I have a theory I’d like to share with you – a theory I suspect that many of you will disagree with – but one that a select few may consider helpful in their artistic pursuit.
In the Pakistani style of music called Qawwali, there was an artist called Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – an amazing singer I very much admire, and in the liner notes of one of his CDs, there was this description of the music style: “… In this style, the singers chant and repeat the word ‘Allah’ over and over until all possible interpretations have been exhausted.”
My goodness, I thought – what a wonderful explanation of the art of repetition. What many may superficially hear as boring and monotonous – these superb artists use chanting as a means to dig in deep and explore their most personal connection with God.
And that got me thinking. We often use busy-ness to mask and conceal our emotions. When a conversation gets too serious, don’t we sometimes laugh, or change the subject to avoid facing our true feelings?
Well, I think that sometimes musicians do the same when it comes to dealing with simple songs. Many players get bored easily and want to add more chords, move quickly to another section, or play faster.
But I have found that a simple chord played slowly and repeatedly offers me the opportunity to explore a deeper meaning – a chance to let go of ego and instead, get in touch with my emotions.
And I understand that this, for some people, may put them in a position of having to get personal and even risk sharing too much of themselves.
But isn’t this what singing and playing is all about? To express ourselves and emote?
Sure, that’s scary sometimes. We may share too much about ourselves. We may cry. We may laugh.
We may truly experience life in its deepest form.