Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Hendrix Experience

I used to live in a room full of mirrors; all I could see was me. I take my spirit and I crash my mirrors, now the whole world is here for me to see – Jimi Hendrix

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the passing of guitar lord Jimi Hendrix. To commemorate the occasion, an album – Valleys of Neptune – of 12 previously unreleased recordings by the late icon releases this month. Jimi died on September 18, 1970 at the young age of 27. You can listen to a streaming version of "Valleys of Neptune" here.

My first ‘encounter’ with Jimi Hendrix was uncommunicative. It was hard for someone who listened to ABBA, Boney M, Beatles, Cliff Richard, Sonny & Bono kind of sweet ‘n peppy music to take to ‘hurricane blasts of noise’ easily. I, like many others, was a school kid trying to be hip, shunning anything considered uncool, especially local stuff. (North-East India has always been more inclined towards western culture.)

Anyway, I believe, most of us didn’t understand half of the stuff we pretended to be passionate about, especially the words. Brown Girl in the rain became Brown Girl in the ring. Trying to figure out lyrics was worse than maths. Obviously, there was no Internet, no Google. So, Dig in the Dancing Queen was Digging the Dancing Queen (god save the queen)...

Passing out of high school was like breaking out of our encaging mirrors and stepping into a world waiting to be dissected, out of a dictatorial regime. It was sweet freedom. College offered options to re-look into things once considered 'indigestible'. Like few of my mates, I too naturally graduated to higher echelons of music, if not academics.

We felt the Shakti of music. Dylan was god, Joplin was 'kozmic mama' and Hendrix was a mystic force – an energy that busted out from penury and white dominance to expand the vocabulary of the electric guitar more than anyone before or since. It even obscured Jimi's considerable gifts as a songwriter, singer and master of music genres. He was beyond our domain in every sense, but we could feel the blues. That’s what counted.

We lived by his words: “To be with the others, you have to have your hair short and wear ties. So we're trying to make a third world happen, you know what I mean?” We were rebels without a cause, flower children with Purple Haze all in our brains. We kissed the sky in our own little Woodstock. But that didn’t last long once we were out of college. “Even castles made of sand, fall into the sea, eventually,” Jimi had said. It was time to be a man and face the world – alone.

The First Rays of the New Rising Sun dazzled the Ezy Ryder in me. Out in the open everything seemed crazy and craziness no longer felt like heaven. But Jimi’s words kept me afloat: “White collar conservative flashin down the street, pointing that plastic finger at me, they all assume my kind will drop and die, but I'm gonna wave my freak flag high.” I did.

Jimi has given me something to dream on. Now I’m experienced, standing tall on Jimi’s Watchtower, looking at my Red House over yonder. I just have one burning desire – to feel the euphonic Fire before someone lights my pyre.


Krantik said...

"It was time to be a man and face the world – alone." - great post as usual. The struggle between conformity and freedom for every kid growing up - beautifully captured.

To Jimi then - for his timeless music.

Cheers :)

Shyamanga said...

Thanks a lot K. To Jimi...

Lynn said...

I still love his music. Thank you for the alert to the new release. And this was a wonderful glimpse into your world.

Shyamanga said...

Thank you Lynn. Glad you liked it.