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Category Archives: Entertainment

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History and Timeline of Opera

When and where did opera begin? Dafne, created by Jacopo Peri, an Italian composer and singer, is regarded as the earliest opera composition. It was largely inspired by an elite circle of Florentine humanists. The orchestration of Dafne consisted of a harpsichord, a lute, a viol, a triple flute, and an archlute. Sadly, no one has been able to trace it till date. Euridice, a work of the same composer has survived and is one of the ancient operas surviving today. Euridice was composed for the marriage of Henry IV and Marie de Medici.

By 1637, the opera had not remained confined to the court. Public performances of operas had begun. They soon acquired a style of their own and began gaining appreciation from society. However, opera had to face criticism from some sections of society, which believed that it had lost its dramatic purity. There was a fear among certain people that opera might lose its original form. Bel canto, literally meaning ‘beautiful singing’, is an Italian opera that requires agility and pitch control for performance. It received greater impetus in the nineteenth century, wiping out criticism and fear in the minds of the masses.

Nabucco that is based on the biblical story and play, by Ancient-Bourgeois and Francis Cornu, succeeded Bel Canto. It was devised by Giuseppe Verdi, a romantic composer of Italy. Grand opera, Don Carlos, as also Otello and Falstaff inspired from Shakespearean literature, were some of his notable works. Following Nabucco, Pietro Mascagni, an Italian composer came up with a sentimental and realistic style of composition. The Italian opera crossed national boundaries and began spreading to different parts of the world.

Jean-Baptiste Lully, a French composer born in Italy, as a revolt against the spread of Italian opera in France, established a separate tradition of opera. He also founded an Academy of Music dedicated to the French opera. Besides Lully, Jean-Philippe Rameau, one of the most prominent composers and music theorists in France and Jacques Offenbach, known for the operetta form were some of the other famed names in the sphere of opera music.

In the 1730s, opera came to Russia. Foreign composers like Domenico Cimarosa, Baldassare Galuppi and others got an opportunity to come to Russia to compose new operas. Tsefal i Pokris, an opera seria in three acts was the first Russian opera. It was written by the Italian composer, Francesco Araja. Mikhail Glinka, a Russian composer is credited with the creation of the first real Russian opera.

Thomas Arne, an English composer hugely contributed to the increase in the popularity of English-language opera. His first experiment with comic opera turned out to be a huge success. His opera Artaxerxes of 1762 gained immense popularity. George Frideric Handel, a Baroque composer born in Germany was another major contributor to the rise in popularity of English opera. However, works of Beethoven and Mozart remained popular for long. American composers like Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin, and Douglas Moore were some of the relatively later contributors to English opera.

The Italian opera was highly influential over the German society. However, some German composers came up with certain native styles of music, which were nonetheless popular. One of the most prominent figures in the field of opera music was Richard Wagner. He was a German composer, conductor, and theater director who had to fight controversies before he emerged as a successful opera composer. He is known to have revolutionized opera music by bringing about major changes in the rendition, thus giving it a new dimension.

Today, opera is one of the most popular forms of western music. It has reached far and wide and shall continue to be popular among music lovers.

History of Ska Music

Ska Music History
Jamaicans began to have increased access to radios post World War II and thus, were introduced to Caribbean calypso, steelpan and soca music from Trinidad and Tobago, and more American styles of music such as R&B and jazz. Popular American music was broadcasted further by prominent Jamaican radio stations such as Radio Jamaica and Rediffusion (RJR) and the Jamaican Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) during the late 1950s. The New Orleans and Miami radio stations made it possible for Jamaicans to listen to legendary musicians such as Champion Jack Dupree, Fats Domino, Amos Milburn, Jelly Roll Morton, Rosco Gordon, Professor Longhair, and Louis Jordan. In fact, ska innovator Prince Buster claims that the 1951 song ‘Later for the Gator’ (by American jazz saxophonist Willis Jackson) was the one that created ska.

♫ First Wave – Ska (1960s)
By 1956, Jamaicans had come up with an interesting concoction which they called ska because of the ‘Slak’ sound that the guitar strums made on being scratched. In 1960, the first ever ska song Oh Carolina was recorded by the Jamaican group Folkes Brothers and produced by Prince Buster. This song was recorded in WIRL Records in Kingston, which was soon to become the hub of ska music. The sound of ska was said to be more upbeat and faster than its predecessors because the sentiments of independence and rebellion were more pronounced. This is because by 1960, Jamaica was gradually asserting its freedom from the UK and succeeded in doing so two years later. Jamaican independence day was celebrated with ska songs such as Forward March sung by Derrick Morgan and the very popular song Freedom Sound by the soon-to-be world-famous band The Skatalites.
One of the things that furthered the spread of ska music in a big way was how The Skatalites managed to convert almost every popular song into ska by recording plain instrumental versions of songs by The Beatles and soul and movie theme songs. Their own original compositions such as Guns of Navarone made them hugely popular in their home country as well as abroad. Other prominent bands were doing ska covers and making their own songs during this period as well. For instance, Bob Marley and the Wailers, or simply known as The Wailer’s rendition of the song And I Love Her by The Beatles and Like a Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan went onto become world hits that are still replayed in large numbers. These covers and the inspiring voice of Bob Marley ensured that Jamaica found a respectable place in the world music map.

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, Toots and the Maytals, Higgs & Wilson, The Melodians, The Clarendonians, The Blues Busters, Clue J & His Blues Blasters, The Paragons, The Silvertones, and Symarip were some of the other successful Jamaican ska bands that were actively performing during the first wave of ska in the 1960s.

The various cover versions of these songs and several other ska songs ensure that the genre spread across the world like wildfire.

♫ Second Wave – 2 Tone (1970s)
The second wave of ska took place in England during the late 1970s. Known as 2 (Two) Tone, this ska genre included musical influences from other musical genres such as rocksteady, reggae, punk rock, and new wave. This new variant of ska was created in Coventry, England, where the influence of Jamaican music and anti-racism sentiments were high. This was also the time when ‘Rock Against Racism’, a popular music movement, began in 1976 in the United Kingdom. This movement was founded by the notable British photographers Red Saunders and Roger Huddle in response to the racist remarks being made by famous British rock musicians such as Eric Clapton and David Bowie.

The band ‘Madness’ (1976) was perhaps the first 2-Tone ska revival band to have gained public recognition for its music and seven member lineup. It went on to become one of the most successful ska bands in Britain with 15 UK top ten singles and famous songs such as The Prince and One Step Beyond (1979), House of Fun (1982), and Wings of a Dove (1983).

Another 2-Tone ska revival band that gained immense success was ‘The Specials’, which formed in 1977. Their lyrics stood out from the rest because they were more political and anti-racist in nature; all the while being upbeat and danceable. They became iconic for their 1960s’ rude boy fashion, stage presence, and lyrics about unemployment and unhappiness with the system. Some examples of ska music that rose ‘The Specials’ to fame include Gangsters (1979), A Message To You, Rudy cover of the song by Dandy Livingstone (1979), Too Much Too Young and Rat Race (1980), and Ghost Town (1981).

Some other 2-Tone bands that came during the same time were The Beat (1978), UB40 (1978), The Selecter (1979), and The Body snatchers (1979). Stiff Records, 2 Tone Records, and Go Feet Records were the top three English record labels that signed 2-Tone and ska revivals bands.

♫ Third Wave – Ska-punk (1980s – Present)

✦ Europe
The late 1980s once again witnessed the emergence of ska bands such as The Burial, The Hotknives, and Potato 5 whose music had distinct ska, 2-Tone, rocksteady, and punk rock musical influences. This period also saw the resurgence of trads/trojan/traditional skinheads who associated with the British skinhead working class subculture of the 1960s. British youth in the late 1980s were once again seen with close-cropped and shaved heads, and were influenced by the rude boys of Jamaica and British mods (modernists). These skinheads would listen to music composed and performed by black people and wished to be associated as non-political and non-racists.

Ska experienced a major surge in popularity in Europe where countries like Germany had the most number of notable ska-punk bands such as Skaos (1982), Blechreiz (1983) and The Busters (1987), all of which are actively present and continue to perform throughout the world. Mr. Review (a.k.a. Rude & Visser) is a revered ska revival band from Amsterdam that has been active since 1983. Mark Foggo’s Skasters (1987) also contributed in the development of ska and upcoming band in Europe such as the French band, Skarface.

✦ Australia
The Australians developed their own ska scene during the mid-1980s, with the band ‘The Jumpers’ starting this music movement in 1979. Other notable bands to introduce ska to Australia were the bands The Letters (1979), The Allniters (1980), Strange Tenants (1981), No Nonsense (1984) and The Porkers (1987), Area 7 (1994), Sounds Like Chicken (1999), and Loin Groin, The Resignators, and The Mouldy Lovers (2010).

✦ United States
Ska bands had come up all over the United States in the 1980s and spread to South America by mid-1980s. One of the first American ska bands that gained repute during the late 1970s were Fishbone (1979), The Uptones (1981)―who set the ska scene in California, and The Toasters (1981) who established themselves in New York City. The Toasters celebrated their 30th Anniversary with a world tour in 2011 and are the longest-running ska band in the U.S. Simultaneously, the Los Angeles ska band The Untouchables was formed, whose lead vocalist Kevin Long described the band’s music as “mods who played ska music.” The Bosstones (1983) and Operation Ivy (1987) brought forth more radical fusion of ska and punk rock, which led to the establishment of the subgenre of ska-punk. New-age ska-punk bands such as Let’s Go Bowling (1986), No Doubt (1986), Sublime (1986 ), Skankin’ Pickle (1989), Dance Hall Crashers (1989), Hepcat (1989), and Reel Big Fish (1991) gained notoriety for their unique musicality both at home and internationally. During this period, the record label Moon Ska Records (1983) founded by Robert “Bucket” Hingley from the band ‘The Toasters’ went on to become one of the largest labels dedicated to ska in the U.S. However, the record label became defunct in 2000 and was replaced with Megalith Records by the same owner.

The movement moved to Canada during the late 1980s and early 1990s as well, which resulted in ska bands such as King Apparatus (1987), The Planet Smashers (1991), and The Kingpins (1994). In South America, the ska band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs (1983) blended ska music with traditional music to form one of the most internationally recognized bands from Argentina. They also went on to win a Grammy in 1994 for Best Latin Rock/Alternative album.

✦ Japan – J-ska
Japanese or J-ska is a concoction of J-pop, punk, and ska-pop, which began as an offshoot of the third wave of ska during the 1980s. It also derives much of its inspiration from the Jamaican ska and reggae scene of the 1960s, which the musicians emulate in their native language. J-ska is very noticeable for its fervid vocals, peppy guitar rhythms, and the use of instruments such as the trombone, trumpet, saxophone, and drum and bass. Among the several ska bands that continue to perform and form every year, some notable ones include Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra (TSPO) (1985), The Boom (1986), Elizabeth Sakura Narita (1997), Mongol800 (1998), Dallax (1998), MidnightPumpkin (2002), and OreSkaBand (2003), etc., to name a few.

✦ Christian Ska
While ska became a global phenomenon, it continued to make an appearance in gospel and Christian music, much like how it began in Kingston, Jamaica. Christian ska bands began to emerge in a big way during the early 2000s and include Buck Enterprises (1994), The O. C. Supertones (1995), The Insyderz (1996), and Five Iron Frenzy (1995), The O.C. Supertones (1995), The Dingees (1996), and Squad Five-O (1997).
Perhaps, there shall be a fourth wave of ska where we may hear a combination of EDM, dubstep, and ska, which may sound interesting enough to sustain for a few more decades to come. Until then, all you ska fans can listen and replay the tracks of legends such as Derrick Morgan, Ernest Ranglin, Prince Buster, and the new-age musicians and bands that have sustained the unique and rich history and sound of ska.

The Importance of Music in Movies

It is hard to imagine people sitting through a silent film without any live music to accompany the scenes. From the very inception of motion pictures, the relevance of music has been clearly established. Music has always been recognized for its ability to invoke emotions among the audience and set the mood for specific scenes in movies.

Silent movies always featured live music, and it was first employed by the Lumière Brothers for backing their first projected motion picture, Sortie des Usines Lumière à Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory) on December 28, 1895. By 1910, theaters had begun permanently employing complete musical ensembles which, in turn, was replaced by the theatre organ. The period between 1910 – 1930 also relied heavily on photoplay music, which was written music meant specifically for silent films. This Buzzle article discusses the importance of music in movies in further detail.

Historic Film Score Examples
Max Steiner’s film score for the 1933 monster movie, ‘King Kong’ is ranked as the thirteenth greatest film score in the history of American cinema by the American Film Institute. From the spine-chilling quality of the drums that is played while a native girl is about to be given as ritualistic sacrifice to King Kong to the heavy orchestral music that follows while King Kong breaks free and wreaks havoc on the streets of Manhattan, the music in the movie had deeply impacted the way the audience reacted to every scene, the actors, and the movie in itself. Without the background music, King Kong would not have turned out to be the epic it is today.

The film score for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 psychoanalytical thriller, ‘Psycho’ was composed by Bernard Herrmann. This film score scared the jeepers creepers out of the audience and was unlike anything heard before! The music that accompanied the famous shower curtain scene, when Marion Crane is taking a shower and is stabbed to death by Norman Bates, is perhaps one of the scariest film scores ever written!

The film score by John Williams for the 1977 movie ‘Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope’ is still sung by his fans and that, in itself, is a major feat for any musician! The blood-curdling music for the 1975 shark movie ‘Jaws’ by John Williams won him an Academy Award and was ranked as the sixth greatest film score of all time by the American Film Institute.

Music Conveys Emotions
Apart from conveying the feelings through actions, dialogs, and facial expressions, the emotions of a character are also conveyed through musical cues. The music playing in the background can express feelings of anger, fear, joy, and sorrow, depending on the scene being presented and the emotions being enacted by the actors. Such cues help the audience connect with the actors and empathize with their emotions. For example, the music played at the end of ‘The Godfather Part III’ expresses deep feelings of regret, sorrow, and lost love as Michael Corleone thinks about his deceased daughter (Mary) and wives (Apollonia and Kay). For instance, a scene in which the bride-to-be is walking up the aisle to be finally wed to the love of her life, would usually be accompanied by Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus”, also known as “Here Comes the Bride”, which would give the audience a clue that the female protagonist of the movie is about to get married to the man of her dreams!

Establishes the Theme and Mood
The genre and tempo of the music being played as background music can tell a lot about the theme of the movie. The music produced for the fantasy film ‘Lord of the Rings’ by Howard Shore, uses many types of woodwinds, brass, fiddle instruments, and Celtic music and is, by far, one of the most legendary movie scores ever to have been written. Similarly, the sound of heavy drums and horns in a film score can easily let the audience know that the theme of the scene is based on war. Something peppy and light would lead the audience to expect something funny and youthful. The sound of critters and hollow bass would prepare the audience for something more sinister. The sound of the Chinese mandolin (Liuqin) or Buddhist chants along with music would make the audience to believe that the theme of the movie is somehow connected with the Asian culture.

Evoke Era or Time Period
The type of musical instruments used and the genre chosen by the music composer can help recreate the sound of an ancient era or time period. For instance, in the 1963 ‘Cleopatra’ movie, the music score by Alex North comprised many Egyptian tunes, which immediately transcends the audience into an ancient and mystical land of mummies, Pharaohs, and pyramids. Merely listening to the music in movies, creates a visual picture and feel of such an era in the mind of the viewer. Another wonderful example of music that was successful in transporting viewers to its intended era was the 1997 film ‘Titanic’.

Supports Association with Leitmotif
A certain tune that is connected to a specific incidence or character in the movie, may be repeated as often as necessary in the movie so that the audience may be able to correlate and connect with the leitmotif and its intention. For example, the theme song “Gonna Fly Now” is featured in the 1977 movie ‘Rocky’ and is played in the background, as Rocky Balboa increases his stamina and manages to climb the steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a.k.a. ‘Rocky Steps’. This theme song continues to inspire people to this day!

Provides Backing to Musical Films
Music is an integral part of musical films and acts as a medium that not only adds emotions to the film, but also maintains the pace and rhythm of the movie. The best-known musicals in the world, such as ‘The Fiddler on the Roof’, ‘The Sound of Music’, ‘The Wizard of Oz’, and ‘Grease’ would not be as famous if it wasn’t for the excellent background music accompanying the scenes and songs.

History of the Melodious Indian Music

It dates back to the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC, during the Indus valley civilizations. Archaeological studies have validated the presence of several musical instruments like harps and drums during this era. The Samaveda which is one of the four Vedas (scriptures) that include hymns and descriptions of Indian music. The Samaveda states that music originated as a tool for meditation and spiritual awakening. The era starting from 1500 BC to 500 BC witnessed the Vedic music. Vedic music was supposed to be closely intertwined with the Vedic religion, since music was an imperative element of the religious Vedic rituals.

Vedic music was mainly played for two reasons – please the Gods and as an accompaniment to the sacrificial offerings in the Vedic rituals. The prominent instruments of the Vedic era include veena, tunav, dundubhi, bhoomi-dundubhi, and talav. The Rigveda contains the richa which are the recited Vedic hymns. Samaveda is supposed to be the origin of Indian music. The word sama is actually a compound word made up of sa that refers to the hymns and ma, which refers to the musical notes.

The Vedic period also gave rise to the Gurukul system of imparting knowledge. In this system the shishya (pupil) lived in the house of his guru (teacher) and studied the Vedas and other subjects under the guidance of the teacher for as many as 12 years. The Shiksha referred to the first branch of Vedic learning which dealt with the science of correct pronunciation of vowels, syllables and consonants.

Some of the well-known Shikshas are Paniniya, Yagnyvalkya Vashisthi, Katyayani, Manduki, and Naradiya. As regards to music the teachers had to teach the students the six basic aspects of Vedic music which included Varna, Swara, Matra, Bala, Sama, and Santana. The varna refers to the syllables, the Swara refers to the musical notes, matra refers to the duration, bala refers to the articulation,sama refers to the balance in overall utterance, whereas santana refers to the spacing of the words. The history of Indian music during 500 BC to 200 BC includes references of the Ramayana which was the first Indian epic composed sage Valmiki, and the Mahabharata, composed by sage Vyasa, and also sage Bharata’s Pathya Sangeet.

The Pathya Sangeet was primarily developed to spread information and not considered as an entertainment tool. The Pathya Sangeet is based on six basic elements, which include the Saptaswara, which are the seven musical notes, the Sthanas, which are the three vital locations for tone production, Varnas, which are the four ways of tonal arrangements, kakus which are the two basic modes of intonation, Alankaras, which are the sic embellishments and lastly the Angas or the six aspects of the music. Several references in Buddhist and Jain literature also have references to music during this time period.

According to the Indian mythology, Narada was the first sage to whom the laws of music were revealed. It is also believed that Tumburu was the first singer, Saraswati was the goddess of music and learning and Bharata created the Natyashastra or the rules for theater between 200 BC and 200 AD, which also focused on music. The Natyashastra includes descriptions of various classes of instruments, Gandharva music and also provides detailed information about the Talas, which refers to the rhythmic element of Indian music.

The Gupta Period from 300 AD to 600 AD was marked by the masterpieces created by Kalidasa, who was a lyrical poet and a writer of several great epics and plays. His work includes numerous references to musical instruments of his era which included Parivadini vina, Vipanchi vina, Pushkar, Mridang, Vamshi, and Shankha. There also existed several types of songs like the Kakaligeet, Streegeet, and Apsarogeeti. In addition to this there are references of various technical terms for defining voice quality and other nuances of music, which included terms like Murchana, Swarasaptaka, and Tana.

The next landmark towards the evolution of the Indian ragas was the emergence of gandharva gaan which is recorded in the text Dattilam dated roughly 400 AD. The Dattilam discusses parent tonal frameworks or the grama, the twenty-two micro-tonal intervals srutis, sequential re-arrangement of notes or the murchana, and the permutation and combinations of note-sequences which are known as the tanas. This text also describes eighteen Jatis which are synonymous with the contemporary Indianragas.

The Period from 600 AD to 1200 AD, was marked by the emergence of the regional music, classical Hinudstani music and also the influences of Islamic music. The first major text describing ragas was written by Matanga and was known as Brihaddeshi, which literally means ‘The Great Treatise on the Regional’. Brihaddeshi also introduced the sargam which is the musical notation in Indian music. Deshi or regional music was described as that music sung by women, children and everyone else in their regions, capturing a wide range of emotions from several different regions. After this, the 9th century saw a strong influence of Sufi music. Music was an inseparable part of the Basant and Rang celebrations.

The period from 1200 AD to 1700 AD was marked by several other benchmarks in Indian music including the maestro Khusro who composed verses in Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Braj Bhasha, Hindawi and Khadi Boli. Khusro was the one who is supposed to have invented qawali, qasida, qalbana, naqsh and many others forms of Indian music. Khusro is said to have created a new system of musicology, called ‘Indraprastha Mata’ or ‘Chaturdandi Sampradaya’ and also brought into circulation the two unique musical genres called ‘tarana’ and ‘kaul’.

Another important work called the Sangeet Ratnakara written by Sharangdeva provides a detailed explanation regarding the construction and the techniques of playing fourteen types of drums. The next benchmark in the history of Indian music was the Bhakti revolution in 800 BC, which spread in the north during 14th and 15th centuries. This was the emergence of music as a form of devotion, and belonged to the saint poets like Tulsidas and Kabir. Then there was the emergence of several music streams like Ashtachap and Haveli Sangeet.

Information about music during Emperor Akbar’s court comes from the text Ain e Akbari which mentions the rich music culture of Akbar’s time. The history includes information about instruments like sarmandal, bin, nay, karna, and tanpura and numerous musical maestros including the legendary Tansen. After 1700 AD, music in India went through a continuous metamorphosis process for four centuries and finally resulted into the Hindustani as we know it today.

Contemporary Scenario of Indian Music

Contemporary Indian music is a blend of classical music, pop music, and the popular Indian film music. Several genres of music exist in India. Let us have a look at some of the contemporary music genres in Indian music.

Classical

Indian Classical music is now basically dividend into two broad categories namely the Hindustani music and the Carnatic music. Both the streams of classical Indian music rest on two basic elements which are the raga which refer to the melodic formulae made up of constituent musical notations, and the tala which are the rhythmic cycles in Indian classical music. The Carnatic music has its roots in the musical traditions from the southern part of the Indian subcontinent. Carnatic music emphasizes on vocals. Most of the compositions in Carnatic music are sung. Even when played on instruments Carnatic compositions are meant to be played in a peculiar fashion called gayaki which means singing. On the other hand Hindustani music is a traditional from North India. The basics of the Hindustani classical music include melodic modes called thaats that are a part of the ragas. Hindustani music is based on the basic system called sargam which is similar to the Western solfege, thus the Indian sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni corresponds to the western do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti.

Folk

Folk music is an inseparable part of the Indian music scenario. The songs of the rural lands, emerging from various regions of India, are distinctive and are embedded with a strong element of the regional culture. Bhavageet which literally translates as ’emotional poetry’ is quite popular in many parts of India and especially in Karnataka and Maharashtra. A very popular genre in Indian folk music is the Punjabi Bhangra music which is an accompaniment to the folk dance called Bhangra done by farmers to celebrate the spring season that marks the time of harvest. There are various folk traditions including the folk music of Maharashtra called Lavani and Gaulan and the Dandiya music from Gujarat and the Baul from Bengal.

Pop

Indian pop music is a blend of almost everything starting from folk, classical, and even western music beats. Much of Indian pop music is a part of the Indian film music however there exist bands and singers that have individually ventures into pop albums and singles. Some of the notable pop singers worth mentioning include Usha Utthup, Peenaz Masani, and Sharon Prabhakar from the early nineties. The successive generation of pop singers includes Baba Sehgal, Alisha Chinai, Shaan, Sagarika, Lucky Ali, and Sonu Nigam. Indian pop bands include Colonial Cousins (Hariharan, Leslie Lewis), Euphoria, Band of Boys, Asma, and Viva to name a few. More recently the trend of remix songs has been quite popular on the Indian pop scenario. Most of the playback singers in the Indian film industry have tried their hands at this genre.

Film

The Indian film industry is a humongous industry producing thousands of movies in various languages round the year. Indian films have always been popular for their song and dance sequences. Music has been an inseparable part of Indian movies right from the beginning. The popularity of music in Indian films is such that almost every filmmaker incorporates at least four to five songs in the movies. Indian film music is perhaps the most popular genre in the country, which is enjoyed by one and all.

Korean Musical Instruments

The origin of music in Korea can be traced back to ancient times. It gradually grew and gained importance in the courts of all Korean dynasties. Back then, there were four main genres of Korean music – folk, classical, devotional and court music. Over a period of time, music in Korea started evolving and it slowly began catering to a global audience, rather than restricting itself to its own shores. The fact that contemporary Korean music is a rage in the whole of Asia is a testament to its growth.

The recent case of plagiarism, wherein an Indian music composer was accused of ripping off a Korean song for a Bollywood film, is a good example of the impact and the popularity of Korean music all over the world. Speaking of popularity, Korean musical instruments aren’t lagging that far behind either. They have been attracting tremendous attention of late, not just in Asia, but elsewhere as well. On that note, let us take a look at some popular instruments that made Korean music into what it is today. A majority of traditional and contemporary choices happen to belong to the category of percussion, woodwind and string instruments. Let us have a look at the different instruments belonging to each of these categories:

String Instruments

  • Gayageum
  • Geomungo
  • Ajaeng
  • Yanggeum
  • Dang-bipa
  • Choktae

A unique characteristic of Korean string instruments is that with the exception of the yanggeum which has metal strings, most of the other string instruments comprise strings made from silk. The yanggeum can have anywhere between 72 and 104 strings wherein the strings are divided into different groups. It is played by striking the strings using a bamboo stick. Therefore, it is often referred to as a string as well as percussion instrument. The gayageum or kayagum can very well be labeled the signature instrument of Korea. It is a 20-stringed instrument made out of wood and is small enough to rest on a musician’s lap. It requires the musician to pluck the silk strings with one hand and use the other hand to adjust the movable bridge in order to play different notes.

Wind Instruments

  • Senap
  • Danso
  • Hae Gum
  • Daegeum
  • Hun
  • Piri
  • saenghwang
  • Sogeum
  • Nabal

The daegeum is one of the oldest wind instruments of Korea. It is a side-blown bamboo flute which has been used for ages in different forms of Korean music. Danso or tanso is an end-blown flute that produces a unique sound which makes it suitable for Korean folk music. The hun is a spherical instrument made from clay that has 4-5 blowing holes on its surface. It produces a low sound that otherwise is quite similar to the ocarina. The piri is typically made out of bamboo and produces a tone that resembles an oboe.

Percussion Instruments

  • Jing
  • Janggu
  • Buk
  • Jabara
  • Sogo
  • Ulla
  • Pyeongyeong

The jing is a traditional Korean gong. Usually made from brass, it is struck by a hammer that is layered with soft cloth to smoothen the texture of the sound produced. It is typically played at the onset of ceremonies and special occasions. The janggu is an ancient Korean drum that resembles an hourglass and has two playing surfaces. It can be played either using one’s bare hands or by striking it with a hammer. The pyeongyeong is a unique Korean percussion instrument that comprises sixteen slabs of pumice stone which are struck with a hammer. Each slab has a different thickness which produces a different musical note.

Jazz Music in the 1920s

The Beginning of Jazz

The origins can be traced back to the nineteenth century, when African-American musicians started experimenting with European musical instruments in their own distinct style. Jazz originated from New Orleans in the 1900s, and soon disseminated to Chicago, New York and Kansas City. The 1920s were the most glorious years for this genre of music. The decade also witnessed the rise of many independent (Indie) record companies. The Indie companies started recording with jazz groups, which helped the genre reach wider masses, and led to its popularity during that decade. Jazz dance form was also developed during this period. Jazz bands began to mushroom all around the United States, and became very popular with the middle and upper class Americans, despite racism being prevalent during that period. There were skeptics who considered jazz music and its respective artists to be some sort of a threat, because jazz was very different from everything that they had heard till then. It reflected the drastic alternate changes taking place in society, where African-Americans were more powerful, women voted, and people had surplus time to perform, listen, and experiment with music. The Harlem Renaissance and the jazz era was majorly influenced by the African-Americans, and the genre undoubtedly helped these people get acceptance in society through their talent. This era also reflected an eclectic mix of jazz, fashion and movies, all in co-ordinance with each other.

Famous Jazz Musicians

The roaring ’20s featured some of the most famous jazz musicians like Kid Ory, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Paul Whiteman and Duke Ellington. These artists were some of the most popular ones around. The actual list of great 1920s’ jazz musicians is incredibly long. Most of the recognized musicians played in famous bands like the King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, instead of going solo. However, many artists later parted ways with bands like Louis Armstrong, who played cornet for the Creole Jazz Band, and spearheaded the New Orleans Jazz, later decided to perform solo. Pianist Jelly Roll Morton, along with the Red Hot Pepper’s, are other such examples. In the 1920s, jazz bands were made up of three voices and a rhythm section. The voices consisted of a cornet, clarinet and the trombone, which were prominent jazz instruments. Some of the noted musicians during these times are listed here.

Joe “King” Oliver: A mentor to Louis Armstrong in his early days, King Oliver was a prominent protagonist of the jazz scene in the 1920s. Oliver initially played the trombone, but eventually transitioned into playing the cornet, and how! His band showcased some of the greatest musicians this era ever witnessed. Oliver on the cornet, Bill Johnson on the bass, Johnny Dodds on the clarinet, and Baby Dodds on the drums, certainly proved their mettle by totally bringing it with their compositions. His brief stint with Louis Armstrong marked a popular presence, and his band was recognized as the New Orleans Jazz.

Edward “Kid” Ory: A renowned jazz trombonist of his time, his band featured young underground and talented musicians, that included King Oliver, Sidney Bechet and Johnny Dodds amongst many others. He was acknowledged as the fore-runner of the first African-American band that recorded the first jazz set featuring Ory’s Creole Trombone and Society Blues. Kid Ory successfully retired in 1966 and had gained a number of accolades during his time. He also collaborated with most of the famous jazz artists back then.

Louis Armstrong: Finding himself a mentor in Joe King Oliver, Armstrong shot to fame as a legendary cornet and trumpet player. A staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Movement in America, Armstrong’s skills were renowned all over with the fact of him being the best jazz soloist of his time. His wife, Lil Hardin, also a famous jazz pianist, urged him to join Fletcher Henderson, who ran the show at that time in major dance balls across New York, and had collaborated with the likes of Don Redman and Benny Carter. A pioneer in scat singing (includes vocal concoctions with random words), Louis Armstrong set behind a legacy and was duly recognized for it.

Duke Ellington: Duke Ellington’s presence in the 1920s was prominent, and he led an eventful career as an established composer of the 20th century. His band, ‘The Washingtonians’ were regular performers at Club Hollywood, which later changed to Club Kentucky, and the venue was a host for jazz lovers and the swing scene. The band’s performance of their famous ‘Jungle Nights’ show was acknowledged well, and the band escalated to a permanent venue at the ‘Cotton Club’ – a major place for jazz performances. Jazz fans from all over flocked to Ellington’s performances in huge numbers, and he gained popular recognition for his compositions that came through the years ahead.

Bix Beiderbecke: Beiderbecke was a pioneer in bringing about the jazz ballad genre, and his takes on ‘Singin The Blues’ and ‘I’m Coming Virginia’ were received well all over. He recorded his first song with The Wolverines in 1924, and went on to join and tour widely with Frankie Trumbauer. Both later joined Jean Goldkette Orchestra in 1926. The duo also went ahead to join the Paul Whiteman Orchestra in New York. Beiderbecke’s performance on radio broadcasts got him recognition nationally. Unfortunately, he died at an early age of 28, as he succumbed to alcohol abuse and hallucinations.

Paul Whiteman: Known as the ‘King Of Jazz’, Whiteman’s music reflected an amazing blend of symphonic music and jazz. Mississippi Mud, Rhapsody In Blue, and Hot Lips, were amongst many of his greatest hits. Duke Ellington shared a quote about Whiteman in his autobiography, “Paul Whiteman was known as the King of Jazz, and no one as yet has come near carrying that title with more certainty and dignity.” Whiteman, also, often showcased budding artists, that included the likes of Al Rinker, Johnny Mercer, Bring Crosby, Ramona Davies and Mildred Bailey, amongst many others. His noted performance was of ‘Rhapsody In Blue’ at ‘An Experiment in Modern Music Concert’ in Aeolian Hall at New York in 1924.

Jazz Sub-genres

In the early 20th century, musicians conceived a variety of sub-genres through jazz. New Orleans Dixieland dating from the early 1910s, big band-style swing from the 1930s and 1940s, bebop from the mid-1940s, a variety of Latin jazz fusions such as Afro-Cuban and Brazilian jazz, free jazz from the 1950s and 1960s, jazz fusion from the 1970s, acid jazz from the 1980s (which added funk and hip-hop influences), and NuJazz in the 1990s, are some of the sub-genres of jazz that are still prevalent. The work of the artists paved the way for new sub-genres, and poets transitioned their lyrics into jazz music. An example of jazz poetry and blues was the adaption of an excerpt from Langston Hughes’ first book ‘The Weary Blues’, which goes as the follows:

Me an ma baby’s,
Got two mo’ ways,
Two mo’ ways to do de Charleston,
Da, Da,
Da, Da, da!
Two mo’ ways to do de Charleston!
(Weary Blues)

Some popular sub-genres revolving around this time were:

  • Third Stream – The term was dubbed by Gunther Schuller in a lecture at Brandeis University. He proposed Musical Extemporization which includes spontaneous instrumental changes and communication of emotions in the songs whilst playing.
  • Trad Jazz – As the name suggests, the term is an abbreviation of traditional jazz, and pertains to the Dixeland and Ragtime jazz styles in the early twenties, and went on to be a major source of inspiration till the early sixties.
  • Urban Jazz – Succeeding trad jazz, this genre is a fusion of smooth jazz and R&B music, with steady basslines and percussion sets.
  • Vocal Jazz – Instrumental tunes combined with a smooth flow of vocals with unique styles of different artists, and also scat singing the composition which includes meaningless and nonsensical syllables, and random words tuned into the rhythm produced by the instruments.
  • West Coast Gypsy Jazz – Inspired by Django Reinhardt, this genre is a prototype of jazz music with dark musical scales which reflected gypsy elements. It has an element of bluegrass styles and portrays a distinct strumming with racy and uneven beats at irregular intervals, concocted into a rhythm.

Jazz music of the 1920s established jazz as a music genre, in the true sense. Many changes, improvisations, and experiments have taken place in jazz music since then. But even today, the genre cannot be defined in a few simple words. Paul Whiteman – The King of Jazz, described it as “the folk music of the machine age.” Personally, I feel jazz is the music that flows from the heart and appeals to the soul. The modern-day jazz scene has come a long way, and has been shaped with many artists like Norah Jones, Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra, The Soul Rebels, Ramsey Lewis Electric Band, Chico Trujillo, and many others. Montreal, today, is most popular for jazz music, and also hosts jazz festivals throughout the year, and is a platform for underground artists too.

Cult Classic Movies

Cult movies have almost fanatic fan following. These movies can be mainstream or obscure at the start. Some elements in the movies that are unique may strike a chord with the audiences. This may be catchy dialogs, amazing script and screenplay, hilarious plots, and over-the-top costumes. Every now and then such, a movie lifts the spirits of the cinema goer. The person might just be a bored patron with nothing to do on the weekend and probably cannot sleep at night. So he goes to one of the midnight screenings and comes out smiling. The word quickly spreads and popularity catches on.

For the mainstream films however, the factor that stands out should be awesome and should make the audience sit up erect in their seats, because most of these movies are pretty run-of-the-mill stuff. Ideas presented should be radical, thought-provoking, and the effects should last long after the movie has ended. In short, the buzz that the movie gives should be like LSD, lasting much longer than the usual short drag on the cigarette.

Cult movies generate quite a bit of revenue for the movies too, and this adds to the longevity. For example, a movie like the recent Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise was good, but is almost forgotten. But a movie like Terminator 2: Judgment Day is still imprinted in the minds of everyone who saw it. This is despite that both the movies are science fiction.

The Big Lebowski
Director: Joel Coen
Released: 1998
Duration: 119 minutes
Actors: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro.
Famous Quotes: “That rug really tied the room together.”

“Man, if my f**kin’ ex-wife asked me to take care of her f**kin’ dog while she and her boyfriend went to Honolulu I’d tell her to go f**k herself.”
This is a hilarious movie of a man looking for his rug. Between the events of the central character losing his rug and finding it, a lot of action happens. There are car chases, weird dream sequences, mugging, signature one-liners, and a horribly complex plot. This movie, directed by the Coen brothers, was specifically written for Jeff Bridges, who came to be known as the ‘dude’ after the release.

Cult Status
It has got its own festival, The Lebowski Fest. It is frequently listed in the funniest movies of all time. The movie made the word ‘dude’ hugely popular. It has had such an influence that it even started a religion called Dudeism.

Fight Club
Director: David Fincher
Released: 1999
Duration: 139 minutes
Actors: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Zach Grenier.
Famous Quotes: “Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.”
This movie achieved notorious fame for its controversial plot and ideas. Based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, the movie stars Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. The movie was recognized for path-breaking techniques in film making, and introduced the audiences to dark undertones of nihilism, which even though sound irrational, are very enticing.

Cult Status
The movie gained notoriety as many such unofficial fight clubs were organized and founded over the world. The ‘Project Mayhem’, that was in the plot, was attempted by many people, with intensities varying from pipe bombs to homemade bombs detonated in public coffee houses. The movie is frequently talked about as being one of the best movies of all time.

Evil Dead
Director: Sam Raimi
Released: 1981
Duration: 85 minutes
Actors: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Hal Delrich, Betsy Baker, Sarah York.
Famous Quotes: Linda: “We’re going to get you. We’re going to get you. Not another peep. Time to go to sleep.”

Ash: “You bastards, why are you torturing me like this? Why?”
This movie series blurs the line between comedy and horror. The second installment gained fame from word of mouth and quickly achieved cult Status. It features the exploits of the protagonist played by Bruce Campbell against the underworld of undead, ghouls, and trees that rape. The Book of the Dead featured in the movie became an urban legend, and the plot of college students going to a remote haunted cabin inspired countless subsequent horror flicks.

Cult Status
The trilogy defined Bruce Campbell’s career and made him wildly popular with fans. The trilogy has one of the biggest cult following in cinema history. It also established Sam Raimi as a path-breaking director with a unique style of direction.

The Shawshank Redemption
Director: Frank Darabont
Released: 1994
Duration: 142 minutes
Actors: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown.
Famous Quotes: “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

“Lord! It’s a miracle! Man up and vanished like a fart in the wind!”
The movie is about Andy Dreyfus who is imprisoned for a double homicide, although he pleads not guilty. It is based on a novella written by Stephen King. Andy serves his sentence in the prison for double homicide. He forges deep friendship with Red, a fellow inmate. The movie teaches a lot about human nature, hope, and the extent to which adverse conditions change the mind of a person.

Cult Status
The movie is considered to be one of the best movies ever made. The scene in which Andy escapes and comes out of the sewer and stands with his arms stretched in the rain, has been copied and parodied in many subsequent movies.

2001: A Space Odyssey
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Released: 1968
Duration: 142 minutes
Actors: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Douglas Rain, Leonard Rossiter.
Famous Quotes: “Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave?”

“Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.”
This movie ushered in an era of space movies, and is celebrated for its visual style and uniqueness. Made in the year 1968, it is based on the screenplay written by famed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, and directed by the maverick director Stanley Kubrick. The movie shows how an alien monolith starts human evolution and then the adventure of a spacecraft to Jupiter. They encounter the same monolith on their way, and everything is ambiguous after that. The movie does not have a definite end and is speculated in countless forums on the Internet.

Cult Status
The movie inspired numerous directors, most prominent of them being Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Ridley Scott. It also depicted the first visualization of how tablet computers might operate in the future, and they were right; since the tablets that we use today are very similar to those used on their crafts.

The Matrix
Director: The Wachowski Brothers
Released: 1999
Duration: 136 minutes
Actors: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano.
Famous Quotes: “To deny our own impulses is to deny the very thing that makes us human.”

“You hear that Mr. Anderson?… That is the sound of inevitability… It is the sound of your death… Goodbye, Mr. Anderson…”
This trilogy is considered as one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made. It is set in the post apocalyptic era, where the machines have taken over the planet, and use humans as a source of energy and engage them in a virtual reality called the Matrix. Although many critics found the plot to be absurd and heavily influenced, they appreciated the style and techniques used by the Wachowski brothers.

Cult Status
The movie popularized the use of Bullet time or slow motion effects which was later copyrighted by Warner Brothers. It also made the careers of Lawrence Fishburne and Carrie-Ann Moss. The visual style of dark colors influenced many movies after it. Many people thought that Hong Kong style of film making was very dry and repeated, but this movie popularized the style and opened up the market for Asian movies that used the style for their action.

Harold and Maude
Director: Hal Ashby
Released: 1971
Duration: 91 minutes
Actors: Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Cyril Cusack, Vivian Pickles, Charles Tyner.
Famous Quotes: “Harold, *everyone* has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can’t let the world judge you too much.”

Harold: “I haven’t lived. I’ve died a few times.”
The movie tells the story of Harold, a young man who has lost his perspective on life, and is obsessed with death. He attends funerals of strangers, attempts innovative suicide attempts, and tries to get the attention of his mother unsuccessfully. However, he does get the attention of a 70-something widow who teaches him how to live.

Cult Status
It is frequently listed in the lists of the funniest movies. The movie did not make much money in the year of its release, but did develop a following. This was because of the presence of dark humor in the film which was still new to the movie going audience then. It also began the trend of movies with the message of living life to the fullest without any reservations.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Director: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Released: 1975
Duration: 88 minutes
Actors: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones.
Famous Quotes: Black Knight: (after his arm is cut off)”It’s just a flesh wound.”

King Arthur: “Well, we’ll not risk another frontal assault. That rabbit’s dynamite.”
This famous movie by the troupe of Monty Python and the Flying Circus became a cult classic for its absurd and outrageous humor. It parodies the quest of King Arthur to find the Holy Grail. The movie is full of political, religious, and social satire. The humor is presented in a very stupid way, but is very intelligently written.

Cult Status
This movie brought worldwide acclaim to the already famous Monty Python troupe. The movie got a cult following for the different way in which the humor is presented. It is counted as one of the best comedies to date. Many of the concepts used in the movie have been replicated and borrowed in other movies, as a homage.

Blade Runner
Director: Ridley Scott
Released: 1982
Duration: 116 minutes
Actors: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos.
Famous Quotes: Batty: “Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave.”

Rachael: “I’m not in the business… I *am* the business.”
The movie, released in the year 1982, is set in the year 2019, where Tyrell Corporation has made androids who are indistinguishable to humans. They are called The Replicants, and are not allowed to enter the planet. Hence, they are hunted down by Blade Runners.

Cult Status
This movie, like many cult movies, did not do well at the beginning, but was recognized as time passed. Many of the designs used in this film have inspired subsequent futuristic movies. The movie is also hailed by many as the best science fiction film ever. The visual styles in the scenes are unique to the movie, and the technique of advertising on a skyscraper is taken from Blade Runner.

Night of the Living Dead
Director: George A. Romero
Released: 1968
Duration: 95 minutes
Actors: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne.
Famous Quotes: “They’re coming to get you, Barbara, there’s one of them now!”

“All right, Vince, hit him in the head, right between the eyes.”
The first movie to popularize the reanimation of the dead, cannibalism, nudity, and killing of the undead, it automatically became a cult classic. The movie shows characters affected by the undead, swarming and multiplying as they spread their condition to other people. The movie was criticized heavily when it was released; due to explicit imagery. However, with time, it has achieved cult Status.

Cult Status
The movie spawned the series of the Living Dead. It also popularized the use of zombies in movies, although it does not refer to the undead by that name. It also ushered in the splatter genre, and inspired movies like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween.

Sharknado
Director: Anthony C. Ferrante
Released: 2013
Duration: 86 minutes
Actors: Tara Reid, Ian Ziering, John Heard.
Famous Quotes: Baz: “Storm’s dying down.”

Nova: “How can you tell?”
Baz: “Not as many sharks flying around.”
With Jaws, sharks were shown as killers, and with the film Twister, tornadoes were shown as danger to human lives. The movie Sharknado broke all limits of absurdity. It shows a big tornado affecting a city and bringing a lot of sharks with it. All these sharks turn out to be man-eaters and devour every human in the way. It doesn’t matter that the sharks cannot move on land and that a tornado cannot sustain so long. The movie makes all this possible.

Cult Status
As a Z-grade movie, it got midnight release in selected theaters and did not get a lot of audience. But it got a lot of publicity on Twitter after it was given a midnight slot on television. In the subsequent showing, the number of viewers just increased, and the popularity it generated even ended up with a green light for a sequel. Hope it is as absurd as its predecessor.

Cannibal Holocaust
Director: Ruggero Deodato
Released: 1980
Duration: 96 minutes
Actors: Robert Kerman, Gabriel Yorke, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, Luca Barbareschi.
Famous Quotes: “Today people want sensationalism; the more you rape their senses the happier they are.”
One of the most disturbing movies to ever get a release, or maybe ever made, Cannibal Holocaust, surprisingly has a cult following. The movie even holds a 65% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie is about a group of journalists who venture into the forests of Amazon and encounter an indigenous tribe indulging in cannibalistic acts. These acts are filmed and the journalists go missing. The tape is then found and the tribe is searched by the present crew. There is impaling, animal cruelty (real stuff), torture, sexual assault, and executions. Surely not a movie for the faint-hearted.

Cult Status
The movie pioneered the ‘found footage’ genre in film making, and was for a short period of time classified as a snuff film too. Many critics have made social metaphors about the gruesome violence depicted in the movie. However violet and sick the movie is, it is watched and critiqued by many, even though it is banned in many countries.

Plan 9 from Outer Space
Director: Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Released: 1959
Duration: 79 minutes
Actors: Bela Lugosi, Vampira, Lyle Talbot.
Famous Quotes: “Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.”
This movie is so bad, it’s good. It has a ridiculous plot, where an alien race resurrects all the dead people on the planet. Why? Because the human race has invented a weapon that can cause the universe to collapse. Gone are the questions that even seem remotely logical. This movie laughs in the face of logic and then bashes a pie in your face. And you know what? The pie is surprisingly good.

Cult Status
It bombed badly when it was released and was buried in obscurity before it was listed as one of the worst movies ever made. It also brought its director Ed Wood the accolade of the worst director ever. The movie is so bad, it cannot be parodied. No wonder it gives a good time to people who watch it.

Alien
Director: Ridley Scott
Released: 1979
Duration: 117 minutes
Actors: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt.
Famous Quotes: Ash: “I admire its purity. A survivor… unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.”

Ripley: “Micro changes in air density, my ass.”
Innovative filming is the hallmark of Ridley Scott movies, and hence, he features on this list again. The film shows a spacecraft traveling in deep space, returning from a mining expedition. It is forced to land and investigate on a planet which hosts a terribly parasitic species of an alien race.

Cult Status
The movie was the first to have a female as an all out leader, both in the cast and in the story. The concepts of terraforming, stasis and artificial intelligence, and androids are well portrayed in the movie. It became a cult hit with sci-fi fans, and is very popular in conventions around the world

Battle Royale
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Released: 2000
Duration: 113 minutes
Actors: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Masanobu Ando, Kou Shibasaki.
Famous Quotes: “So today’s lesson is, you kill each other off till there’s only one left. Nothing’s against the rules.”

“It’s beautiful, even though it’s where everyone died.”
This movie’s plot is almost like a fantasy of a very strict headmaster. In the movie, a class of 8th grade students are rounded and taken on a deserted island, where they are told that only one will survive. They are instructed to kill each other, and if they refuse to do so, everyone would be killed, thanks to an electronic tamper-proof collar fitted onto each one of them.

Cult Status
The movie inspired Quentin Tarantino and Hunger Games. The movie spoke about teenage problems and their behavior in hostile situations. It also inspired movies like The Tournament and Gamer.

Akira
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo
Released: 1988
Duration: 124 minutes
Actors: Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Taro Ishida, Mizuho Suzuki.
Famous Quotes: “Amoebas don’t build houses and bridges, they only eat.”

“The future is not a straight line. It is filled with many crossroads. There must be a future that we can choose for ourselves.”
The central character in the movie is Tetsuo, a member of a radical biker gang in the streets of Tokyo. Tetsuo has psionic powers, and that’s what makes the gang powerful. The gang’s leader Kaneda wants to prevent Tetsuo from unleashing Akira, who is too powerful and can cause catastrophic destruction if freed.

Cult Status
The movie was released in 1988 and exposed the western markets to Manga animation. It also had landmark animation techniques which were used in almost every other animated movie that came out of Japan. It also had Cyberpunk undertones, which inspired The Matrix.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Director: Jim Sharman
Released: 1975
Duration: 100 minutes
Actors: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick.
Famous Quotes: “I’m just a sweet transvestite, from Transsexual Transylvania.”

“And crawling on the planet’s face, some insects called the human race. Lost in time, and lost in space… and meaning.”
This movie is a homage to B-grade movies with reanimations, UFOs, and apocalypse featuring in the movie. As with Plan 9, this movie too was first released as a midnight movie, and did not get recognition right away. But a ridiculous script and over-the-top costumes caught the eyes of the audiences.

Cult Status
The audiences themselves started dressing like the characters in the show and re-enacting it as a play in theaters, thus increasing its publicity. The number of such groups kept on increasing and many such re-enactments took place, making it the movie with the longest running theatrical release in film history.

Back to the Future
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Released: 1985
Duration: 116 minutes
Actors: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover.
Famous Quotes: Marty McFly: “Whoa. This is heavy.”

Dr. Emmett Brown: “There’s that word again. “Heavy.” Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth’s gravitational pull?”
This movie is about a time travel adventure and how it can go wrong. Marty, an easygoing teenager, is friends with a seemingly nutcase/eccentric of a scientist, Emmett ‘Doc’ Brown. Doc creates a car that can go back or forward in time, and when things go wrong, Marty unexpectedly finds himself in the past, where things go lower south.

Cult Status
The film is appreciated by scientists for its innovative portrayal of time travel. The movie spawned a series of three Back to the Future movies which were popular too. Marty’s skateboarding in the movie also influenced teenagers too. This helped because the sport was still in its nascent stage. It also set a precedent to many time travel movies in the future.

Showgirls
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Released: 1995
Duration: 131 minutes
Actors: Elizabeth Berkley, Kyle MacLachlan, Gina Gershon, Glenn Plummer, Robert Davi.
Famous Quotes: “The Farmer in the Dell, The Farmer in the Dell, I had a cherry once, and now it’s gone to hell.”

“She’s no butterfly. Tony, she’s all pelvic thrust. I mean, she prowls. She’s got it!”
Directed by Paul Verhoeven, this movie was made on a budget of $45 million. It did get theatrical release, but because of the explicit content, was given midnight slots. The plot has a woman who climbs the rungs of the Las Vegas show business, upgrading herself from a stripper to a show girl. The movie bombed badly, and is considered by many as one of the worst movies ever made.

Cult Status
This movie was popular in video rentals, making almost $100 million. The makers were also surprised by the late success their movie achieved. It was appreciated for stupid humor, and loads of nudity and explicit scenes. The movie is still popularly rented in the States, even today.

Clerks
Director: Kevin Smith
Released: 1994
Duration: 92 minutes
Actors: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Jason Mewes, Lisa Spoonhauer.
Famous Quotes: “People say crazy shit during sex. One time I called this girl “Mom.””

“I’m offering you my body and you’re offering me semantics.”
The movie, made on a shoestring budget of $27,000, launched filmmaker Kevin Smith’s career. It depicts a typical day in the life of two convenience store employees. Smith himself makes an entry in the movie as Silent Bob. The movie is the first in the series of later movies set in the ‘Askewniverse’ universe made by Kevin Smith.

Cult Status
This film is very funny, and after Miramax agreed to distribute it, it generated more than $3 million in box office collection. It was a surprise hit, and was appreciated by audiences and critics alike. The movie makes entries into many top comedy movies lists, rated well by various critics and publishers.

Korean Movies

Memories of Murder
This is a crime-drama that is based on a true life event. It is about the country’s first known case of serial murders. These murders took place between the year 1986 and 1991. Song Kang-Ho one of the most popular actors of Korean cinema along with Kim Sang-kyung starred as a detectives who try to solve the crime. It all happens when the police force was neither equipped nor experienced in solving a crime of such a scale. This engrossing movie will require your full attention. Must watch for thriller buffs.

A Moment to Remember
Have you ever experienced the loss and discovery within a relationship that is marred by Alzheimer’s disease? A Moment to Remember is does just that makes it so endearing. The movie begins on a romantic comedy note. It moves on to a blissful married life of the couple where the husband (Jung Woo-sung) discovers that his wife (Son Ye-jin) is suffering from forgetfulness. The movie then moves on to the revelation aspect of Alzheimer’s that the wife is diagnosed with. Despite all the trials the couple goes through due her forgetfulness, the couple remains committed. Finally, Su-jin forgets all her memories and Woo-sung visits her in the hospital hiding his tears behind glasses. All those who love sweet, eternal romance should watch this movie.

Old Boy
This movie is based on a Japanese manga of the same name. The story is about Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik), who shown in a police station for drunken public disorder. He is bailed out by his friend and on release he calls his daughter home who is waiting for him to celebrate her birthday. He disappears on his way home and realizes that he is imprisoned against his will in a cheap motel room. He remains captive for the next 15 years and he doesn’t even know why. After his release, he still finds himself in a web of conspiracy as well as violence. Will he ever be able to free himself from the conspiracy? Watch the movie to uncover the mystery.

My Little Bride
This was the first Korean movie I watched and fell in love with Korean cinema. This is a sweet, innocent romantic comedy about an arranged marriage between a teacher and a student. A 15-year-old high school girl (Moon Geun Young) who have a crush one her school’s baseball team ace is ordered to marry Kim Rae Won, a new teacher by her grandfather. This is all because the grandfather had made a pact with Rae Won during the Korean War. Despite opposition they are married. Young decides to act as if she does not have a husband and dates her crush. Everything goes well, until the day Rae Won comes to her school as a teacher. Do these young lovebirds fall in love and live happily? Do watch this movie and find out.

Windstruck
Fantasy, romance, comedy all in one. Windstuck is one of the top grossing movies of 2004. The story is about Officer Yeo Kyung-jin (Jun Ji-hyun), an ambitious female police officer. She accidentally cathes Go Myung-woo (Jang Hyuk) who is a physics teacher. Soon, they start romancing each other and Myung-woo tells her that if he were ever to die he will come back as the wind. In an shocking twist, Myung-woo is killed by a shot fired by another officer in a freak accident. Kyung-jin thinks she killed him and falls into a suicidal depression. She tries to jump off the building but is saved by a giant balloon float. She starts experiencing Myun-woo as the wind. A love story that one should not miss watching.

The History of Silent Films

First Motion Picture Documentation
The history of silent movies begins with the history of cinema itself; as all movies made in those times did not have sound. Eadweard Muybridge’s Sallie Gardner at a Gallop was the first silent film ever to be made. It documented equine motion and was released in 1878. The film consisted of a series of 24 photographs that were projected on the Zoopraxiscope (considered the first movie projector) in succession at high speeds to create the illusion of motion. Muybridge’s Zoopraxiscope was the inspiration behind the Kinetoscope, which was meant for individual viewing. It used the same basic technique of relaying successive photographs to create the illusion of motion. However, in spite of being a ‘motion’-picture, Sallie Gardner at a Gallop cannot be really called a ‘film’, as it was merely a relay of successive photographs that created the ‘illusion’ of motion.

First Narrative Film
The first narrative film ever, Roundhay Garden Scene was made by Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince. It was released on 14 October 1888, and was only 2 seconds long! Louis Le Prince is considered the true father of motion picture. Motion pictures matured into full-length feature films in the 1920s, but still lacked sound. It is this short period of a few decades that is referred to as the era of silent cinema.

The Cast and the Crew
Silent movies were at their peak by the 1920s – the decade saw the birth of many a legend and many a masterpiece. By the 1920s, people had mastered the art of speaking volumes without saying a word. In fact, so adept was the film fraternity with the concept of silent films, that for quite a few years after the ‘talkies’ arrived, movies failed to create the impact they did in the silent era, for directors and actors alike could not deal with all the sound!

Acting
Charlie Chaplin, one of the geniuses of the silent era, very correctly once said that “Cinema is pantomimic art”. No sound meant no dialogs, so your body language and facial expressions had to do all the talking. Many actors hence adopted hyperbole in their acting. You may notice many actors exaggerate their actions in silent films – you fall, it has to be dramatic; you are sad, you have to be melodramatic; you are falling in love, you have to bat your eye-lashes and blush! Exaggeration worked especially well for comedies. Exaggerating grief is something that can very quickly and easily go wrong. But they all managed to do it beautifully; and that is sheer brilliance.

Music
The importance of music in creating a mood was already known – music was effectively used to the same purpose in plays and dramas. In the very beginning, music was only used to entertain the audiences before the actual movie began, and during the intertitles. Later, movies came to be accompanied with live music performances that coordinated with the scene. Theater organs were used to create special sound effects too. However, most of the movies adapted theater music and improvised on it. The first ever movie to have an original music score was D.W. Griffith’s 1915 epic The Birth of a Nation(composed by Joseph Carl Breil). As silent movies reached their highest peaks of success, the popularity of plays and dramas slowly waned.

Direction
Directors of the silent era never shied away from experimenting, for movies were still new to everyone. While most directors insisted on their actors being theatrical, melodramatic and flamboyant, a few allowed the actors to identify their own acting styles, and act naturally and candidly. Many movie-makers considered this style as rather mellow and subtle. With barely any sound and no dialogs, direction was hence a big challenge, which talented, daring directors took up bravely, and did justice to it.

Dialogs
When the requirement of saying something was unavoidable, movies made use of something called intertitles. Intertitles were text plates interspersed between the visuals. They helped carry the story from one point in the plot to another. Intertitles themselves went through various stages, from simple text intertitles to elaborate ones, sometimes even carrying an illustration of one or more of the movie characters. Writing intertitles became a profession, and soon people apart from the screenplay writers (or scenario writers, as they were called back then) came to be hired to write intertitles for movies! Intertitles evolved too, like all other aspects of silent movies, to become a special feature of the films.

Technology
The technology which was used to make movies in the silent era – and hence the norms that governed movie-making – are completely different from those which exist now. But even thinking of showing a small boy flying on a broomstick or a man dreaming would have seemed blasphemous in the silent era! And yet it was achieved brilliantly by G.A. Smith as early as in the year 1898, using a technique called double exposure. Other techniques like stop motion were also used to add to the movie-watching experience. Film continuity, slow motion, animation – some of the techniques that have become the basics of movie-making now, were all developed in the silent era of cinema.

Most Celebrated Legends of the Silent Era
Some of the initial movies were written, directed, and produced by a single person. Even after various divisions were established, some ambitious movie-makers continued to make ‘all-me’ films, where they worked on more than just one aspect of movie-making. Below is an account of some of the most celebrated legends of the silent cinema.

D.W. Griffith
The man who directed the epic The Birth of a Nation (1915), D.W. Griffith is regarded by film historians as one of the greatest American film directors ever, although he arrived in New York with the dreams of becoming a successful playwright. He made his debut in the film industry as an actor in Edward Porter’s Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest. With The Birth of a Nation, Griffith raised the bar of movies to another level. The movie set many a record, becoming the highest grossing film in history, and the first American feature film. Griffith is also celebrated for his other films – Lady Helen’s Escapade, Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages, and Broken Blossoms; all of which have been preserved by the United States National Film Registry.

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle
Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was an actor, director and screenwriter. But he is widely and most significantly acknowledged for his comic genius. Arbuckle’s is a life full of controversies. When he was born, his father named him after a politician he despised, because he did not believe Roscoe was his child. From childhood, Roscoe had a very melodious voice. He was soon pulled into vaudeville for his singing talent. Arbuckle’s acting debut was Ben’s Kid. He popularized the cliché gag ‘pie in the face’ that went on to be adapted into several comedies of the silent era. But more than anything else, I think we are all indebted to Arbuckle for having mentored Charlie Chaplin (it is believed ‘The Tramp’ was adapted from Arbuckle’s dressing style) and discovered Buster Keaton; two very famous personalities of the silent era.

Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin is one of the most sensitive comedians to have ever existed. You watch a Chaplin movie, and you laugh – but look into the eyes of the actor, and you cannot help shedding a tear. Chaplin’s early life had him face tough times and go through hardships unimaginable of a small boy. It must have, however, paved the way for his film-technique – for Chaplin’s humor is one that begins with laughter but leaves you ashamed of yourself and what the world around is turning into. Chaplin had the power to make you introspect, after giving you a good laugh – almost as if he were challenging you. Chaplin’s films came to define and dominate the silent era, especially in the 1920s. Two of his films – The Gold Rush and The Circus, went on to become top-grossing silent films in the United States.

Buster Keaton
If Charlie Chaplin epitomizes pantomime, Buster Keaton is ‘The Great Stone Face’ (as he was nicknamed). Keaton’s comic appeal came from the way his characters in different films were always unfazed by the events occurring around them. Keaton’s debut in The Butcher Boy was first in the legacy of films of the duo that Arbuckle and Keaton made. Keaton went on to become Arbuckle’s gag-man, second-director, and best friend for life, who was to stand by Arbuckle through all his highs and lows. Such was the acting and directorial genius of the man, that he has been ranked as the 7th greatest director of all times (Entertainment Weekly) and 21st greatest male star of all times (American Film Institute). He and Arbuckle together as a pair have given the film industry some of the best comedy films.

Sergei Eisenstein
One cannot talk of silent cinema and not mention Eisenstein, a director and a film theorist. Eisenstein traveled a lot throughout his life. As a young boy, Sergei took up architecture and engineering, his father’s profession. Eisenstein’s introduction to the arts came with the study of the Japanese language, when he learned about the Kabuki theater. Eisenstein is best known for his silent film Battleship Potemkin. One who has seen this film cannot help but remember and shudder at the aesthetic beauty in which the Odessa Steps scene was shot. Though not entirely factual, the incident was added in the film to emphasize on the cruelties of the Imperial regime. Alexander Nevsky, one of Eisenstein’s talkies, won him the Order Of Lenin.

Making Way For The Talkies
The first ever talking movie was The Jazz Singer, which was released in 1927. However, attempts to construct a device that could combine visuals and sound had been made many years prior to the release of this movie. Thomas Edison’s Kinetophone was probably the earliest of movie projectors to combine sound and visuals. Even after the release of the first talky, silent films continued to reign the cinema world for quite a few years. The early attempts of the film fraternity to adapt to ‘talking movies’ were clumsy, and for a brief period, the quality of work produced reduced significantly. But even as talkies gained popularity, many a director, producer and film-maker continued to make silent movies, some with the specific intention of making a film that would celebrate the art of silent cinema, and some to pay a tribute to an era gone by. Murnau’s City Girl (1930), and Chaplin’s Modern Times(1931), are few such examples.

The names of many more maestros are associated with the silent era; like the German film director and expressionist F.W. Murnau, or Fritz Lang, who gave us the earliest science fiction film Metropolis, which was also the most expensive silent film ever made. Some film personalities even began their careers in the silent era and continued to work through the talkies till as late as the 1980s, like the silent era actress Lilian Gish, who had one of the longest careers, a complete 75 years!

Beginning at personal experiments ending in a two-second clip, the U.S. movie industry has grown into a gigantic force providing employment to more than 2 million people, and contributing grossly $180 billion each year to the U.S. economy. We indeed have a lot to owe to personalities of the silent film era, for they developed in us a taste to see motion on a screen, even though it was without sound. The art of silent movies will be celebrated by generations to come.