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Here's OBSCURUS Episode 42 - NATALIE
Welcome to OBSCURUS, your weekly dose of paranormal fiction. Every Wednesday OBSCURUS features new short stories and serialized novels written by novelist, screenwriter, and voice-over artist Biswajit Banerjee. The realm of the paranormal stretches far beyond the usual horror story. So, while you will get to listen to lots of ghost stories on this podcast, there will also be many tales of lesser-known paranormal themes. To get us started, here's your host Biswajit Banerjee.
HOST TALK 00:00:47
Hello, and welcome to OBSCURUS. My name is Biswajit Banerjee, and I am your host for this show. Today’s story is about an untrained lyricist, composer, and singer.
Before I tell his story, I would like to request you to visit my website biswajitbanerjee.com for information on my books, movies, and voice-over work. Please don’t forget to become a member of the site and join my mailing list.
Would you also visit obscurus.buzzsprout.com, my second website that is completely devoted to this podcast? You will find all OBSCURUS episodes, their transcripts, and chapter markers on this website.
Now, let’s jump into the story. By writing, composing, and singing a song titled Natalie, an untrained musician rises to the peak of fame and glory. Though his popularity as a musician grows, he realizes that his subsequent songs aren’t as powerful as Natalie. Is there a way he can write, compose, and sing more songs of Natalie’s quality? Come, let’s find out.
Written and Performed by Biswajit Banerjee
Somewhere in the mist, I see
The very feel fills me with glee
Spirits are speaking to me
Oh yes, she is the one, one is she
Yes, life nectar flows from thee
You’re the flower; I’m the bee
Natalie, Natalie, Natalie, Natalie
This song shot me to fame as a lyricist, composer, and singer. Well, I will come to that a little later. Let me first place some plain facts before you. For many in the international music industry, I am neither a lyricist nor a singer. The reasons? Because I am not trained in any form of music. If you talk about octaves, I will not understand your words. As regards meter and rhythm – no, I don’t understand much of those terms. Don’t talk about musical notations – I don’t appreciate them any better than I comprehend Egyptian hieroglyphics. Yet, I have music in my heart and soul – music that’s raw and not touched by any theory.
Though I had always been an admirer of good music, I never imagined taking up music as a profession. Then one day, I heard a divine voice; yes, indeed, a divine voice. Never before in my life did I hear a voice that melodious. Though the language of the song was alien to me, the voice touched my heart. The song was playing in an Indian restaurant which I had visited for supper. Jeevan se bhari teri aankhen – those were the words with which the song started. An Indian attendant told me those words meant Your eyes are full of life and the deific voice was that of Kishore Kumar, one of the most popular playback singers from the Indian film Industry. Kishore Kumar’s voice touched my heart and soul. The language was no barrier – the voice was so powerful and full of emotions that I knew the import of the song at once. Love that is all-expansive and bereft of the sense of possessiveness is the greatest liberating force. And this force is strong enough to infuse life into a corpse. The lyrics must have been powerful, but the true power lay in the voice. Yes, a great voice could turn dead lyrics into supreme melody – the maestro’s voice proved it.
Later I did some research on Kishore Kumar. To my utter surprise, I discovered that he was completely untrained. Although he might have picked up some musical wisdom on his way to stardom, he was essentially a singer by heart and soul and not by training. The maestro passed away in the late nineteen eighties leaving behind a vacuum that never got filled.
Over the next few months, I listened to thousands of songs sung by the maestro. I also learned that Kishore Kumar was not just a singer but an actor, screenwriter, movie director, lyricist, and music composer. And everything he did, he did with his heart and soul. Such wisdom! Such talents! And such versatility!
Oh, you might have guessed it by now – I wanted to be like Kishore Kumar. No, I had no plans of taking to acting, screenwriting, or film direction. But I certainly wished to be a lyricist, tune composer, and singer. Please note the expression like in the statement I wanted to be like Kishore Kumar. No one for sure, regardless of one’s musical training and practice, could come within miles of the maestro. So, to become Kishore Kumar or to get anywhere close to his talents was impossible. But one could aspire to be like him in one’s approach to music. What I mean is one could try to write songs, compose tunes, and sing with one’s heart and soul even if one is completely untrained.
So, I gave up my job as a management executive in a multinational company and started writing, composing, and singing songs. My parents, relatives, and friends were surprised. Some thought I had gone bonkers. To give up a regular day job to pursue a career in music was foolhardy; at least, that’s what people around me would have me believe.
Anyway, I stayed put and continued to write and sing songs. By the way, I wrote my songs in English and not in the local tongue. This made things even more difficult for me in the initial part of my musical journey. While the Swedish music industry didn’t find these songs reflective of the country's cultural ethos, the international music circuitry dismissed them as immature attempts by a non-native English speaker.
The first four albums I made with the help of a top sound studio in Stockholm by investing most of my savings flopped. Some of my friends suggested that I go back to my job and give up this craze of becoming a lyricist and a singer.
Indeed, I also contemplated giving up on my dreams. If it had not been for the big poster of Kishore Kumar in my bedroom that constantly inspired me to continue to write and sing songs, I would have given up after the four flops.
I spent the next few weeks thinking about what was going wrong with my songs. One day late in the evening, the reason dawned on me – I wasn’t infusing enough of my heart and soul into the songs. I needed to do a lot more. And then I opened the portals deep inside my being. The result was Natalie.
Believe it or not – the song just happened. I didn’t have to exert my mind to write it. The words and the tune just flowed into my mind. To tell the truth, I still don’t fully understand what the words mean even though I wrote the song. Oh, maybe it is wrong to say I wrote it. A more correct way to say it is that I acted as an instrument for some unknown force in the universe to write the song.
When the song was ready, I sang and recorded it in a local radio station, which also arranged the music. The radio station broadcast it late in the evening, and it was an instant hit! A music producer from England was in the town, and he loved the song.
The next day the producer invited me to his hotel. He bought the production rights of the song. Of course, the purchase was subject to the condition that I would sing the song. Within days, I was in central London recording the song for him. Natalie was released as a part of a collection of twelve songs by various singers of the day, some of whom already enjoyed celebrity status. And then I was a celebrity myself! In less than a month, I signed at least ten contracts for writing lyrics, composing tunes, and singing songs for movies and music albums.
That was ten years back, now I am a rich man with music and film producers virtually at my beck and call. Although I have many detractors – some of them call me an illiterate in music, and some call me a sick lyricist, composer, and singer – I have thrived as a musician because my songs have captivated the popular imagination.
Here, my story takes a turn. I continued to grow as a musician in terms of popularity, but in my own assessment, I was not doing very well as a lyricist, composer, and singer. Why? Because another Natalie hadn't happened. All songs that I wrote, composed, and sang after Natalie were good, but none matched the quality of Natalie. There was something ethereal about Natalie that didn’t quite get replicated. My fans might not have sensed it, but I did.
Natalie, I have already mentioned, got written through what I can now best describe as divine inspiration. The songs that followed Natalie were constructs of my own creative faculties, and they didn’t come to me from an unknown force. Unknown force? At times, I wondered if Natalie really came to me from some source outside my being, or was it my own creative self that made the song. After all, if it was the creation of an unknown force, why did that force cease to create more such songs? Did it just intend to create one and only one musical gem through me? I had no answers.
Irrespective of how Natalie came into being, I desired that the creative force behind the song got active again. Not that my music career would get affected if the force didn’t act again, for I was now too rich and famous and established to witness my career graph plummet, but I somehow wasn’t happy about creating music far below Natalie's level.
So, I took a week’s break last summer and visited the French countryside for some rest and self-contemplation. A break, I reasoned, might bring me back in touch with the force that I wasn’t sure lay inside or outside of my being.
A French film producer had made all the arrangements for my break. The large mansion was roughly in the center of a commune called Château-Chalon atop a hill in the first fold of the Jura hilly ranges. One side of the village was nothing more than a hilly terrain, the side opposite sloped away in vineyards famous for white wine.
Three people – an elderly man called Antoine and his two assistants Louis and Andre – were the resident caretakers of the mansion. They took good care of me. Pristine nature, fresh air, clear sky, friendly people, great food, and white wine – this was no less than paradise. One of Antoine’s assistants had placed an easy chair on the lawn of the mansion. I would sit there for hours together, looking for divine inspiration.
Good times pass quickly – goes a saying, and indeed the dreamlike break whizzed past me. Soon I found myself in the evening of the day preceding the one I was to leave for Paris and then catch a flight back to Stockholm. My meditations and self-searching were pleasurable and peace-giving, but they didn’t give me another Natalie till that point in time.
“Sir,” Antoine spoke from behind me.
I had my gaze on the skies with my head resting on the back rail of the easy chair. “Yes, Antoine.”
“With your permission, my assistants and I would like to leave now.”
“Leave now? What do you mean, Antoine? You guys live in the mansion itself, don’t you?”
“Yes, Sir. But today, we have to attend a marriage party. The bride’s father is my friend, and there are plans for nightlong celebrations.”
“Okay, then …”
“Don’t worry, Sir. We will be back by four in the morning. Tomorrow, you have to catch an evening flight from Paris Airport, we know that. The cab that will take you straight to the airport will arrive by nine in the morning.”
“So, should I leave the main door unlocked at night?”
“No, Sir. Please lock the main door before you go to bed. When we come back around four, we will open it; we have the keys.”
About half an hour after they left, I sensed a presence around me. I got up from the easy chair and looked around. There was no one. Within moments of settling down in the chair again, I heard a pleasant female voice speak from behind me. “Sir.”
I turned around. A girl it was. She must have been in her mid-twenties. With a friendly smile adorning her full lips, the girl walked past the chair to face me. Oh, her looks were stunning, to say the least – golden hair falling over her bare arms, blue eyes, sharp nose, pointed chin, and a curvaceous body – she would shame the top models and actresses of the day.
“Are you here to meet Antoine?”
“No, Sir, I have come to meet you.”
“Have we met before?”
“I am your fan; my name is Natalie.”
“Yes, I know you have a song by that title.”
“Okay,” I said with a smile, “you seem to know quite a lot about me.”
“Who doesn’t know about you, Sir? You are a celebrity musician.”
“Why don’t you pull a chair?”
“Oh, thank you so much.”
Natalie walked a little distance and picked up a plastic chair lying there.
“Who told you about my being here?”
“Words spread about a celebrity’s movements and whereabouts. Who will know that better than you, Sir?” Natalie said as she placed the chair close to the easy chair and sat.
The evening sun played with her white skin and tresses – celestial beauty!
“Do you live in this village?”
“Am I so popular in this village too?”
“Of course, you are, but Sir ….”
“One’s popularity is not an indicator of how good a musician one is.”
Oh, she just voiced my thoughts. Who was she?
“Well, you are ….”
“Don’t you agree with me?”
“I absolutely do, Natalie. The reasons I am here in this little village is ….”
“Let me take a guess. Although your songs are hugely popular, you believe you aren’t writing, composing, and singing songs that are of the level of the one that shot you to fame – Natalie. So, you thought you might get the kind of inspiration you need to create a song of the level of Natalie by way of meditation and soul-searching.”
Yet again, she gave expressions to my thoughts.
“Natalie … who are you?”
“I have already told you – I am your fan.”
“But how do you know so much about me? Nobody knows why I have taken this break; I didn’t mention the reasons to anyone.”
“Well, I simply told you what my heart and soul suggested to me.”
“Heart and soul – I use that expression quite often.”
“Oh yes, I remember you using that expression in a television interview while talking about your idol Kishore Kumar. In fact, I can recall exactly what you said – Kishore Kumar sang with his heart and soul; that’s why he needed no training.”
After a period of silence, I said, “Who are you, Natalie?”
A beatific smile spread over her lips again as she said, “You know me, I am Natalie.”
We exchanged no more words. Words weren’t needed anymore.
Some faint voices flowed into my ears.
“Sir, Sir, are you okay?”
“Get up, Sir.”
“Is he breathing?”
Soon the subliminal levels of my consciousness recognized the voices around – Antoine and his assistants. Someone touched my shoulder and gave me a shake.
“There, he is opening his eyes,” Antoine said.
I slowly blinked my eyes open and found myself lying prostrate on the ground. The three men helped me sit. A little away from me lay my notebook, the one I was currently using to write my songs. Next to it lay my fountain pen.
“Are you all right, Sir?” Louis asked.
“What’s the time?”
“It is nearing 4 A.M., Sir,” Andre replied.
“Who’s Natalie, Sir?” Louis said.
“The young girl who was here sometime back.”
“Sir, you must have had a dream. There was no girl here.” Andre responded.
“She must have left after I fell asleep.”
“Impossible, Sir, no girl can come within the building premises without my permission. And I know everyone in the commune. There is no young girl by the name of Natalie in the village,” Antoine observed.
“Come, Sir, let’s go in,” Louis offered his hand.
I got up with Louis’s support.
“My notebook and pen ….”
“Don’t worry about them, Sir; I will get them,” Andre said.
Later, on my way to the Paris Airport, I checked up my luggage to see if I was carrying my notebook. Yes, it was there! I took out the notebook and flipped through its pages. There was something different about it. What was the change? I looked through its pages again. There were songs written on most of its pages in my handwriting! The songs were numbered. Altogether there were five hundred of them. And each song was of the quality of Natalie. Not just that, I knew the tunes of all the songs. No matter which song my eyes fell on, its tune instantly played in my mind!
Five hundred songs of Natali’s quality were more than enough to place me in the league of immortal lyricists, composers, and singers like Kishore Kumar, the ones who made music with their hearts and souls! But who was Natalie? Divine inspiration personified? A demigoddess walking the earth? A real girl? A figure conjured up by my powerful subconscious mind as it helped me write and compose five hundred brilliant songs in a single evening? I don’t have an answer. Do let me know if you have one.
Thanks for listening to OBSCURUS. If you like what you heard, please subscribe and visit biswajitbanerjee.com for more information about Biswajit's books, movies, documentaries, and other creative pursuits. We shall see you next Wednesday with another episode of OBSCURUS. Till then, take care!