Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Die Beschwerdechor von Lakdikapul

In which Ludwig tries to get a cribbing jam session going...

We have to thank Veena for this, who in turn has to thank the always interesting Abi. Thanks to these worthies, we are now aware of the existence of complaints choirs. This is a simply brilliant concept that originated in Helsinki.
It all got started during a winter day walk of Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen in Helsinki. Perhaps it was due to the coldness of the day that they ended up discussing the possibility of transforming the huge energy people put into complaining into something else. Perhaps not directly into heat – but into something powerful anyway.

In the Finnish vocabulary there is an expression "Valituskuoro". It means "Complaints Choir" and it is used to describe situations where a lot of people are complaining simultaneously. Kalleinen and Kochta-Kalleinen thought: "Wouldn´t it be fantastic to take this expression literally and organise a real Complaints Choir!"
The result was the Helsinki Complaints Choir. The idea is simplicity itself. The algorithm appears to be as follows:
  1. Constitute a small core team, including someone who can compose music. This doesn't have to be a latter day Mozart or Ilayaraja.
  2. Publicize, publicize, publicize. At the same time, get together the beginnings of a choir. 30 seems to be a goodish number.
  3. Collect all the complaints, cribs, gripes, frustrations that ordinary folk in your city have.
  4. Do some whittling and pruning of the complaints list, maybe rhymify it, set it to music etc.
  5. Practise, practise, practise.
  6. Record it. Film the recording. At the same time, film the choir singing in various parts of your city/town.
  7. Do a little bit of syncing of song with video, some careful editing, and you're done.
The videos of several choirs are here and on YouTube (search for "complaints choir"). They're stunningly fascinating. The "Complaints Choir" site has a forum where you can learn about other cities that are attempting choirs, advice if you're attempting one of your own, and so on.

We heard the Helsinki, Hamburg, and the St. Petersburg versions and all have their charm. The Helsinkians were the path breakers, but they seem to be relatively benign. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that even in Scandinavia, they have very standard cribs (not getting rich by working, length of vaccum cleaner cords, "bullshitters get on too well in life", "tramline 3 smells of pee" etc.) The cribs about the sauna lend a touch of local colour to the proceedings.

The Hamburgers are kind of a whole lot more sombre and dirge-like at the start. (The Hamburgers are also kind of a very delicious meat patty and bun based sandwich). Then they oscillate between this foottapping rhythm and the Gregorian chantish incantations. Their cribs also, very evocative (mascara always gets smudged, tax declarations are too complicated, "my roommate sleeps with my ex-girlfriend" etc.)

The St. Petersburgers are, astonishingly, not a kind of foodstuff. Not even a sauce. Their choir is probably the soundest musically. Very rich baritone, melodic and all that sort of thing. It actually sounds beautiful, like one of those Russian patriotic/folk songs one hears in movies involving Russian nuclear submarines.

A common thread running through all these north European cities is the anguish about the shortness of the days, the coldness of weather, and in general the annoying behaviour of the cosmos.

Finally, how about getting together a Hyderabad version, eh? Takers? Of course, we'll have to tailor it to local conditions. Maybe do a Tollywood dance thing with the choir and so on. It might be fun. If enthusiasm exists, let us know at choultry AT gmail DOT com, or at our other email addresses.

Need help in finding an MP3. We recently came across a ghazal by Faiz, by way of the Worldspace Farishta channel. The ghazal has been set to music and sung by various people. There is a Nusrat version at MusicIndiaOnline, a kind of a repulsive "disco" version (MP3) by Talat Mahmood, and possibly other versions also. However, the one they played on the radio is from the 1986 movie Anjuman. Sung by Khaiyyam and his wife Jagjit Kaur, it is wholly more melodious and satisfying. We are now desperately looking for MP3/online version. Please to assist.


Veena said...

Cool cool. I am sure there will be enough enthusiasm. Can't wait for the Tollywood dance. Do let us know how it goes.

Moi dashed off email to couple of choir types in Chicago along with some cribs that they abso should include. Hope that takes off too.

Anonymous said...

Sehr interessiert. Besonders zu sehen, wie Sie zu Tollywood Musik schwingen würden. :)

Außerdem, hat Ein immer viele Klagen um die Twin Cities.

Space Bar said...

oh goody! i know what language classes to take to be able to read this blog!

ludwig me man, you're on to brilliant thing that will give us all our twenty-four frames of fame. i want to be complianer-in-chief! list is being prepared only.

(oh..dnjpoti. like sruthipetti, only it is finely tuned to provide perfect pitch, serendipitously enough, for what ze choir needs)

Ludwig said...

[veena] Will send you a disc when we cut one. Tollywood dance will be highlight. I'm thinking, orange pants, pink shirt, sequins galore. As a special touch there will be a vividly yellow hat with black piping and a peacock feather. For the night scenes, I am thinking we will incorporate some household 30W bulbs along the limbs with carefully concealed wiring. (The climactic night rain song scene will be chiefly memorable for the electrocution of the hero).

[anonymous] Yeah baby, ich und Tollywoodmuzik und schwingen thisen way and thaten ist das definitmacht entertainment #1.

[space bar] Speaking of language classes, the local MMB is starting elementary German course in mid-April. Am considering signing up, so as to pass on my fluent German skills. Meanwhile, chorus collection needs to happen. Fame and fortune, here we come.

Anonymous said...

Sent... the song, I mean. What do we get in return? :)