The Long Road

A blending of Eastern and Western senses into musical stories

If you haven’t watched the 1995 classic ‘Dead Man Walking’ — join the club!

Dead Man Walking Poster 1995

In a strange twist however, I’ve listened to the soundtrack of this movie for forever — or at least, since I was in sixth-grade in 1997. Back then, I had no idea that I was about to experience a fusion of sound and emotion - bathed in the moonlit-glow of sitar-strung starry nights, I dozed off on the way to school to the beat of the all-too familiar tabla and was transported to a place where I no longer imagined the faces or bodies playing their instruments and dancing shapes of people; instead mesmerized by languages strewn together, weaving an emotional golden thread between the stark differences of the styles of expression; and the unencumbered smoothness with which they melted together softly.

Back then I was (as Jim Morrison would say) ‘Smug in the wooly cotton brains of infancy’ and the music entranced me to believe (perhaps naively) that no form of music was lesser or more than the other; rather — all kinds of music can co-exist, inhabit and mesmerise the same concert audience. It was not presented as a thought — just one example that cemented an obvious sort of belief when for the first time I heard — The Long Road by the grandfather of grunge #EddieVedder and the late, great #NusratFatehAliKhan who is widely considered one of the greatest singers ever recorded till today.

If you’ve never heard this song, listen to it before you decide to arch eyebrows over the combination of musical ability here—

The Long Road (Long Version)

And I wished for so long…cannot stay
All the precious moments…cannot stay
It’s not like wings have fallen…cannot stay
But still something’s missing…cannot say

Holding hands of daughters and sons
And their faiths are falling down
I have wished for so long…
How I wish for you today

Will I walk the long road? Cannot stay…
There’s no need to say goodbye…

All the friends and family
All the memories going round
I have wished for so long
How I wish for you today

And the wind keeps rollin’
And the sky keeps turning gray
And the sun is set…
The sun will rise another day

I have wished for so long…
How I wish for you today
I have wished for so long…
How I wish for you today

Will I walk the long road?
We all walk the long road.

Deep Breaths. There you go.

If you’re human (w/ empathy) you’ve let go of a lifetime of stress and disregard, and quietly straightened your spine on your chair.

Jokes apart — it’s haunting. The #LAtimes wrote following the album’s release:

“To Western ears, qawwali resembles a blending of Khan’s indefinable singing with the sounds of classical Indian ragas (think Ravi Shankar) and the hypnotic rhythms one might imagine as accompaniment for whirling dervishes. (The latter is not such a far-off association, in fact, since the spinning Sufi dervish dances are a visual and physical corollary to the soaring melodic spirals of qawwali singing.) But there is no denying the impact of Khan’s from-the-heart vocal performances, which have roused Western listeners to something approaching religious ecstasy…”

That’s really all I knew about it until years later (probably around 9th grade) when I discovered ‘The Face of Love’ — which left me feeling elated at the thought of mixing not just emotions of the different cultures in music, but how the voice and instruments could be interchanged to create discomfort of the language-barrier yet, produce dissonant feelings in a listener’s heart in a marvellously eclectic fashion.

Jeena kaisa Pyar bina (What is life without love )
Is Duniya Mein Aaye ho to (Now that you have come to this world)
Ek Duje se pyar karo (Love each other, one another )

Look in the eyes
Of the face of love
Look in her eyes
Oh, there is peace
No nothing dies
Within pure light
Only one hour
Of this pure love
To last a life
Of thirty years
Only one hour
So come and go

Look in the eyes
The face of love
Look in her eyes
Oh, there is peace
No nothing dies
Within pure light
Only one hour
Of this pure love
To last a life
Of thirty years
Only one hour
So come and go

The face of love’ affirms what we as humans have always forever known to be true, yet we cannot seem to believe in. It reminds us that a simple loving act of forgiveness, kindness or carefully-nurtured wellbeing is the one that rings true because ‘No, nothing dies — Within pure light.

The rest of the soundtracks I heard much later, by which time #Youtube had forever erased the thrill of finding ‘new music’ to a mouse-clicking number’s game. It’s absolutely mind-blowing, the line-up — #TomWaits, #PattiSmith and #BruceSpringsteen himself, to name just a few. In the 90’s, awesome big-budget #Hollywood movies often had brilliant accompanying #soundtracks. Sigh, was everything much better in the good-old-days? Damn, I feel old.

Entire Soundtrack Playlist of Dead Man Walking

There was a concert in the following year (1998) where Vedder performed the songs with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s son Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.

The Long Road (Live) w/ Rahat Fateh Ali Khan & Eddie Vedder
The Face of Love (Live) w/ Rahat Fateh Ali Khan & Eddie Vedder
Dead Man Walking, 1995

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