Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Coders, Superheroes, Microsoft and Raga Rock

Microsoft has been on a whirlwind of product releases and innovations. In the development space, they've released Visual Studio and SQL Server 2005, tools to build Windows applications. The launch has included free giveways of the product and detailed seminars. BillG visited India in conjunction with the launch, where he announced a $1 billion+ additional investment in technology development, besides being treated like visiting royalty by the desi technorati.

A leading Indian rock band, Parikrama, penned a song dedicated to developers, that has been chosen by Microsoft as the theme song for the launch. They performed it to an audience in Bangalore which included Bill Gates, and doubtless much applause. It is titled "Superhero", and is available online, as are most of their songs.


Springs up from the bed with a crossword in his head,
A shiver shakes his spine thinking what the boss said,
Feeling like a mouse in the tiger’s den (ah right)
Missed the bus again, runs all the way to work,
Prays to all his Gods, even Captain Kirk,
Hoping he can make it in time for the bumpy ride.

Opens all the windows, as he shuts the door,
As the magic begins to flow, out to the fore

He’s no less than a super hero
can’t make him fall
Ones and zeroes, threes and fours
But not that bad a guy after all

Afternoon comes when everyone eats,
Staring down at lines on his L.C.D screen,
Cracking up the code, faster than the speed of light.

Evening bells ringing, had to meet his date,
Digits on his hand will have to make her wait,
Smiles at his phone, then tosses it aside.

(Repeat Chorus)



Parikrama represents the best face of Indian rock music. The rock music scene in India is vibrant, and has been for many years. Most major colleges feature some form of a cultural festival, with a strong emphasis on performance art and arena rock shows. Many innovative bands and musicians have made a mark, from Gary Lawyer to Millenium and Indus Creed. The music has an Indian influence, which completes the circle begun by "raga rock". Indian classical music influences can be discerned in Indian rock, including both Carnatic and Hindustani classical themes and instruments like the tabla and the veena. (List of Indian fusion and rock bands).

Rock music bears a strong connection to the Indian techie scene. Bangalore is a key center for rock music, as well as being the Indian Silicon Valley. There are probably more coders per square mile in Bangalore than anywhere else. There are also probably more pubs per square mile than most places, and almost every pub is music-crazy. Some, like Pecos, are dedicated to rock music of a certain vintage - more's the joy. I remember hanging out at all night rock concerts in the Bannerghatta hills in the nineties, decently sozzled.

I have no data to backup this assumption, but I believe most coders are also rock fans. The state of satori one enters when one's fingers are flying on the keyboard is comparable to that induced by a classic Dead song or some fast fretboarding. Good coders tend to be treated as superheros, much like the best musicians. Originality and creativity is prized in both fields. Unfortunately for the Indian scene, Indian programmers and musicians both suffer from the same malaise - a general lack of originality. The derivative nature of code and music produced by Indian coders/musicians translates to a lowered global perception and inability to scale up the value chain - both in technology and in the music business.

Techniques and tools like Microsoft's Visual Studio, Linux, and the internalized Indian musical tradition will enable a flowering of original code and musical content that is necessary to make them a potent force on the world scene. The general independent streak of rock musicians and coders is a valuable asset in this sense. As Parikrama puts it on their website,

sing bye bye music labels ...
we're yet quite young and able
besides we got MP3 ... not the musicians, but the music for free,
so ya can hold yer hindi horses in yer own stables ...

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