Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Grand Sweet Song Of Life

I swear I have a jukebox in my head. In the middle of conversations, certain words trigger a song I have heard. Sometimes, I know the whole song, and sometimes, it is just a line or two. I often wake up with a song on my mind. So, it should be no surprise that I love music. I love almost all genres ... except heavy metal, head banger loud music and obscene rap. And, boy, do I love to sing!

My love for music and singing goes back as far as I can remember. When I was growing up, my family never owned a record player or a musical instrument. No one in our family played an instrument and none of us took music lessons. But, there was always always music in our humble home. My sister Jean had a Blaupunkt transistor radio, which we all gathered around and sang along to whatever Radio Ceylon was playing. My brothers were never short on friends and several of them played guitar. It was not uncommon for them to drop by with my brothers for an impromptu sing song.

My mother, devout Catholic that she was, always planned pilgrimages to various churches throughout the year to celebrate Mother Mary's feasts or a Saint's day. Mum usually hired (rented) a couple of buses and my brother's musician friends were always invited. On our way to the church we sang hymns, but on our way back, almost as soon as we left the church compound and had sung a hymn or two, we broke into regular music - ranging from the popular western music to Sinhala baila music.

I was always seated in the back with the musicians and the singers (male and female). I must admit that I hardly sat because even as the bus was swerving along, I was among those in the aisle dancing and singing. When we stopped for breaks, the music did not stop. We would get off the bus and sing, and, as far as my memory takes me back, I was always thrust into the center to chants of "Dance, Molly, Dance!" It was a request I could not refuse and soon others on the bus would join in. Other travelers would stop and either sing along if they knew the songs or clap their hands in tune.

My love for music continued as I grew up. I was part of the school choirs and joined the youth movement choir. Although I could not read music, I had a good ear and could follow along very quickly. I was the first to take popular songs and write Christian parodies that we sang at our youth Mass. Our choir led by Dennis Ramanaden was often requested to sing at weddings and other important functions at our Cathedral. Our youth movement also participated in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar and my brother Reggie played Herod to my Mary Magdalene. Shortly after that, I played a nun in a production of Sound of Music that had two weekend showings.

Whenever there was a party, I was always invited because I could be counted on to be first on the floor to get the party started. In my early 20s, When I became a radio announcer at Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, it was a dream come true to play the music that I so enjoyed and to touch the records from bygone eras, evoking all the memories of my childhood.

Years later after I married, had a son and moved to the US, I bought the latest Disney music and sang along to the tapes. My son joined as soon as he could sing along. My children grew up hearing music always coming out of our home sound system and me singing along to the car radio. When my son was 16, he wanted to play guitar. Not knowing if this was a passing fancy, we bought him an acoustic guitar. With a few friends from school, he formed a band and taught himself to play. We indulged him with an electric base guitar and amplifier. He took his love for music to new heights, learning music and writing songs and lyrics.

A few weeks ago, my son was driving with me to see a movie and I had the radio on and was belting out to Elton John's "Don't let the sun go down." He smiled and looked at me and said, "You know that you taught me to love music. Do you remember those Disney songs that you and I would sing to? That was where it all began ... and I always heard you singing." In that instant when my son and I were seeing eye to eye, I remembered the words of Plato, "Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue."

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