Rishi Majumder listens in on Firoze Hirjikaka’s stupendous collections of classics

Photographer: Rana Chakraborty

Feroze Hirjikaka... laying bare his treasures...

Feroze Hirjikaka... laying bare his treasures...

   Firoze Hirjikaka’s lengthy bio data ends with the fact that he wants to host his own radio show, based solely on his personal music collection. “The programme would alternate between swing, standards and easy listening,” he says, sifting through old records arranged at the centre of his spacious Colaba living room. “There’ll be specials on the music of musicals, and greats like George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Elvis Presley…” Hirjikaka complains that the idea of “oldies” on radio channels and music store racks is restricted to music of the ’80s and late ’70s. “As a result, much popular music of yore is dismissed by today’s generation without actual exploration,” he reasons. While his collection of over 1500 records and CDs (featuring releases from the 1920s down to the 1970s) includes classical music in its repertoire, Hirjikaka wishes to focus on ‘popular classics’: “I can understand the youth not taking to classical. I didn’t either when I was their age.” But the notes of pop down the ages, he feels, were always composed for the youth, and would continue to strum their heartstrings.
   ‘I wanna be loved by you’, by Eydie Gorme plays. He has placed on his turntable a record whose label reads: “Eydie Gorme. Vamps. The Roaring ’20s. Orchestra conducted by Don Costa.” “I had a 78 rpm turntable first,” he recounts. “Then a Philips radiogram. Then an LP record player.” Hirjikaka’s first record was The Donkey Serenade by Alan Georges, bought at the age of 10 in 1955: “And I first heard Georges in a Marx Brothers movie, if you’ve heard of them…” His passion for music grew through school and college to London, where he obtained his engineering masters. “There was only more music available,” he smiles in remembrance. And so listening to a favourite record became a prerequisite to tackling technological theorems. By the time this technocrat was well entrenched in his job, his hobby became an addiction demanding a CD per month. “That my job necessitated a lot of travelling only helped,” he adds, while playing a record of Elvis’s Moody Blue: ‘Way down where the music plays, Way down like a tidal wave, Way down where the fires blaze.’
The words rock their way around the room with Presley’s guitar. “We old guys still believe CDs can’t match LP sound quality,” he affirms. “But the next turntable will be hard to find, as will the wherewithal to maintain the records.” And so he’s converting his records into CDs for preservation. The record, as if on cue, screeches here.
   “I listen to modern releases like Celine Dion or Mariah Carey too,” Hirjikaka mentions. “But I need a melody to hum. Heavy metal, hard rock and rap can’t give me that.” That’s also a reason he hasn’t particularly pursued jazz: “It’s more improvisation than fixed melody. Like classical music, it’s an acquired taste.” He emphasises, though, that he’s not for any kind of policing where new songs or lyrics are concerned. He recalls how Presley’s hip-shaking caused him to be shot only from the waist up.
   With ‘I got Rhythm’ composed by George Gershwin and re-rendered by Robert Palmer, Hirjikaka’s composed face breaks into a grin. “I mean, this could be playing in a disco right?” he asks of his favourite composer’s rhythmic foot tapper. A rare ’30s Janet Mc-Donald and Elson Eddie musical record and some ’50s Dean Martin and Gordon Jenkins are passed over for… swing. “The Big Bands…” he informs, as the grin grows wider. ‘I just got word from a guy who heard, From the guy next door to me, The girl he met just loves to pet, And it fits you to a T…’ swings in with guitar and piano from ‘Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree’ by the Glenn Miller Orchestra. “That’s fast swing. And it’s not just for the old,” he stresses. So do the lyrics: ‘Don’t hold anyone on your knee, you’re getting the third degree…’ Swing incidentally is a form of jazz, distinguished only by a strong rhythm section. Still, someone give this man the show.

This article appeared originally in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India:


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