Thursday, June 27, 2013

Struggling for the Remote Control

The strum of the guitar and the hum of the violin circle around our living room’s airspace while I listen to “Requiem”. However, I hear not only the melody; I also hear my parents’ whines about my choice of music.

I  swear I will fit in my mother's mouth.

You're just making noise. My father comments, and tries to press the Stop button. I whine, It's better-off like that than me rapping in a hysterical voice while blocking his way with my arm. I feel the force on my arm disappear, and with a frown he steps back; leaving me in my world of history, politician bashing, and my penchant for instrumental, j-pop and j-rock and European pop.

The history of my family is, was, and (I think) will always be a history of dominating our 14 year old mini-component. But I never pay attention to it and whatever genre my father listens to, whether it is slow rock, 50’s, or 80’s disco. I turn my attention to my dominion –the television.

My first favorite songs were “What’s up” by the Four Non-Blondes and “Ode to my Family” by The Cranberries, I was four then. But I gained complete music consciousness by the time I thought Alanis Morisette was a guy, and when the Backstreet Boys were actually mainstreet and are larger than life. It was 1996, which I considered as my baptism to the world of music industry, coinciding with my first day in Grade One.

As a young girl, I thought of myself a Spice Girls expert (in terms of knowing the lyrics) that my seatmates just stared at me in disbelief. Once, I heard my neighbor sing “Stop” in videoke with a voice like the braying of a donkey, and I decided to snatch the microphone from her hand, though my plan failed. I casually walked from the living room and out of our house, but I made the biggest mistake while putting on my slippers: I looked up at my mother who had a “look” that told me to behave myself. Scratching the back of my ear, I went inside, and endured letting my neighbor butcher my favorite song.

I'll kill the bitch who's killing the song!

Then my consciousness fell on Britney Spears, and I always thought in Grade Five that those who like her were lower life forms. But Grade Six was a different thing. I heard one of my classmates sang “Stronger” while the class was doing a seatwork:

Now I’m stronger than yesterday / Now it’s nothing but my way

And I found my self singing along. I stopped and widened my eyes in terror, realizing I became one of whom I thought were lower life forms. I shook my head, trying to concentrate on my notebook, though without success. Frowning, I thought, “Hah! So what?”, and sang with the girls, my loneliness is killing me no more/ I’m / I’m stronger.

But while my classmates already started to think of painting their faces, I thought of something different; something that would set me apart from other girls. And I found a new genre: nu - metal. The drum solos, easy-to-follow lyrics and mind-blowing vocals hooked me. And again, I found my self singing Shinoda’s rap solo in Linkin’ Park’s “In the End” with the boys during recess.

Yes, some time here we rocked and rapped. Believe me. :D

With this music background, one might think that the CD rack of our mini-component was full of my CDs, and that I hold the remote control. No. Conquering the component was still far from my mind; it was still my father’s. I kept holding on to the television until when I was in high school, as this was my MTV, MYX, and Channel V days. I literally spent my weekends and afternoons watching Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Mandy Moore, t.A.T.u., and being amused with how big Steve Tyler’s mouth was (which left me wide-eyed in shock when my friend told me in college that he was the father of Liv Tyler).

In awe with the power of Tyler's mouth.

One day while watching, I stared for a long time at the television which swarmed with images of four long-haired guys who called themselves F4. Another boyband, I thought, and I ignored them. Whenever their faces appeared on MYX, I switched to MTV and would see their faces again, I switched to Channel V and it was showing Vic Zhou’s video. Dejected, I tuned in to the news saying that Jerry Yang will come to my country. I pouted and turned the TV off, fighting the urge to scream unless I wake my mother from her nap.

Spare me,


But before the F4 mania, my classmates were warring against each other for protecting the cause of A1 or Westlife. One camp said that the former’s lead guy looked gay; the other camp said that the latter’s members don’t know how to dance. I waited for 10 solid minutes, and the girls were rolling on the classroom’s floor with their hands on each other’s head. Then come second year high school, and they fainted and sang F4’s songs together. Foreign boybands are something, I thought. I never liked them, but if I got something from not liking them, it was coming to the conclusion that the music industry thrived and bloomed because of swooning (and fighting) fangirls (and looking at my students now, fanboys).

While everybody was singing their songs, I was discovering j-pop and Celtic music through Utada Hikaru and Enya. Both were not very convincing singers though. I always felt that I will lose my breath whenever Utada tried to belt a note, and Enya never tried to go higher than her signature monotone. But with them, I discovered the most creative songs around. Their songs were not commercial success stories here, but their songs showed that music should make the world a saner place and must shake cultural barriers. However, the fainting fangirls and the rocker boys tagged me as the resident music geek. As for me, I know a wider range of songs, and didn’t go with the dictates of music labels. I wore the tag as a badge of honor.

The music channels on free TV went off-air and I started to relieve my self of our television. I turned my eyes at the thing below our TV, and finally infected our mini-component with j-rock (Ikimono Gakari), European pop (t.A.T.u.), and anime orchestra soundtracks. Thus, I started my domination of the mini-component, the DVD player and the remote controls. However, my domination was not without opposition. My father kept on blasting Bon Jovi, and reaching for the Stop button. My mother kept on telling me that I am not Japanese or Russian, so may I turn it off now? As for me, I told them that “Our country is a democratic country”.

One day while I was playing one of my favorite tracks, my father asked me what its language was. Russian, I answered, he said it was good and reached for the remote control. I snatched it first; I smiled and turned the volume higher. It was the first time that he liked the song that I raved for, and I ended up playing it every time I turn on the component. But because my parents just couldn’t stand and understand a foreign word, I had to partially go back to Pussycat Dolls out of necessity, but I still sneaked my songs in between and owned the component again.

If only parents would take the time to sit and listen to the “weird” music stuff of their estrogen-oozing and testosterone-driven teenagers, then they wouldn’t be trapped forever in a time when Elvis was gyrating his hips and Diana Ross was telling us it’s her turn. At the same time, if kids and teenagers like me won’t go screaming from the living room (Eww! That’s so dinosaur era!) whenever they hear 60’s music that their parents loved, then they will know who their parents were before. If these happened, I’m very sure it will lead to saner households and quieter homes, because the only thing that will be heard will be the music that everybody enjoys, and not the bickering of the family members who are debating which genre (and generation) is better.

Whenever I look back at my life, I realize that it was a preparation for taking over the remote controls of our appliances. And now that I am competing against my parents for our mini-component, I notice that our house became noisier, not only because of my whining and my parents’ protests and comments, but also because of the mixing of disco music to j-rock and slow rock to OSTs: the old and the new’s cusping.

As I hear the strum of the guitar slowly fade, I run from the bathroom to the living area, and I hold my mother’s hand turning the volume knob.


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