Teach your children well

Steve Snodgrass (Flickr) Steve Snodgrass (Flickr)

My parents are to be thanked (or blamed) for my obsession with music.

This, I reckon, is not just because they provided me with an excellent life’s soundtrack – though that was very important – but because our relationship is somewhat deep-rooted in the world of music.

After a night of long meetings, my parents would return home, sometimes with friends, and turn on the turntable. My dad would let me dance on his feet to Paul Simon and Al Stewart.

Music was a constant presence in my home. Silence meant we were all asleep. Even then, my sister’s room softly echoed the lull of whatever music helped her insomnia.

It was full of the greats. The Beatles, Supertramp, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton and Fleetwood Mac. Their voices familiar as friends.

I remember staying up late listening to my dad and his friends playing guitar and singing in harmony, like an unrefined Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Dad on the six-string, his mate on the 12-string. It was something out of a movie.

Now I see just how much music has fed, shaped and enriched my relationship with my parents.

Although both activists and very socially conscious, it was my mother who gave me the struggle in song. Joan Baez and her Prison Trilogy, Tracy Chapman, Lennon’s Give Peace a Chance. The intensity of lyrics and what they mean for the world. What they meant for her. What they mean to me.

My dad taught me the sound. Song as experience, form, rhythm and beat. Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel and Jethro Tull teaching me how a dead mass of carved wood can be turned into emotion.

Flipping through his vinyls carefully, treating each one like a treasure, he’d select one that would fill my evening with the colours and shapes of sound in the air.

Sunday morning expeditions to the flea market on Durban’s beach front were never complete without a trip to the second-hand CD stall. Coming home with a bag full of tricks, we would explore the golden oldies, as well as the new artists who would immortalise history.

Those days cemented love way beyond the flimsy sleeves on which lyrics were printed.

My parents and I still talk about music.

Even now, I open the front door to their home and my dad’s voice is muted by the sounds of some random b-side he’s found while he tries to shout: “Listen to this, Niks! Isn’t it great?”

I bring home new CDs, which he promptly steals and scribbles his name on with permanent marker before I can protest. Mumford & Sons, Radiohead and U2 are among his most played on iTunes, among the Joni Mitchells and Iggy Pops. He’s even thrown in some Metallica and The Black Keys for good measure.

For as long as I can remember, this is music that has somehow shouldered our relationship.

The music has become part of our family language every bit as much as mum’s tea and politics, and dad’s bad jokes and M*A*S*H quotes.

Song references riddle conversation as if “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat!” is just another figure of speech.

The discovering hasn’t stopped.

The turntable keeps on turning. Proud Mary keeps on burning.

Up to this day, the happiest sounds in the world to me remain those late-night murmurings, the scratch of the needle going over a warp in the LP, and the sounds drifting down the stairs, squeezing itself in between the floorboards, making the house vibrate with harmony.

The obsession isn’t just because of the love for music itself.

It’s that feeling of home. Of having something to message my dad about in the middle of the day when I say “5FM! NOW!” Of talking lyrics to my mum. Of singing at the top of my lungs with my sister. Of dancing on my dad’s toes. Of falling asleep to Miles Davis on the couch. Of memories that will make me smile long after my parents are gone.

Of our house being a very, very fine house (with two dogs in the yard).

This article was originally published on Times LIVE.

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Nikita Ramkissoon

Editor at So Much Music
Nikita is a Journalism and Education lecturer by day and music Jedi master by night. She can be seen in the photography pit or stage left with her Wookie husband. She can also be found trying to source corn dogs. If you see her, buy her a corn dog. She loves corn dogs.