Bachi Karkaria

Bachi Karkaria’s Erratica and its cheeky sign-off character, Alec Smart, have had a growing league of followers since 1994 when the column began in the Metropolis on Saturday.

Shakespeare was twisted to disperse the hundreds who camped outside New Zealand’s Parliament to protest against Covid-related curbs. In an unlikely proxy for water cannon, the authorities used music to ear-drum them out, playing old songs and the 1990s ‘earworm’ Macarena on a maddening loop. They also slipped in vax messages for good Measure For Measure. However, the plan didn’t work on the Twelfth Night or any other. The hope of ‘hear today, gone tomorrow’ came a cropper.  Instead, it was a case of All’s Hell That Ends Hellishly. The targets counterpointed with their own aural bombardment, belting out Twister Sister’s ‘We’re Not Gonna Take it’. The rousing American civil rights anthem, ‘We Shall Overcome’ would have been more in tune with the context.

Is the West now in the grip of an anti-Covid-restrictions wave? At NZ’s other polar end, truckers blockaded the US-Canadian border last weekend. They dispersed peacefully as the police moved in. Not so the humongous French convoy which thundered into Paris, defying barricades, tear-gas and a specially mobilised 7,000-strong gendarmerie. Clearly Macron didn’t have faith in Macarena to quell what’s become today’s avatar of WWII’s doughty French Resistance.

On the same principle as homoeopathy or the ‘hair of the dog that bit you’ hangover remedy, using ‘your’ music to counter ‘their’ music has had several improvs.  Remember the 1990s, when rath politics played the opening alaap to Hindutva? In Maharashtra, the azaan was the red raga to the bullish Bal Thackeray. The Shiv Sena supremo ordered it to be drowned not in the clang of an ordinary aarti, but in the clamour of an  amplified ‘maha-aarti’. You might call it ‘For Whom the Bal Tolls’.

Today’s electoral equivalent is the raucous whataboutery that is now more shrill, more besura, more besharam than ever in its discordant notes. In contrast, NZ’s idea of ‘aural disarmament’ is almost Gandhian. However, music being used as both offensive and counteroffensive also comes with a Mahatmaesque warning: ‘An earful for an earful can make the whole world deaf.’


Alec Smart said: “Even if his Ukraine invasion ends in red faces, he won’t Putin his papers.”



Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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