Posted by Poornima Laxmeshwar

The memory of music for me dates back to those good old times when All India Radio (AIR) was the only choice in the small town we lived in and the program Aap Ki Farmaish, Geet Mala added flavours to our otherwise limited world. The day wound up with the entire family listening to retro tracks seated in the balcony while the transistor worked its magic on sultry jasmine fragrant nights.

My parents’ interest in Hindustani classical music and ghazals exposed us to soulful tunes and ragas that marked our days and seasons accordingly. Since there wasn’t a good tutor for vocals, my mother pushed me to learn the tabla. When my cousins and aunts learnt about this, it became a point of the joke as it was assumed that girls lacked the stamina to play the instrument.

Interestingly, my guru was a father of five daughters and never once told me that tabla was not meant for girls. He said it is art and art recognises no gender. Unfortunately, my father had a transferable job and hence, I couldn’t pursue the lessons though I did clear a few exams with flying colours.

Musical instruments are generally seen to be the forte of male musicians and women are generally associated with classical singing.

Musical instruments are generally seen to be the forte of male musicians and women are generally associated with classical singing. Imagine a mridangam or flute or sarod and then think of the number of female musicians who strike your mind. The same applies to the number of music directors and composers in Bollywood. This further streams down when it comes to Western instruments and rock music. Forget about playing, even the listeners of the metal genre are judged based on the gender.

My brother has always been a metal head. As much as classical music was played in the house, our shared room had plugged pots (literal ones) that enhanced the bass. Songs of bands such as Metallica, Scorpions, Guns n Roses made their space comfortably in rain drenched corridors and the thick backdrop of the Western Ghats.

Rock music found resonance with me as I found it to be aggressive. It was my means to question the world and seemed to be extremely rebellious in nature, for which I could relate to it. Understanding the bands, plunging in the riffs and getting to know the genre better evolved with time and taste.

Also Read: Where is the Woman’s Voice? Sexism in Hindi Film Music

But whenever I mention that I listened to metal and rock, people just judge me or show a great amount of disbelief. Some even say, “But you don’t look like a metal head”. The generic stereotype starts with me being a woman and liking a genre preferred by men. A look into the paper Heavy Metal and Gender allows us to understand that heavy metal is associated with men as it is considered to be aggressive. However, a deeper study reveals that it is the mental attribute that makes someone aggressive and is not related to the gender at all.

People always want to reconfirm if I really mean what I am saying. Hence, there are always surprise tests thrown my way to make sure that I really know what I am talking about. The questions range from lead singers of bands to guitarists to drummers to simple trivia. And I wisely chose not to answer them. I always reply, “I don’t know”. It does satisfy their egos but I wouldn’t justify my choice over a particular piece of music to anyone, any day.

Second, with rock being the choice, there is an expectation of string of tattoos, Goth makeup, piercings and leather jackets and big boots. Apart from one single Om tattoo, I think I don’t wear any sign that would prove me to be devoted to my demi-gods of music. Neither am I eclectic.

The generic stereotype starts with me being a woman and liking a genre preferred by men.

I am this silent-on-the-surface, decently dressed with pastel colours, calm person who rarely gets offended with anything in the world. So what has outlook got to do with taste? I know there isn’t a rational answer for it. So don’t even bother about it. And worst of all, metal heads are expected to be slaves of either smokes or alcohol or anything that can keep them high and floating in the clouds. Ugh! Really?

Why should people of any gender be stereotyped for the kind of music they listen to? Like if I say I like Hindustani music, there aren’t many questions shot at me and it is automatically presumed that I am a balanced woman with home being the top preference of action. Whether in reality that is the case or not, is not a matter of concern.

Can someone’s playlist tell you what kind of a person she is? If that is the case then let Rammstein’s Du Hast be on repeat mode, for me, please.

A feminist in this scenario is someone who will appreciate my choice of music even if it is noise to them on a personal level. As an individual with my senses intact, I must have the freedom to choose what I like to listen to without being judged. Is that too much to ask for? Now, let me get back to Iron Maiden.

Also Read: Podcasts, Poetry, Music: How The Arts Took Up The Fight For Mental Health

Poornima Laxmeshwar resides in the garden city Bangalore and works as a content editor for a living. She can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

Featured Image Credit: One Switch

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