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Music of Language

Music of Language
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Earlier today I chanced upon a video trending on the Internet. It was one of a Canadian physician singing a Hindi song (Tum Hi Ho from Aashiqui 2) for his Indian doctor bride at their cross-cultural wedding reception. And, she wasn’t the only one who had to blink back tears. Most of us (okay, primarily women. Go figure!) felt a lump in our throat while watching the simple, yet grand gesture. And, why not? There’s something about the sound of your own language, the music that’s created as the alphabets roll off the tongue that warms the cockles of even the coldest of hearts, and makes us smile! 

Enough, and more, has been said and written about the fact that music transcends all barriers, including those presented by language. Great men have told us that music connects where others divide. There’s no point in putting down quotes here, because they would all be saying the same thing. But, what very few people have looked into is the fact that language is just an extension of music. Any sort of sound is music in its most basic form, is it not? And, spoken word is nothing but a collection of sounds. T sounds different from P because we use the roof of the mouth and tongue to pronounce the former, while we use our lips for the latter. So, essentially, we’re using our mouth to create different sounds while talking. We are all making music, really! 

When I decided to take up singing professionally, I had to start from scratch. And, my daily riyaaz for almost six months comprised only one thing- saying OM. Initially, it annoyed me. I was a singer; how could I possibly be made to just ‘meditate’ instead of stretching my vocal chords?! I was restless. I wanted to sing, not chant. But, after a few weeks, I gave in. I gave in to the strength of the sound of OM and the energy it was giving me. 

I remember singing in the shower one morning, around the time, and realising that my voice was stronger and steadier than ever before. Sadly, it didn’t do much for my intelligence (or, as my mother says, lack of it), but boy-oh-boy was my voice sounding terrific! It took me no time then to realise that music isn’t just about singing a collection of notes. It’s about creating a sound that resonates within as much as around us. When I thought I was only chanting, I was actually singing. Next time you chant OM, you’ll be making music, too!

The music of language is an unfathomable reservoir of power. Yes, there are times when language doesn’t matter – I mean, we’ve all danced umpteen number of times to songs like Volare and La Bamba without understanding the lyrics. Or, Colin Firth (playing a British writer) falling in love with his Portuguese housekeeper (played by Lúcia Moniz) despite the fact that she can only understand her native tongue. I give you that. But, here’s my question. Every time we meet a colleague at work who speaks our mother tongue, we involuntarily switch to it. Why do we do it? Why do NRIs listen to cheesy Bollywood songs and get emotional? Because of language. And, the music of language. Because language makes music that every ear can appreciate! So, next time you’re asked if you can sing, give them a confident yes. We don’t just talk, we make music!

The author is a playback singer, former sports journalist & television producer, and writer of all things fun, serious, and in-between
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