Tuesday July 21, 2015

Milliblog turns 10!

Posted by Karthik

Back when there was no satellite TV and internet, I used to be glued to my daily night fix of new (Hindi) film music through radio. I still don’t know which radio stations they were, but there used to be 15 minutes programs created by record labels like TIPS, Venus and TIME audio among others where new titles were introduced with song snippets and a lot of interesting chatter by the host.

I still recall one episode where they played Khiladi’s ‘Khud ko kya’ and asked listeners to guess the name of the composer. Even if Jatin-Lalit had debuted an year ago (1991), I wasn’t aware of them and guessed Nadeem-Shravan, which of course was wrong. If you ask me now, I’d say Nina Hagen, of course 😉

I had even assumed that Yaara Dildara was composed by Babul Bose (composer of films like Meet mere man ke, Meri Janeman and Jeena teri gali mein) because I heard the credits wrong in one episode and I noted the credits wrongly in a cassette that had both Meri Janeman and Yaara Dildaara’s soundtracks in it (Side A and B!). For the longest time I was under that impression, till Bin tere sanam’s remix hit the mainstream and I bet with someone that the composer was not Jatin-Lalit, only to lose the bet.

I discovered the music of films like Aashiqui, Dil, Beta, Tridev, Vishwatma among others exclusively through this radio trip, long before others in my peer/school circle did so, because their source was films releasing in theaters and my source was part of the pre-release promotions on radio!

Satellite TV happened and I expanded my language selection, to tune in to new film music, from Hindi, to other languages too. Zee TV’s evening hour was added to my regular fix – it was primarily new music from Telugu and Kannada and I recall discovering tons of new music from both states.

There was of course Gaane Anjaane for new Hindi music, a sort of Chitrahaar on steroids, given relatively more newer music on display than DD’s outdated mix of one new and many old songs. I still remember being mildly worried that Anu Malik’s Hulchul number ‘Saawan ka mahina’ and Andolan’s ‘Mazaa karle meri jaan’ (both 1995) were sounding so good (to me, back then) that they may topple Rahman’s lead in Superhit Muqabala with songs from Bombay and Rangeela. Nothing like that happened and those songs are hardly remembered now!

Late 90s and early 2000… internet happened. I downloaded my first music, in real-audio format – Chookar mere man ko and Pal pal dil ke paas! Don’t know why I chose these, though!

I built a website for mp3s of A R Rahman (called arrmp3, of course!). Started ItwoFS. And continued to search for new music to listen to, even on the internet. The early days was bad – no new music and only active efforts to archive existing music. Things only improved with the advent of streaming music (beyond file sharing and torrents) and sites like Raaga and MIO (which I suspect is not official/legit) helped a lot in finding new music.

It was while searching and listening to new music actively that I thought that I may not be the only one scouring the net to find new (film) music to listen to constantly. And that my search and findings may help others too.

I wrote briefly for a Bangalore based online magazine called The Music Magazine, but stopped that eventually when my work kept me really busy.

So, back on this day, in 2005, I started Milliblog.

It was intentional that I decided to do just 100 word reviews. Couple of reasons,

– My inspiration was from India Today’s film and music reviews. They used to do really crisp, 50/60-word reviews in their back page and that was the seed for me.

– I’m not trained in any form of music. All I have is above-average English and a voracious interest for listening to all kinds of music. So, I can’t write a lot with explaining my perspective on music technically.

– There’s so much music to listen to, if I combine the 4 Southern languages and Hindi. There’s only so much I can spend time on. Imposing a 100 word restriction gave me both the discipline and liberty to write more and explore more.

– And yes, it sounded like a nice USP to have when everyone else was doing long-drawn music reviews.

And here I am, 10 years later, still running this hobby of a site!

Some of my proudest personal moments of running Milliblog for over a decade include,

– discovering and betting on a host of new composers like Amit Trivedi (in Hindi, long before most others would, after hearing his music for Abhijeet Sawant’s Junoon), Arjun Janya (Kannada), Ghibran and Santhosh Narayanan (Tamil), Shaan Rahman and Prashant Pillai (Malayalam) and Sunny MR (Telugu).

– getting 100 and 200 as reasonably well-known catchwords for initial points of view on music

– inculcating language agnosticity in music among at least a few Indians. Still hear a lot of people say because they do not understand a language, they don’t venture into its music. That never made sense to me!

I have always wanted to keep Milliblog free of commercial biases (personal biases too, but that’s just my word against yours and can never be proven beyond doubt) and it remains so, till date. There was a brief period when I had wanted to shut down Milliblog because I had joined Flipkart and Flipkart was actively promoting Flyte Music by also working with a lot of industry partners. It didn’t seem right for me to be employed at Flipkart and writing about some of the titles available for sale in its platform. But then, Flyte shut down before I could decide on Milliblog!

Till date, there are 3 guidelines I follow, for everything I do on Milliblog,

1. Write with no bias or preconceived notions, based only on what I think about that particular album (preconceived notion is different from forming a pattern based on the composer’s previous albums, to arrive at a conclusion to end the review, at least in my head. Giving it a dispassionate listen, without assuming how it will be merely based on the composer’s past few soundtracks, is the first part). Himesh and Harris Jayaraj’s fans continue to taunt me with this point, but the only thing I can say is that I try and treat each soundtrack as an individual piece of work, using past/historical reference only for the same conforming to a pattern, if there is one.

2. Treat every comment as a serious enough point of view to warrant a decent, sane response. Including ones that are angry and abrasive. Sometimes I do get annoyed a bit and use sarcasm to mask it, but in most cases, I try to see each commenter’s point of view and offer mine to counter it or to add to the discussion.

3. Do not bother about readership, page views etc. I honestly do not care. If I had cared, I wouldn’t be doing reviews for most of the albums that have non-entity names behind it since I know they get negligible interest among readers (even a cursory glance at Facebook post views would tell me that). My thumb-rule is that I’m writing these for myself – to arrive at my playlist. I’m posting them publicly only because it may help someone else arrive at theirs. So, a true long-tail effort – even if a lesser known soundtrack helps just 5 people pick it up and listen to it… job well done!

This is also why I never ever tag (on Twitter or Facebook) any music-related personality for any reason when it comes to reviews. I strongly believe that affects my credibility as a dispassionate, unbiased reviewer and without credibility, there’s no point in even sharing what I write.

Finally, I have quite a few people tell me that I should celebrate 10 years of Milliblog, since 10 years of anything is worth one, it seems. But, in the true spirit of merely extending personal thoughts to a larger, open platform, I don’t intend to celebrate this milestone. I believe I’m an indie, not a tentpole – I prefer the low-key, credible positioning to a more flashy, loud nature. If Milliblog inspires you, start writing… on anything, not just on music.

Here’s to the next decade!

PS: For context, I’ve filled Milliblog with about 2,200+ posts, of which I’d assume about 2.100 would be music reviews.

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