MANNI SANDHU: WELCOME TO THE FUTURE FT. BAKSHI BILLA
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In year 8 I was shy and gangly (too tall, awkward with my limbs, I fell towards puberty). My mum was worried I would be uncertain about my voice - uncertain or timid with my speech - in speaking and making myself heard. So I took singing lessons for one year. At no point did I ever learn HOW to sing. My teacher was a large Welsh man and he was experimental and eccentric. He’d sit and eat biscuits and tell me random facts I only fully pieced together years later. I learnt to stretch my voice /// I learnt about tone and pitch /// the way a voice can feel and how to use it to bend, take shape and occupy space. It was a practical or pragmatic lesson plan: I was taught the ins and outs of how a voice can work.
The most valuable thing Mr Jones said was about the quality of a voice.:::::: All instruments do is one or two, maybe three different flavours of sound. The human voice stretches into any and every flavour. It has a malleable quality; when someone sings, even against a full orchestra, there is still space for the human voice in a cacophony of noise. It has the ability to assume rather than be; it can adjust, bend in a way nothing man-made can. It can sit, glimmering, like a jewel in the mud.
Welcome to the Future makes me think about this^^^^^^
The song feels like vocal stretches. Limbering up - it’s the first track on the album, so that feeling makes sense. It’s an intro track;;;; barely a 2 minute snippet;;;; an amooz booshe;;;; easing you slowly into a warm pool.
A few months ago I tweeted that the whole album was actually an opera, n Manni Sandhu replied saying he’d like to read it. In between dying, I decided I had to solidify my thoughts. Rationalise and justify this tweet.
I’ve never seen an opera. Idk what it is. Like. What is the literal definition of opera? What constitutes an opera; what does it take to be an opera? Is it the narrative? Is it where it is? When it was written? Is opera a form // a feeling // a set of rules to follow // is it a medium or a quality?????????
Literally idk, but i’ve always thought it was like…….. an ethereal quality of sound; maybe affect? Like for me (again, never seen an opera, but the way ppl bang on about it) it feels like it should be a super visceral, bodily experience. There must be something about the power of ~voice~ and that feeling of ~Live Performance~ and the emotion and sincerity of performing;;; something that combines and forms a wall that just hits u all at once??? Like, the kind of sound u feel and know and legitimately experience through ur body. U shouldn’t be able to rationalise it in ur head, in ur mind, as an academic thing. It shouldn’t be studied or qualified/quantified or any of that. Just felt and experienced. ~Known~through~the~body~ I might be wrong, but how nice would that be! For our understanding of a thing to not be collectivised, universalised, n then made rational!
This song, when I first heard it - I shit u not - I felt it. It felt like I heard it through my body. Sound became corporeal n ultra-touched, I felt it shifting. I don’t wana write about the first 30 seconds bc they just led me in; prepared me for what came (wall of sound). I also don’t wana write about what Bakshi Billa is singing about - I don’t wana talk about meaning or translation bc I don’t actually speak Punjabi lol. I am interested in this song as sound. As my boy would say: I am academically interested.
Where the voice dips, the track behind adds depth; plunges everything down. When his voice soars, it is met with something that kinda glimmers. Shimmering sound. And when the voice needs space, the track behind falls back. Like hands, it knows when to grip, when to let go. There is something to be said for this intuitive or instinctive grasp of being around or alongside a voice. The instruments close in around the voice, support it ~~~~like a snug fit. There is complete cohesion between voice and sound. This song feels at one with itself - - — unified in sound, but just in different parts. Like (I remember from Mr Jones saying) there’s a Verdi opera where the chorus, instead of singing as a chorus, in harmonies; they sing in one voice, as one melody. Crowd as One, as voice, as swarm.
How the fuck do I feel like this has happened with one voice and sound? idk, i can’t explain it bc I felt it n now i’m just retracing my thoughts back. What a strange thing to write about - a thing I felt. How do I make u, our readers, feel n understand my feeling when I don’t even understand it myself?? This song felt like deep breathing —— when u feel ur body all come together and solidify. It felt solid. Voice at one with sound; reduced to just sound (-almost-). Something visceral - - - - maybe that’s why I’m insistent that this song is a phenomenon; that it’s something to be felt and experienced. Bc it was minimal tbh (I don’t think I’ve heard a song like this, Punjabi music, this pared back // this sparse??) but it felt whole and complete; like good curation, you shouldn’t feel alone in the room.
I wanted to write about this song because I’ve felt some type of way about it since I heard it. I’ve been trying to process my feelings around the production and composition/placement of the sound. I have used a full week to write this text, and things still aren’t settled. I’ve listened to it 287 times. This song feels like proof that Mr Jones wasn’t bullshitting when he tried to impart onto me the power of the voice; the quality it has to be heard amongst sound. This song feels like affirmation of synchronicity. I guess that is good production. I now understand how composition isn’t just a term that refers to space/place, I know. Sound and arrangement of sound can be place/d.
I wish there were exhibitions like this song.
The song Welcome to the Future is the first track on Manni Sandhu's 2nd album: Welcome to the Future.