Josna Rege

373. Singing

In blogs and blogging, Media, Music, Stories on April 23, 2016 at 3:44 pm


Blogging from A to Z
  Theme: Bringing Me Joy

SHaving grown up with music all around me—with Mum singing as she did the household chores, and Dad singing us to sleep at night; Mum and Dad throwing parties when 45s spun on the turntable and everyone danced and sang along; with music not considered an add-on at any of my schools but an integral part of our education; joining every possible kind of group, from rock bands to choirs to choruses, so as to sing with others; attending concerts where the entire audience routinely joined in; singing to Baby Nikhil for hours with a special bedtime songlist; entertaining myself on long solo commutes in the car by belting out every song I knew; and my dear friend Marianne always breaking into song in mid-sentence—singing has always come as naturally as—no, more naturally than speaking. For we are born to sing.


Because I have always talked too much and too loud, and have had to do so in my work as well, I developed a throat nodule in my forties which was distressing in the extreme; for every time I opened my mouth to sing, nothing would come out but cracks and squeaks. I had to go for voice therapy and learn to change a lifetime of bad habits: not drinking enough water; not modulating my volume; not knowing how to release tension; breathing from my throat instead of from my diaphragm; and forgetting to b-r-e-a-t-h-e altogether. In the process I learned that a lot of my problems with singing were also problems with the way I handled life. I modified my behavior enough to lessen the strain on my voice while teaching, but not fundamentally or consistently enough to bring the proper breath support to my singing. Now, some fifteen years later, it’s time for me to dig up the old voice therapy file and start doing the exercises regularly. For in order to soar like Shelley’s skylark, or to find the full-throated ease of Keats’ nightingale, one must sing with one’s whole being.

Harry Belafonte, 1954)

Harry Belafonte, 1954

When we were younger, we had music on all day long. In the days of vinyl, our record collections were our pride and joy. We played our favorite tracks again and again until we had memorized all the lyrics. When cassette tapes came in, we recorded special playlists for parties and long car trips. Later, with compact disks, we painstakingly transferred our cassette tapes to CDs so that we could play them in the new players as the old ones were phased out. And now, with iPods, iPod touch, iPhone, iCloud, Bluetooth, I have thrown my hands in the air. With four generations of semi-obsolete equipment knocking about the house in a tangle of loose cables, my only recourse is my own plain, unamplified voice. When all else falls away, it still remains.

In discouragement and despair, singing gives me strength; in sorrow, it offers me solace; in anger, it opens my heart; in emptiness, it fills me with joy.

How Can I Keep From Singing? Singing brings me joy.

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

  1. I really admire people who can sing. I love the way that it comes as naturally to you as breathing. I do love music and I play a little traditional music, but I can’t sing. It is a fantastic gift to have, and I hope you continue to enjoy this for a very long time.

    • Thank you for your good wishes. I hope I can, too. My mother completely lost her singing voice due to a throat nodule that an unenlightened doctor of the time told her she could only correct through surgery. It’s not that my singing voice is particularly good–I can hold a tune but it’s thin, and now, doesn’t have much of a range. Still, it gives me a lot of pleasure, and for some reason is a big part of my own sense of identity. Perhaps because songs travel around the world with no respect for borders. (I have written on this, a Tell Me Another story called “Songlines.”) And you don’t have to sing out loud. If music brings you joy, then you are singing inside.

  2. In second grade my teacher asked me not to sing with the rest of the class. I never sang again until I started to dance professionally. My inhibitions vanished. Now I sing all the time. It was a matter of listening and finding my range.Singing and dancing are some of life’s great delights. Loved this post.

    • That’s diabolical, to implant in a child the idea that they should not express themselves creatively in some way. So glad that you have reclaimed this great pleasure for yourself. I had a few similar childhood experiences when it came to dancing. I have yet to overcome my inhibitions in that area. Thank you, as always, for your insightful comments.

  3. We used to sing in school a lot prior to junior high school. Now when I start singing I usually don’t finish the song because I don’t know all the words. Sometimes I just make up my own lyrics.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

  4. Reading about your singing childhood made me smile Josna.
    Forgetting to breathe comes with the stresses of modern living and how easy it is to stop, inhale and live or sing again, right?
    I’m a CD addict and I’m convinced that they sound better (second only to vinyl) than any modern technology my children swear by. I feel a connection with a tangible CD. It’s not the same with downloaded music.
    Can picture you filling up with joy:)

  5. I had a putting the babies to sleep song list too. We used to sing in the car, and have playlists. About 10 years ago I started to lose my voice. I couldn’t whistle or sing. Turned out to be my thyroid and taking my medication brought back my voice. I do love to sing but don’t do it enough these days.

    • Thank goodness you identified the problem, and that it could be corrected. Singing is a joy, whether in a group or alone.
      I firmly believe that singing to children is important to their development in all sorts of ways, just as reading is. Not to mention that it instils a love of music in them as well.

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