have never heard of. People who lived and died in utter obscurity. Not because of their mediocrity but by virtue of the incredible lightness of their being. By their shunning of greed, envy and possessions. By their acceptance of oblivion as the only eventual certainty. And by their joy in merely understanding the world without scrapping for souvenirs. The shroud has no pockets and the universe has no memory.
– Punit Pania

Fame and Posterity

In Artist, freelancing, Fame on February 28, 2018 at 20:08

Fame works in the same way primates choose their alpha males. We are just humoring ourselves by believing that intellect matters. It matters only to the point where it allows people to not feel guilty about prostrating before beauty. Intellect has to be utilised in moderation. The right formula balances glamour with showboating, flirts with controversy and adds a hint of intelligence. Just a fleeting flavour. Anymore and the audience starts feels uncomfortable at the mirror you are holding up to them. Any less and you miss the blessings of the reviewers but you may still win the audience and may be even an election.

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The masses need predigested Cerelac, not the high fibre low sugar breakfast you’ve trained yourself on. Numbers, fame and power accumulate around the lowest common denominator, which is why politics attracts the worst of the lot. Art attracts the best and it never promised to pay the bills. Just that one gets to express oneself freely is privilege enough. But in the consumer economy, everything is entertainment, even the most highly researched and well written Think Piece or Podcast. Mass consumption subjects art to the same vanity, voting and warranty schemes as a dating app or a toaster. You can play along and chase ever-growing pay cheques, ratings and subscriptions. But in doing so you are reducing yourself to one more service provider who may be recognised as an artist only for the sake of classification and drop-down menus.

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Artists of yore survived purely on the patronage of murderous Kings. We are surviving on the patronage of corporate shows and brand endorsements. Every artform and style eventually finds its own audience, however big or small. The only question to answer is: What are you aiming for? Building a legacy or a flat in Bandra? Both are seldom reached from the same path.

– Punit Pania

Late Shift Blues

In Artist, freelancing, Office humor, Organisation, SlavesInc, vitamin d deficiency, Wage Slaves, work life balance, work stress on June 8, 2017 at 20:13
‘You again?’ he said. You could have said the exact same thing but you stick to the more traditional, ‘Hi.’
This must be the seventh time you have ran into the man on the last train home. You vaguely remember him in the audience at one of your dos. You don’t recall ever asking his name and it has not hampered your acquaintance for lack of a better word.
Train Kandivali
You fill him in on all that has been happening in your little version of rebellion. He listens with amusement but that is about it. Then you ask him about his…work. Not that there is much excitement he can share about the ERP offshoring project that is gainfully employing him. Then you try silence for a while and it catches on. Till it’s time for you to say goodbye at your destination. The empty rake takes the man home only to repeat the cycle again tomorrow. He didn’t seem sad but he didn’t look hopeful either. A version of you in a parallel universe. It was a rather Fight Club moment, like meeting your spirit animal.
There is something about late night shifts that brings about contemplation even in the most wound up of automatons. May be it is the moonlight, the relative coolness or just the silence. The sweepers on the platform, the rickshaw drivers waiting for a last ride home or just an excuse to call it a day and you on your post-gig high seem to share an unspoken camaraderie, a loose brotherhood of odd-jobers. Going through the motions of their respective mime acts. Like you were in a video for a blues song together.
New York Workers

PhotoShop always was a latent need of the market.

Some days you see your ex-colleagues on the other side of the tracks, on the right side of market sentiment and the wrong side of traffic. Their belts struggling to contain their impending cardiac episodes and the compartment barely containing the class struggle. As you wave at them from your empty compartment going upstream, the success is almost cinematic in contrast. But it’s not the end, it never is. There is always a higher plane to abdicate to. And unfortunately life is a series of sequels no one asked for.
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Man is a creature of habit. All creatures are. Meaning can always be retrofitted. From training troops to telecallers, most mission calls are euphemisms at best. Lies we decide to believe collectively to make life bearable. One should always be weary of replacing one drudgery with another.
Slice of Life Dexter
Small talk about traffic, weather and elections is just static filling the emptiness of your years. You can choose to wake up or sleepwalk through the rest of your life, no one will notice either way. But at least pick the shift that feels most defiant.
– Punit Pania