The Man on the Moon

“So how’s your friend Nintendo?” (mischievous chuckle)
“Her name is Sitenda, Dad!”

This is a conversation I have every so often with my father.

Sitenda is a singer/songwriter friend of mine here in Cambridge, whom I met quite serendipitously at a birthday party. Within the week, we were jamming together and bouncing song ideas off each other, dealing with important issues of our day such as bus drivers that just will not stop to let you get on, and also poverty and selfishness (for those concerned about issues other than frustration with the public transport system.)

So it happened that we had some of Sitenda’s compositions ready when a very last-minute gig at the Man on the Moon pub was booked. A few days and five aching fingers later (I have now developed real guitar-play callouses, of which I am very proud) we had a set of ten songs ready to perform to our cheering, eager audience of… about ten people. Still, they were cheering, and that’s not something to be sniffed at. We started off a little shaky, with Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’, but soon eased into it. Sitenda’s incredible vocal range and my blues guitarring and harmonies soon won our audience over, and our own amusement at little mistakes and musical quirks put people at ease. By the time we got to the last song, Sitenda’s very own ‘Rise Up (Africa)’ the audience was moving to the music and cheering for an encore.

I am told the very obvious fun Sitenda and I have on stage infects our audience with the same high spirits, that we’re not so much ‘performers’ as ‘fun-leaders’. I wonder how people would react if you put that on a business card: “Occupation – Fun Leader.” The description certainly fits Sitenda, who is completely at ease and at home on stage, enjoys the music so evidently you can’t help but join her, and talks to her audience as though they were old friends.

The other singer that night was an acoustic-folk artist called Natalie Szulc. Her stage personality was instantly likeable and accessible, her lyrics endearingly honest and impressively well-crafted, and her songs sweetly melodious. I was mightily encouraged to meet a solo indie artist who had the guts to go up on stage in a pub, armed with nothing but a semi-acoustic guitar.

So today’s blogpost was a break from the ‘Influences’ series I began last week, to pay tribute to these two lovely ladies and muse on the underrated joys of playing for a small audience.

P.S. – Discovery of the week: cherries are an excellent alternative to whatever finger-foods one might order in a pub. If they have been given to you that afternoon from your Granny- and Grandpa-in-law with love sprinkled on top, so much the better.

‘Influences’ Part 1: The Music of My Childhood

Unlike most softly-spoken South Indian girls, I find the sound of distortion guitar comforting. My childhood was painted on a canvas of overdrive as my parents captured the imagination of young people with an unprecedented amalgamation of their Christian faith and the popular music of the eighties: rock. I remember falling asleep to the sound of my Dad’s guitar weaving melody frantically through the pounding of the bass drum. It was my lullaby.

Our tape recorder, pushed as far back as possible in the bottom shelf of the TV cabinet (Dad’s cunning scheme to get subwoofer-quality bass notes without a subwoofer) was always playing something or the other. We listened to everything from Louis Armstrong and Kenny G (who planted the seeds of those deliciously whimsical blues chords in my brain) to Bob Marley and Phil Keaggy (whose songs were light yet weighty with history, justice, truth). There was my “The Little Mermaid” soundtrack (pure lyrical profundity like “Les poissons, les poissons, hee hee hee, haw haw haw” never failed to fill me with glee) and then the variegated rock music selection, Petra and Stryper and Whitecross, for our daily diet of soaring guitars.

It’s surprising, all things considered, that I turned out an indie-folk sweetly acoustic artist. Maybe it’s because my Dad wouldn’t let my grubby seven-year-old fingers on his gleaming Gibson Epiphone. Not like I would have dropped it or anything, really now! Can we all cast our minds back to that one time I managed to get eggs from the corner shop to our house completely unscathed? Well then.

Whitecross Performing

I’ve never actually watched a video of these guys; it’s a bit of a shock to see what the musicians leaping around in my little-girl head actually looked like! It must have been a job untangling their hair post-concert.

The Little Mermaid — Les Poissons

This video still makes me so happy. Heeheeheehawhawhaw!

Continue to ‘Influences’ Part 2

Why give the music away?

Hello, all you wonderful people!

This is Taryn. Thank you for listening to my music and being so supportive and encouraging. “Songs of the Bride” is now up on where you can buy it for whatever price you want, or take it as a gift, absolutely free! So, the question you might be asking is, “Why are you giving the music away?”

A Completely Fake Reason: This was my master plan from the very beginning.

It took a while for me to come around to the idea, excellent idea though it turns out to be. It appears I’m not as cheerful a giver as I would like to become. However, now that I am giving, I am finding it a very cheerful business. La, la, la!

A Completely True Reason: It frees you to be yourself and me to be myself.

You can give whatever makes sense for you. Perhaps you enjoy my music, and are willing to support what I do by paying a standard price. Perhaps you are instantly transported to the seventh heaven by my music, and want to give me more than standard price. Perhaps you are me five years ago, a teenager in India whose attitude towards music was “um, itunes prices are not my cup of chai” and you want to download without payment. All of you, be my guest, feel free!

I can do what makes sense to me. To tell you the truth, having my music up on itunes has been giving me palpitations. There were bouts of self-analysis: “Am I, should I be like all (or any) of the other artists on itunes, because I’m now in the same system as them?” There was a vague sense of hypocrisy: I wouldn’t have been able to pay standard itunes prices myself, until very recently. There was pointless tension: “Is anyone actually buying it?”

None of these mental peregrinations were actually conducive to productive action. Now that the music is available for a glorious minimum of zero pounds/rupees/dollars/*currency of Timbuktu*, everyone is free to do what they like with it, and I’m free to continue making honest, courageous music without feeling the need to live up to a standard some pop star has set, and without claiming to be a pop star myself.

Two Partially True Reasons: I want to be generous. I want to be humble.

In my best moments, these things are true of me. Sometimes it’s as clear as day to me that it really, undeniably is vastly more blessed to give than to receive. Other (less noble) times I want to make mountains of money off my music, just so I could think to myself, “that’s the worth of my music, and by extension, me as a musician”.

It all boils down to a question of worth, doesn’t it. That’s where humility comes in. I’m not Brooke Fraser, or Jon Foreman, or *insert artist that you admire and want to be like*, and I never will be them, and that’s okay. I may not make mountains of money or be world-famous, but then, that’s true of 99% of us, isn’t it. If you normal, hard-working, lovely people would have me, may I take lifetime membership in your club?

Five Reasons That I Am Chewing Meditatively On:

The best things in life are free.
Hmm. Sunsets come to mind, followed closely by Salvation, and then it occurs to me that the statement could be amended “the best things in life are gifts”.

I want other budding artists to be encouraged.
Take that leap, make that scratchy recording, set a new song free. Who knows how many lives it will change.

I love making music, I’d pay you to let me do it!
No, not really. Okay, maybe. It is one of the few things that can absorb me so totally I’ll even forget to eat.

I have a Heavenly Father.
He’s promised to take care of me, and most of the time I believe him. I have moments of panic, but he knows how to calm me down.

I want you to listen to the music, and share it, and find joy in it.
Buy it if you want, or take it as a gift, listen to it, wrestle with it, dance to it, give it away!

What are your thoughts?