Everything that is timeless now has somewhere had a foundation. And when it comes back in jolts, perhaps in the tune of a song or in the dust from old vinyl records, it retains its form.
I was on a mad tour down the heart of the very metropolitan Rome back in the summer of 2014, and the itinerary was so rushed, that we only got off to stand for a few minutes before the Colosseum. While the sun was setting the way it does every day in that city, fermented gold in the champagne metropolis, our bus went past modern houses on the left and the ruins of the Circus Maximus on the right.
It made me wonder, how the popularity of this one city is based on its ability to treasure ruins. Rome is like a nostalgic mind, bearing the husks of a culture that can only elsewhere be found in fat folios. It explains the concept of memory almost as well as jazz does.
It was a moderately humid night, and I decided to take a walk around my roof, because the North Calcutta alleyways aren’t exactly Narnia at ten o’ clock. There was a light breeze, dust and marks of old fireworks beneath my feet, and through my earphones crooned the graceful voice of Dinah Washington.
I had a jazz playlist playing, which jumped from one artist to another, but maintained the continuity that is the essence of jazz. And the essence of jazz is that it makes you remember. It makes you remember all that is worth remembering, and makes you forget the fact that you have had one single song on loop for thirty-five minutes, forget that you haven’t finished the exercise on discrete mathematics you were doing, forget that you were once sad and hence needed this walk.
All through our life, we plant landmarks of things worth stressing on. Jazz makes you rediscover not what you have forgotten, but what you can never be allowed to forget. It orchestrates memory in such a way, that, as simply as a note after another, life falls back into place.
That’s what Ella Fitzgerald sang, in the refrain to my favourite song of all time,
I’m wild again,
A simpering, whimpering child, again.
I was a child once, and through all the identities I have adopted, I realize, they were reflections of that same point of origin of me.
I was firm all this time, but I don’t see why anymore, and so, I am beguiled. Once more.
I was wild once, and now I wonder why I ever stopped.
So, everything that was ever timeless has somewhere had a foundation. And jazz throws us off the track we were taking at present, to the foundations of those memory landmarks, to give us an option of the many roads that crisscrossed, making us rethink our logic, retrace our steps.
The songs are reminiscent of a time when candle flames and yellowed pages weren’t only the luxury of imagination, but the dregs on the wineglass of everyday romanticism
This is how jazz can heal. It can take you away from your labyrinthine neighbourhood and place you in a smoky café by an old gramophone, asking you if that was where you belonged.
And the voices coax you enough to say yes.
Artwork by Artnip