Why George Harrison was so mad at me in 1976

Or how I pissed of George Harrison and got into Martin Scorcese’s movie

George Harrison was very angry . I could tell from the look on his face, the way he was glowering at me. His lips were tight, he looked very very pissed off.

We were standing in the elevator area of the 7th floor of an old apartment building in Calcutta, India. The year was 1976. Behind him was the closed door of the residence where he was staying. In front of us was the trellis door of the old mechanical elevator. We could hear it cranking up slowly from the ground floor, stopping at every floor.

It would take at least five minutes for it to reach us.

I had George Harrison all to myself for five minutes. And I knew there was only question I wanted to ask him.

It had started as another uneventful morning in the offices of Junior Statesman, the youth magazine where I was a reporter. Around 11 am, I was suddenly summoned to the editor’s room. Desmond Doig, an Irishman in his fifties, was probably the youngest soul in this office where no one was over 30. And he was looking very serious this morning, which meant that he could barely contain his excitement.

“Rumor has it,” he said melodramatically, “that a certain George Harrison is currently somewhere within this very city. Rumor adds that he may not be here tomorrow. It is whispered that he will be off to the holy city of Varanasi. Your assignment for the day is to track him down, interview him, and thus get the scoop of a lifetime.”

And so it started.

FILE – In this Aug. 3, 1967 file photo, George Harrison, of the Beatles, left, sits cross-legged with his musical mentor, Ravi Shankar of India, in Los Angeles, as Harrison explains to newsmen that Shankar is teaching him to play the sitar. Shankar, the sitar virtuoso who became a hippie musical icon of the 1960s after hobnobbing with the Beatles and who introduced traditional Indian ragas to Western audiences over an eight-decade career, died Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. He was 92. (AP File Photo)

Calcutta is not a big city; everyone knows everyone. These were the days before the Internet, and SMS and WhatsApp, but I was sure that a few strategically placed telephone calls would yield a jackpot. I thought I’d go through the city’s thriving rock and roll fraternity first.

Each call mean calling the telephone exchange of The Statesman, our parent newspaper, and sweet-talking Cynthia, the only operator on duty, to give high priority to my calls. Cynthia was a softie, plus she kinda liked me

She put me through to Nondon Bagchi, drummer with the legendary group Great Bear; the late Dilip Balakrishnan, their guitarist and singer; Lou Hilt, bassist with another group; Louis Banks, jazz maestro; a Braganza, another jazz player. Many of them were clearly stoned; some others had just woken from sleeping in. All of them sounded vaguely hurt that George was in town and no one had told them.

Try the night clubs, said a fellow reporter; maybe George had an engagement at one of them. Great idea! I called up Trinca’s; the Moulin Rouge (no, not the French one, just the Bengali imitation); Mocambo. After a while, I realized that this was not leading anywhere either.

By lunchtime, I was no closer to finding George Harrison. My job as an investigative reporter was now on the line, and so was my self-respect, dignity, and reputation as a sharp-shooting journalist. In this despondent mood, I went down to the staff canteen for a bite of lunch.

I took the only seat available, opposite the cranky Indian dance critic. Of all the writers in the main newspaper, the Indian dance critic was the most abhorred. He was supercilious, bombastic, and in plain French, a pain in the ass.

“Bloody prima donna!” he cursed, as he slurped up the mulligatawny soup.

“Who?” I asked, not that I cared.

“The whole bloody family!” he said. “Just because one is a musician and the other is a dancer, they think the sun shines from their collective backsides and they don’t have to honor commitments. But in my book, an appointment is an appointment.”

“Who is this family with a musician and a dancer who are skipping appointments?” I asked absently.

“The bloody Shankars!” he said, slamming the bread into into soup and spilling it all over himself.

“Ravi Shankar?” I asked, suddenly perking up. Everybody knew George Harrison was gung-ho about Ravi Shankar and was learning sitar from him.

“No,” said the dance critic grumpily. “Don’t you journalists know anything? Ravi Shankar lives in Varanasi, not Calcutta. I’m talking about his brother Uday Shankar, the dancer.”

“He skipped an appointment with you?”

“That’s exactly what he did,” said the dance critic, frowning. “He said he had a special visitor, and couldn’t meet me today.”

“And who was that special visitor?” I asked, suddenly alert.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Some stupid foreigner who is going to Varanasi tomorrow to buy a clay statue of Saraswati.”

In a flash, I knew knew who that ‘special visitor’ was. I knew I’d found George Harrison. He was holed out with his mentor Ravi Shankar’s brother.

Back at my desk, I placed a call to Uday Shankar’s house, with a little help from Cynthia. I said I had a letter for Mr Uday Shankar, and would he be home to receive it? Yes, he would. I said I also had a letter for a Mr Harrison, was there any such person. The phone was slammed down.

Almost at once, I heard the voice of Cynthia the Telephone Operator. She had been eavesdropping all morning, and knew everything I knew. “So,” she said. “You off to meet George Harrison?”

I confessed it.

“Well, how difficult would it be for you to ask Mr Harrison for an autograph for poor little Cynthia, who helped you so much today?”

Not at all difficult, I said.

About an hour later, we were in the old Bengali compound where Uday Shankar lived on the seventh floor of an old mossy building. The lift, with an octogenarian liftman half asleep like the dormouse in Alice in Wonderland. He stopped at every floor, whether anyone was there or not.

Five minutes, at the seventh floor, I rang Uday Shankar’s doorbell. It opened a crack, and the cook said, “Yes? What do you want?”

Behind him, I could see the famous gaunt face of one of the finest lead guitarists of our times, the famous third Beatle, George Harrison. At this moment, he was looking worried and anxious. Clearly, being discovered by the press was his favorite nightmare.

And now I, the press, accompanied by my photographer, had found him.

I told the cook I had an appointment with UdayDa or Brother Uday. At this, the door opened trustingly, and I walked right into the house. Not missing a beat, George walked right out of the house, past me. The door closed behind me. Not to be outdone when I was so close to my scoop interview, I did a U-turn and went right out again.

The door closed behind. And there we were, George Harrison and me, waiting for the infinitely slow lift.

I looked at George Harrison. George Harrison scowled at the lift trellis door. He was dressed in a pajama and kurta, and his hair flowed long behind him. I was absolutely certain of one thing: there was going to be no scoop interview. I thought of Cynthia. She was probably excitedly telling all her friends she was going to get George Harrison’s autograph.

I extended my reporter’s notebook towards him, open on a fresh page.

“Could I have your autograph, please, Mr Harrison?” I said.

He gave me a withering look. “I thought you were from press, man!” he snapped, and turned away.

And those were the only words George Harrison every spoke to me.

PS: My story, What was George Harrison Doing by the Ganges at Midnight? appeared in the JS magazine. George Harrison died of lung cancer in 2001. In 2013, Martin Scorsese made his biopic on George, called Living in the Material World. The camera zooms into a copy of my 1974 article.

As for Cynthia the telephone operator, she get her George Harrison autograph. To this day, she believes that George signed it.

9 Ways Music Can Take You To The Next Level

You are reading this post. Your earphones are plugged in, streaming your favorite songs into your ear. But the post is about music, so suddenly you become aware of the earbuds. And then one of two things happen — you switch off the music, thinking for once you’ll focus on the words; or you just let the music go on as it was.

It’s a serious question: does music help concentration or hinder it? Parents argue with unresponsive, earbud-tethered children who claim that Kendrick Lamar actually improves their homework. Employees say their productivity increases if there’s music going into their ears.

So what’s the bottom line? Is music biologically, psychologically useful or should you just leave those earbuds at home?

The jury is in. The science is clear, and says that other than reflecting your emotions and changing your mood, music can affect most aspects of daily life. But how? And how can you use it to your advantage?

1. Smarten up

If you have a big test coming up, it may be a good idea to listen to Mozart or Beethoven as you prep. Classical music has been shown to enhance cognitive reasoning skills and overall performance.

Research says: In 1993 surprising evidence was presented that after listening to Mozart’s sonata for two pianos (K448) for 10 minutes, normal subjects showed significantly better spatial reasoning skills than after periods of listening to relaxation instructions designed to lower blood pressure or silence. This came to be called The Mozart Effect, a theory that suggests that listening to Mozart (in this case, K448) improves spatial-temporal reasoning and skills, which are important to accomplishing tasks in computer science, cognitive science, and cognitive psychology.

What about long-term effects of music? Pre-school children aged 3-4 years who were given keyboard music lessons for six months, and studying pitch intervals, fingering techniques, sight reading, musical notation and playing from memory. At the end of training all of them performed more than 30% better than children of similar age given either computer lessons for 6 months or no special training

2. Breeze through meetings

If you’re prone to getting anxious, worried, or just plain stressed out before meetings or presentations, feed your ears some perky music before you go in to face the crowd. There’s enough evidence that it could give you that little push to get you past the finish line.

Research says: In a study of basketball players who were prone to failing at the free throw line, researchers found they could improve the player’s percentage if they first listened to catchy, upbeat music. Just one song, Weightless by Marconi Union, was found to bring about 65 percent reduction in participants’ overall anxiety, and a 35 percent reduction in their usual physiological resting rates.

3. Fight those bugs back

The idea that listening to music can boost your immune system might sound a little crazy on the surface, but the science backs it up. Soothing music is known to decrease stress, and when it does that, it decreases the level of the stress hormone cortisol. It’s not just soothing music though, even upbeat dance music is known to increase the level of antibodies in your system.

Nearly 200 choristers were tested for levels of stress hormone cortisol and cytokines — which prompt the immune system to fight illness. The research, by Tenovus Cancer Care and the Royal College of Music, fpund that singing reduced cortisol and led to increases in cytokines.

This 30-minute composition, based on alpha and theta tonic notes, is said to be a powerful immune booster.

Research says: Dr. Ronny Enk, a researcher associated with the Max Planck Institute, found that music leads to an increase in the number of disease-fighting antibodies. He suggests, “We think the pleasant state that can be induced by music leads to special physiological changes which eventually lead to stress reduction or direct immune enhancement.”

4. Pump up your workouts

Have you ever wondered why fast-paced music helps you feel an adrenaline rush that helps you work out better? The majority of the studies suggest that music may significantly increase respiration rate and moderately elevate heart rate, preparing the student for the anticipated workout.

Research says: In a recent study, researchers found a positive correlation between fast paced music and exercise. While it’s nothing too surprising, music works to increase exercising strength by distracting attention and pushing the heart and muscles to work at a faster pace. Not much is known about how or why it works, but it’s thought it eases exercise.

5. Bye Bye, Pain

How great would it be if you could get rid of your pain just by listening to a little music? Turns out it isn’t all that removed from reality at all. Interestingly, this fact about music is something that most people have no idea about.

Research says: An investigation into the effects of music and art on pain perception revealed that preferred music was found to significantly increase tolerance and perceived control over the painful stimulus and to decrease anxiety compared with both the visual distraction and silence conditions.

6. Build those memory muscles

If you’re having trouble remembering something, you might have better luck if you play the same music you were listening to when you first made the thought. Studies have demonstrated that music enhances the memory of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, including a study conducted at UC Irvine, which showed that scores on memory tests of Alzheimer’s patients improved when they listened to classical music.

Research says: Doctors use music to help Alzheimer’s patients with memory recall, and even restore cognitive function. When you listen to music you know, it stimulates the hippocampus, which handles long-term storage in the brain. Doing so can also bring out relevant memories you made while listening to a particular song.

Here’s a 5-song playlist said to boost brain power and memory. And for those students cramming for exams, this 2-hour piece of music is said to strengthen learning and memory.

7. Don’t say tired

Peeling potatoes all day? Losing your edge because of have a monotonous job? music is a great way to increase your mood while performing boring work and increase your productivity on repetitive tasks — says research. Music was effective in raising efficiency in repetitive type of work even when in competition with the unfavourable conditions produced by machine noise. Read more on music and productivity here.

Research says: A series of experiments on the relationship between background music and efficiency in performing repetitive tasks strong suggests that there are conomic benefits to using music while, say, peeling potatoes

8. Food for your mood

Even when you have nothing to do, music can simply help boost your mood! Music can alter brain chemistry and trigger neural pathways that can increase positive emotions. A 2013 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who listened to upbeat music could improve their moods and boost their happiness in just two weeks. Participants were instructed to try to improve their mood, but they only succeeded when they listened to the upbeat music of Copland as opposed to the sadder tunes of Stravinsky.

Research says: Studies have also shown that when pleasurable music is heard, dopamine is released in the striatum — an ancient part of the brain found in other vertebrates as well — which is known to respond to naturally rewarding stimuli like food and sex and which is artificially targeted by drugs like cocaine and amphetamine.

But what may be most interesting here is when this neurotransmitter is released: not only when the music rises to a peak emotional moment, but also several seconds before, during what we might call the anticipation phase.

9. Sing along to bust stress

Ever wondered why you feel a whole lot better when you sing a song? Studies show that singing along to music can help release two important chemicals important for regulating responses to stress, endorphins and oxytocin.

Research says: Endorphins can foster euphoric feelings and boost people’s moods. When released, oxytocin can reduce stress and anxiety within a person. When people sing, both hormones are released, creating a 1-2 punch that lowers stress levels, while also promoting a more positive outlook within the singer. Oxytocin also enhances feelings of trust and bonding, which may explain why still more studies have found that singing lessens feelings of depression and loneliness.

5 Genres That Improve Creativity

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Studies have shown that, when it comes to creativity, you are what you listen to.
The right tunes can help you boost your mood, concentration and enhance your creative process. However, there are certain genres that are sure shot winners when it comes to improving creativity.
1. Classical Music:
Classical Music has clarity, elegance, and transparency. It can improve concentration, memory, and perception.
2. Jazz:
Harmonic progressions can uplift and inspire, and release deep joy and sadness. Over the years, Jazz has become a remedy to those with the dreadful ‘creative block’.
3. Blues:
Blues also has a similar effect as Jazz on one’s creative mind, however having a more soothing outcome.
4. Country:
The heart of a country song can be identified by the uncomplicated chord progression in its foundation. This characteristic can be appealing to a listener who feels more comfortable which musical structure that can be followed easily, therefore leading to a better flow of thought.
5. Rock:
It helps to stimulate active movement, release tension, and reduce the effect of other loud, unpleasant sounds in the environment, which in turn helps the creative process.

 

 

10 Songs To Run To

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The idea of music as a performance enhancer is a fairly new topic in exercise physiology and psychology, and as such, has not been discussed to a great extent. However, researchers have now found that music does in fact help to improve running and make it even more enjoyable. After deliberate research and surveys, we have made a list of 10 songs that can effectively help you run better.

1. Disclosure ft. Aluna George- White Noise

2. Eminem- Lose Yourself

3. Gorgon City ft. MNEK- Ready For Your Love

4. Kanye West- Stronger

5. Survivor- Eye of the Tiger

6. Tinie Tempah- Pass Out

7. Ed Sheeran & Rudimental- Bloodstream

8. Queen- We are the Champions

9. OutKast- Hey Ya

10. Martin Garix- Animals

The sound of money

A bank tries to differentiate itself through music. Will that be pure melody to consumers’ ears?

It’s rare to see bankers sway to any other tune than cha-ching, the sound of money. At HDFC Bank’s central Mumbai headquarters, about 200 executives led by their managing director Aditya Puri assembled for a session that would last for an hour.

Holding centre stage was Rajeev Raja, co-founder, Brand Musiq, whose firm specialises in sonic branding, the art of creating brand recognition through a signature tune for the brand. To drive the point home, Raja plays the Airtel tune created by AR Rahman on his flute. “Who can guess the brand?” he asks. A lady banker enthusiastically shouts out the answer and gets a bar of chocolate as a prize.

Next, Raja takes the audience on a tour on how music can bring images to your mind. He asks every member of the audience to close their eyes and plays the Raag Hamsadhwani. He then asks members of the audience to spell out the images that came to their mind when they heard the tune. Most people in the audience come up with similar answers, like the onset of dawn, flowing river and so on. Raja has underscored his point – music brings associations and imagery to mind.

Hence last week HDFC Bank got its employees together to launch its sonic branding or musical logo (Mogo). Set to the tune of Raag Bilawal and Raag Shudh Kalyan, the first raga is an expression of innovation and dynamism while the latter reflects the caring, humane nature of HDFC Bank. In the brand anthem, contemporary western instruments such as the piano and guitar are used along with the sitar, to create a blend of global aspiration and Indian earthiness.

The Mogo will be used across multiple touch points such as ATMs, phone banking, mobile banking app and the website. The objective is to create a distinct brand imagery where the Mogo helps form an emotional connect with consumers across platforms. A company statement says that the musical logo creates a sonic imagery of a brand that’s in tune with the evolution taking place while remaining true to the brand’s core values of operational excellence, customer focus and so on.

The Mogo is to be present across touch points in the bank’s journey from hi-tech to hi-touch, says Kartik Jain, executive vice-president and head, marketing, HDFC Bank. “The intention is to create an emotional engagement among various stakeholders ranging from a farmer in rural India to urban city dweller and from a government employee to a corporate one, through the use of sonic branding across platforms,” he adds.

The exercise started with the bank holding focus groups to understand the brand essence and attributes. The brand essence that came through was ‘everyday evolution’ with an underlying message of ‘caring’. The brand was also associated with the avatar of a sage and creator followed by the attributes of courage and caring. Based on this feedback, the agency looked at which instruments would best connect these attributes. The sitar, piano, guitar, santoor and dilruba were all tried out. After that three different sets of music compositions were researched with customers. The customers had to come up with their perceived visual representations of the music. The chosen tune was selected because it had all the right attributes of caring, surprise and joy. The first reaction from employees was that the Mogo was extremely soothing. The Mogo has been adapted to ringtones and caller tunes. The entire composition will be played in bank lounges and so on.

Raja says that every time BrandMusiq executes a project, the proof of concept comes through very clearly. In the past, the agency has worked on brands like Vistara, Mahindra Holidays and Cadbury Eclairs. It will soon unveil sonic branding for Lenovo. Raja, however, says that a Mogo is much beyond an attractive signature. “If you execute it strategically, then you can unlock much more than just brand recognition,” he says. “Sound evokes a million words and images,” adds musician Merlin D’souza who’s worked along with Raja on this project.

Much like a new-born baby, the Mogo might evoke positive reactions, but a brand manager advises caution. For companies that have a substantial subscriber base running into millions like Airtel or a HDFC Bank, a Mogo might work. But for brands who do not have such numbers, it’s very difficult to justify the marketing spends behind popularising this signature tune. HDFC Bank’s Jain sees an advantage. For a brand that’s often faced with the gargantuan task of taking its message across India and translating brand literature into several languages, music is the big unifier. No one has ever heard of a CMO getting sacked for a poorly translated brand message (that too in a language the CMO did not understand). However, if such a situation was to arise, music could always come to the rescue.

Are logos with sound the next stop for companies?

HDFC was facing a perplexing challenge in its journey from hi-touch to hi-tech. “With fewer interactions at the branch, getting emotional connect for the brand was a challenge,” admits Kartik Jain, head – marketing, HDFC Bank. The bank turned to an unlikely solution: deploying sound in a structured-manner. The bank hired Soundmusiq for an intensive sonic branding endeavour which has been recently rolled out across touchpoints. These include all ATMs with a sound card, NetBanking, PhoneBanking IVR and hold music, YouTube videos, Mobile apps, employee caller tunes and ring tones.

A leap of faith for a brand that has been wary of splurging on print and television. It rolled out a TV campaign after a gap of nearly five years. Sound evokes memories, can help create an emotional layer. At the same time, the mnemonic is fundamentally digital, thus putting it in a sweet spot.

The banking brand is not the only using sound to give it a distinct connect. Lenovo is in the midst of an extensive sonic branding project, touted to be a global roll-out. Bhaskar Choudhuri, director – marketing, Lenovo India refused to share details, but believes very few brands use sound in a strategic way. Being under-leveraged and under-populated, gives brands an opportunity to make a distinct statement. “For a relatively new tech brand like us, it provides an opportunity to leapfrog,” he adds.

With increasing visual clutter, brands are realising the importance of properties that communicate and strengthen core values, not necessarily via TV. Says Richa Arora, chief operating officer, consumer products business, Tata Chemicals, “Over time, sonic identity will subconsciously acquire a deeper meaning.” Tata Chemicals has already implemented sonic branding for its newly launched Tata Sampann brand and is close to a roll-out for the flagship Tata Salt Branding via sound is relatively unchartered terrain the world over. In India, Rajeev Raja co-founded India’s first specialised outfit Brandmusiq after many years in advertising. For Raja, music was always a key driver (he performs with retro rockers Wanted Yesterday). But he’d hit a stage where “I had to decide between ‘same-spot bicycling’ or trying something new.” And so Brandmusiq launched in 2012, specialising in sonic branding through creation of a mogo (musical logo) and mogoscape.

A mix of art and science, it’s a three stage process: Brand Discovery in which brand-owners articulate the brand’s vision, persona and values, within a structure best suited to creating a sonic identity, followed by Sonic Moodboards, in which “we present ‘sketches of sound’ to initiate an understanding of the ‘zone of sound and instrumentation’ that the brand can operate in which best reflects its persona and values, shares Raja. The final stage is Mogo/Mogoscape creation in which the final sonic identity is created. It can take anywhere from 6 months to a year or more.

In a cluttered, over-exposed world a sonic identity could provide brands a layer of emotion and recognition sustainably and memorably, the Holy Grail for all brands. “Nearly every brand is a multi-platform brand now, and the sonic opportunities are limitless. Just think that all the customers are now walking around with a speaker in their pocket!” says Joel Beckerman, founder of one of the oldest sonic branding agencies, the US based Man Made Music. (Read – Making The Right Sounds)

Richa Arora of Tata Chemicals sees the mogo as a longterm brand asset, to be deployed the way they would a logo or visual identity: consistently across all communications and consumer touch points: From TVC, radio ads, digital to events, activations… even ringtones, she shares. The mogo in its ultimate form goes beyond an audio mnemonic to creating an audio signature. One key challenge is people confusing it with a jingle which really are two separate things. “The issue is to shift the benchmark of brand owners from a tactical ‘jingle’ to owning a strategic long term ‘sonic identity’ as an asset”, says Raja.

Joel Beckerman, of ‘Man Made Music’ creator of sonic identities for AT&T, HBO, Imax, Southwest Airlines etc, shares his vision for this niche form of branding

Why Sonic?

Man Made has been in business 17 years. Our work has always been about sonic branding — even before the term was fashionable. We’ve moved from a communication focused to an experience focused world. Brands need to make emotional connections with al l their audiences. It’s as if Apple showed the world that loved brands do better business. General market brands in technology, communications, airlines, retail, restaurants — even financial services — approach us to tap into our entertainment expertise and help tell their story with music and sound. It is an incredibly efficient shortcut to emotion. Every brand is different, and everyone has different sonic opportunities. There are no cookie cutter solutions.

Why Sonic Now?

Nearly every brand is a multiplatform brand now, and the sonic opportunities are limitless. Just think that all the customers are now walking around with a speaker in their pocket! Usually people come to us just looking for a sonic logo as a sign-off for their advertising, or a sound for their app. We introduce them to our approach which is about creating a sonic strategy for the brand and giving them an authentic voice that delivers on their brand and business objectives and that’s where the fun begins.

What are the major challenges?

When brand strategy is either unclear or emotionally flat, or when key stakeholders have very different visions. We need a clear, powerful story to tell to create work that is meaningful and will stand the test of time. It also can be a bit of a challenge when key stakeholders are not involved from the beginning. Many CEOs, CMOs and even COOs have been involved in our workshops. We’ve learned so much about some brands from executives who might not consider themselves ‘creative’. Nearly anyone can identify when music and sound feels right and synchs with their vision of the brand.

HDFC Bank gets into sonic branding, gets new ‘musical logo’

For the first time ever, HDFC Bank is introducing a sonic branding activity. The bank is set to launch a musical logo, that will be used across its multiple touch points like ATMs, phone banking, mobile banking app and the website to name a few.

Rajeev Raja’s Brand Musiq has created the musical logo for HDFC. The company believes that the musical logo or MOGO will help to form a powerful connect and recall among its various stake-holders across platforms.

“The MOGO has been created keeping various aspects in mind. One, the core values that HDFC Bank as a brand stands for in the minds of customers and second is the dynamic nature of the business today. HDFC Bank today is known as the premiere digital bank in India built on a solid foundation of trust and reliability over two decades. The digital element signifies the contemporary and youthful quality of the bank, which is constantly adapting to meet the needs and requirements of the target audience,” said an official spokesperson of the company.

Here’s the MOGO: