Mile High Makeout: Maestro, a little traveling music, please

Categories: Columns
india_tajmahal_2003_06_252.jpg
What to play when you're taking in the Taj Majal?

I love to travel, but I don’t do as much of it as I’d like. The last time I got on a plane was nearly a year ago, and that was just a brief trip to do some work for a client in the exotic destination of Tucson, Arizona. Whoopee. But next week, I’m saddling up for a two-week junket in India. A few of those days will be devoted to work, but the rest’ll be play – or something like it.

You won’t find it surprising, I’m sure, that my iPod was the first thing on my packing list – before clothes or toiletries or bath toys. After all, I’ll be spending about 48 hours in airplanes and airports, and who knows how much time on public transit once I’m there, so I’ve got to bring a soundtrack, right? Sure, there will be times when I want to actually hear the interesting and unusual sounds around me, but if you’ve ever traveled alone – and you’re honest with yourself – you know there are times when you just have to block it all out. It’s the 21st-century alternative to John Slade bringing his own theme music with him in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.

The real question, though, is what the soundtrack should include.

I have forty gigs of potential musical accompaniment and almost no idea where to start, so I’m hoping the three of you reading this can help me. What’s the right soundtrack for the trip? And I don’t want any “Ramblin’ Man” or “Leaving on a Jet Plane” nonsense. I want real music that will actually complement and enhance my experience on the other side of the world. Let me give you some guidelines.

Let’s say you’re on an overcrowded public bus, somewhere between Mumbai and Pune. You’re surrounded by people who seem hell-bent on getting on your nerves. They rub up against you, jostle your backpack, speak languages you don’t understand, breathe on you and have odors you just can’t get used to. Of course, the reality is that they’re just going about their day-to-day lives; you’re the intruder, and you're probably getting on their nerves with your weird Western clothes, bulky backpack and soapy-minty scent. But you’re so exhausted, isolated and stressed that every sound seems like an assault and you can’t even space out and enjoy the view because you can’t see past the crushing throng. You insert your earbuds and press “play.” What do you want to hear?

I’ll give you a different scenario. This time you’re on a long-distance train ride from Bengaluru to Mumbai. The train is half-empty, so you settle in and relax. You spread your body out lengthwise across the seat and enjoy the breather from the bustle of urban Indian life. The landscape reminds you a bit of Arizona or southern Colorado, but the occasional people and wildlife you see along the way remind you that you’re far, far from home. You take a much-needed deep breath as you take in the sights and try to focus on the view and the mechanical rhythm of the rails, but the intrusion of fellow passengers conversing far too loudly disturbs your reverie. You decide you’d rather control the audio portion of this program, so you reach into your bag and fish out your iPod. Your ears are a little sore from wearing ear plugs to help you sleep at night in your noisy hotel, so you slip the little foam condoms over the earbuds and slide them gently in. What do you want to hear?

I’m serious about this. I really want your help. Do you have certain artists or songs that you think make perfect traveling music? Are there local bands I should include? Maybe I’ll get the chance to share them with locals and open up whole new opportunities for Denver bands on the subcontinent. Who knows? Maybe India is hungry for Munly. -– Eryc Eyl

Eryc will be in India for a few weeks, so there will be no new installments of the Mile High Makeout for the remainder of the month. The Makeout will be back, tasting vaguely like masaala dosas, in October.

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