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The Evening Host


Outside, the rain had stopped thumping hard on the ground. A slight drizzle fell gently on the tar. It was still dark and eerie. Umbrellas were laid along a neat row beside the French windows. One by one, men and women started trickling in.

I stood against the yellow walls of the corridor admiring a painting of the Evening Host. It showed him seated at a beach, looking up at the dull sky. In a checked shirt and shorts, he was tightly holding on to that infamous briefcase, where he safely tucked away those original scores and notes, some of which will unfold before us today – at least, that’s what the advertisement in the paper said. The papers had dubbed him ‘the next big thing’, in bold, caps. As to the next big thing in what, I will let you see for yourself.

The bell rang, sharply, at exactly five minutes to seven. Having been brought back to life by the sudden shrill, the man next to me who was standing still all this time, jumped in alarm, but quickly began playing with the buttons on his mobile phone as if nothing had happened. A second bell was rung almost immediately, louder than before. With it, the chatter in the corridor was brought to a neat halt, as if signaled to by a conductor. Showing little civility, the crowd fled along the corridor in quite an unruly fashion, the unsteady dragged along by their more sturdy partners. There was a sense of excitement here, among this crowd. Anxiety too, will the Evening Host fail to meet their expectations? If so, what would be his fate?

A series of whispers…
Well orchestrated OOoo’s and aaaaahhhhh’s…
Tangling of bags and keys…
Thud on the floor…
Vibrating wood…
Shifting of chairs…

Little by little, the corridors are emptied.

Inside the hall, the lights are dimmed. At the far back, latecomers are seen quietly making their way across the hall, aided by their telephone lights.

Behind the curtain, the Evening Host wipes away blots of sweat from his neck as he tightens his tie, looking smart, professional and gentlemanly. He rubs his hands, pats his cheeks and runs a comb through his hair. He smiles at the mirror as if expecting for the poor thing to comment on his look. Of course, the mirror has seen what the party hasn’t seen. His scar for instance, now well hidden under the back of his hand, the half broken pendent resting against his chest, that oh-so-aw-worthy tattoo and a single tear that had appeared on his face a few minutes ago but was quickly rubbed off.

“It’s time,” said the old man, one of his most trusted aids who had stood by him always. With a nod, a smile and a pat, the Evening Host came out to face his audience.

He could only make out unclear figures, apart from the dignitaries at the front. But, he acknowledged their applause as he took his seat at the centre, under the light – the only light.

Then he began his tale – of why he was worthy of that fragile title, ‘the next big thing’, written in bold, caps. This was his own composition, and it was his story that he recalled there. The early hardships, the ghastly pauses, the uneven bars and the disturbing triads. The daring run up a chromatic scale, the trying arguments – the imitative rhythms – yet each more intense than the previous, the sudden bursts, the startling fortissimo… Then, he moves on to the more rhythmic passages of his life. He speaks of happiness, of satisfaction marked by pleasing harmonies. The sudden bouts of joy accompanied by trills and mellow passages. It’s a clever bend in the score. At one point it’s furious, bold and disjoined. He’s surely paid no attention to the rules governing the system. There’s the angry flip of the pages, the mastery flying of his fingers, the pain in his eyes, the surprise in his tone, the occasional jump on his seat. He invites the audience to tango. They respond. Along with him, they jostle, grieve and smirk. He steals a note, here, there and they follow his cue. He flirts, he sings, he cries… through the score. They do too, for 20 minutes, as they let themselves be a part of his journey.

And then, as if ordered to, he stops. His run across his score has ended. His story told through this piece, performed on the instrument he was famed for, the piano.

There is no room for silence here. The audience response is fitting. They ask for an encore. There are flowers gifted to him. The roar inside the hall is deafening.

The man next to me – the same still one, who was this time nibbling the point of his pen, in excitement, perhaps – took out some paper and wrote in bold, caps, ‘music’s big gun’, cut it and wrote again in bold, caps, ‘music’s next big thing is here to stay’. He scratched the writing off, pondering perhaps on the best way to describe music’s next big thing, as the Evening Host, the man to take the music world by storm, humbly took his leave. His fate sealed?

(Some editing might be needed…)


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