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  • Samaah Noor Sheikh

Begum’s Beat-Blitz

As a kid with two-together parents, car rides could be makeshift concerts of Chris Rea or a 9-minute seat to November Rain’s guitar solo at the edge of a cliff. As an 18-year-old, car rides are fights over who plays what/who validates who. For if the music I listen to is not what my Beatles-Bowie-Smiths-Hendrix loving cousin likes, then am I deserving of my adequately respectful seat at the dinner table?

As a kid with two-not-together parents, I’ve experienced Ob-La-Di’ing evenings of Bryan Adams, Abba, and The Beatles, and also where-are-the-warm-jets-you-said-they’re-here evenings of Morissey, Brian Eno, and the Cocteau Twins. When you have too many evenings with rock/pop-loving parents, your confusion translates to you being genre-less. There is no one genre I can conform to. I am nothing but a deported musical refugee.

Early Sunday mornings, when the summer isn’t orangey enough and my new-age songs aren't allowed during car jamming sessions, my eyes sink towards moving windows and the inaudible screaming of some alternative Current Joy wannabe artist, but unlike the old-age screaming, my slut-friendly artists from Delhi are sometimes inaudible in Waltz or Pop or Hindie (Hindi + indie). Indian indie is a mind and genre bending experience. From Begum to the Tamaashbeens, most of these artists barely have over 2,000 monthly listeners, but the instruments and influences they encompass take you back to car rides with two-together parents.

In 2016, when Begum first released (W.A.E) We Are Excited, as their second album, the climate for accepting acts of cultivating traditional Indian tunes with waltz cum psychedelic feelings was relatively new in the Indian scene, however, my beloved Begum was met with warmth, just like the summer sun wanted. In W.A.E, you’ll find The One with soft guitar strums and echoing vocalization of oohs and I hopes, and you’ll also find my personal favorite: All My Friends are Sluts. The feminist in me will beg you to take away the negative connotation away from the word Slut and ask you to look at it from a position of strength which comes from years of subjugation transformed into a symphony of acceptance.

All My Friends are Sluts, is quite popularly the most listened to song of Begum, it takes the listener through stages of yearning with a deep-rooted essence of waltz. The three-piece band sings “Got my own but I know you made it sully//got my own sense of home//…it’s a shame I let you go” and these few lines question my understanding of what is made dirty. Does dirt take away purity? And if so, is purity what we long for? And if we do long for purity, are our homes pure? When the band sings of letting you go being a shame, my questions reach makeshift conclusions, conclusions which tell me that we must get our hands dirty, because the soil doesn’t sully, there is purity in the soil.

After 5 years of no new music, Begum just began teasing its monthly audience of 1,610 listeners with singles off of their upcoming album. Singles like Only if You Care and Better Person feel like spring during the cold of December, for when in Better Person the band reassures me of them being there when I (she) bat my eyes, I remember car rides and evenings with movement.

I hope you listen, and if you do, you can find Begum and their music on any major streaming platform.

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