Sai Youth: ROCK & ROLL
With the final(?) installment of this series I'll close with a description of Sai Youth and their 'rock & roll' development.
At the outset I'll be very clear and say that the Sai Youth are by definition of a young age and so it is not abnormal for them to have hobbies, interests and music tastes that reflect their interaction with the world at large. It is also very common for youngsters to listen to the type of music enjoyed by their peer group even though they may not necessarily like it themselves. Consequently there isn't much to write by way of having a "shock" factor, unlike the recent Sex and Drugs articles, except just to relate my own experiences in this area.
You'd think that Sai Baba, with all of his exhortations to listen to bhajans and to engage in group chanting/singing of the names of God would be impressed with the current crop of the Youth Wing? Nay, he'd be horrified to see his tender saplings nourish their (spiritual!) growth by partaking of gangsta rap, trip-hop, trance, happy hardcore, house, dance, and a host of other styles of music. At least that's what was in vogue at the time of my leaving the Sai Organisation, I have no idea what crap they must be listening to these days.
For those who are not in the know, gangsta-rap is a particularly violent form of hip-hop. The vast majority of gangsta songs concentrates on themes that glorify gang violence, sexual objectification of women, alcohol, drugs, fast cars, and the like. Trip-hop, trance and happy hardcore are types of electronica that can only be understood and appreciated while under the influence of drugs such as Ecstasy or LSD. Dance is, well, dance, a type of electronica that I thought as relatively harmless and enjoyable to listen to until I found out that bands such as The Prodigy were listed in that genre.
Ah, The Prodigy. I thought it was a great day when their third album was released. This band had enjoyed more than it's fair share of controvery in it's heyday, primarily due to their offstage behaviour and drunken/druggie antics. Not least producing songs with creative titles such as:
- Their Law
- Smack My Bitch Up
Unsurprisingly, that last track received an instant ban upon it's release - the single (with just one notable lyric that urged violence against women) was never broadcasted on radio, and the music video (which featured graphic scenes of cocaine-snorting, drunkenness, vomiting and lesbian sex) was never aired until at least three years later. Naturally, a ban brings instant notoriety (as if they weren't notorious enough to begin with!) and their third album went straight in at No. 1 in the Dance Chart. I'll admit that I quite liked The Prodigy and managed to acquire a cassette of their album as well as several Indian remixes of 'Firestarter'.
If any of the above was not clear enough, just take a look at a typical picture of the Prodigy's frontman, Keith Flint, which may go some way in explaining exactly why this band was considered extreme and offensive:
Lovely chap eh? Just the type you'd bring home to meet the parents.
The funny thing is that, I played one Indian remix tape in the car of a fellow Youth devotee and all the boys went crazy over it. They were specifically disappointed when the 'Firestarter' music stopped and switched over to the Hindi lyrics. It only left me wondering why they enjoyed it so much. Hey, I was aware of my own "depravity" in listening to The Prodigy, but why is a Sai devotee who has life-size pictures of Sai Baba at home that shower holy ash listening to such a shocking band?
And if that wasn't enough, "Mike" asked to borrow my Prodigy tape. Yes, the same Mike who attempted to initiate the drug deal at the Sai Center. He never gave the tape back either.
It goes without saying that Sai Baba would never approve of these types of music. If he had it his way he'd arrange for his own bhajans to be pumped through the speakers 24/7. Why, whenever he gives a discourse it is broadcast live all around the ashram! You don't even have to attend the event and you can happily catch every word while munching on a veg-roll from the ashram bakery. It's so loud though, I'm surprised that the stray dogs who plague the ashram don't bark back in anger.
It is a common sight to see young devotees at Sai Baba's ashrams even now with walkmans, discmans, and what have you. Although I haven't been there for the last six years, I'm absolutely sure that there will be iPods aplenty. Whenever I had casually asked these devotees what they were listening to, nine times out of ten it would be something 'mundane'. One fellow Britisher told me (in 1994) that he was listening to Bob Marley. Doesn't seem very much inspiration for a spiritual pilgrimage, does it? No wonder Sai Baba spits venom now and then about how his devotees do not follow his teachings.
For the record, my own tastes in music vary greatly. I am equally at ease with the beautiful Sufi qawallis of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to the crash boom bang of heavy rock. As I had missed out on a lot of 'normal' teenage experiences during my time as a Sai devotee, I attended my first rock concert in November 2005 at the age of 27. It was a part of Motörhead's 30th Anniversary Tour and it was definitely an experience that I'll be having again. :-)
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