Rock ballads. Queen. Am I an Anglophile? My mind colonized beyond redemption? I don’t know, as Socrates would say. These words and phrases flashed in me the day I was binge-listening to various interpretations of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” . I am writing about them today.
Rock ballad masterpieces
Back in the day when Steve Jobs’ invention of digital storage that could hold 10,000 songs was king of teen consciousness, people would ask each other “what’s on your iPod?”.
I have never owned one but would always have tunes, like voices of imaginary friends, playing in my head. A common occurrence in all of us that choose to enjoy the musical artifacts of the modern and liberal world of music, is that universal language, as opposed to those throwing music out of their lives and choosing to only have religious verses and mantras and chants living daily in their consciousness. That’s a choice we made. No right or wrong. Both work fine for the mind. Both add pleasure to life.
Rock ballads are spiritual to me. I see them as verses of the divine as well.
Playing in my head these last few days have been Queen’s “Is This the World We Created.” I sing it daily as well, its message as profound as any religious verse calling for one’s action on the world we continue to devastate. I feel that in Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” as well. A powerful song about what it means for one’s head to be owned by ideological machinery and bigotry. Spirituality may be a better force of human supra-conscious enrichment than institutionalized religion, I’d say.
I just got off from a week’s lecture of Samuel Beckett’s play “Waiting for Godot,” and Queen’s lovely ballad about the world we created, resonated well as a natural progression of the songs playing in my head.
The rock group Queen defined my generation who came out of high school in the late 70s and my life back in the day was to have as many songs populate my head as possible, become my Steve Jobs’ iPod playlist, and live my life with the words from those great rock songs.
Liberalism is as lovely as a teenager’s philosophy shouldn’t we all agree?
Am I an Anglophile?
For the last five years, after the riots of the Black Lives-All Live Matter broke out in the United States, being an active commentator on Malaysian matters, especially in cyberspace wherein I have a good number of followers, I have gotten myself a label: Azly Rahman the Anglophile! Father of Liberalism!
My views on British colonialism and how I look at its consequences, at least in Malaya, have been attacked with furor by the younger Malaysians – the Millennials, the Gen Zs, and the Generation-C (Generation Covid). The new faraway woke.
I was labeled “Malaysia’s Father of Liberalism,” “A British Apologist,” and “an Anglophile.” Times I post short views to elicit discussions, especially in forums on Malaysian History and Culture, saying that British education did bring good things to the colonies and sparked interest in, and made connections with scientific and technological thinking.
My father, now in his eighties served in the Malay Regiment of the British Colonial Army, my mother became a “Protected British subject” and I was born in Southeast Asia’s most advanced hospital, The British Military Hospital in Alexandra Road, Singapore. It is now called The Singapore Hospital. The nurse that brought me into this post-colonial world was a British, Ms. Marie Sam. I then went to English school from day one, Sekolah Temenggong Abdul Rahman I upon the insistence of my mother (Bless Her Soul) who wanted me to be in the English school, and next selected to go to an experimental American gifted and talented school the MARA Junior Science College, for five high school years. They chose village kids from poor families, tested them with the Stanford-Binet IQ test, and chose 313 out of thousands to enter three residential/boarding schools, and were taught too by American Peace Corps teachers who wanted to escape the Vietnam War draft. In our classrooms, we were proudly called “guinea pigs” by the teachers and post-Independence educators who wanted to see if American education works. The language of instruction was English. My love for English Literature and the Beatles and English soccer, the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and today I found myself teaching English Composition and Literature as well.
I love flying the kite my grandfather taught me to make, and my favorite kite was painted the Union Jack! So, how Anglophile have I not become even before I was cursed by that name in cyberspace? Everywhere I go I’d try to search for places of literary interest of British origin and the places where poets and writers were born or buried. I visited Percy Bysshe Shelley’s tomb in Oxford, missed visiting James Joyce’s (Irish he is though) graveyard in Zurich, toured the apartment where Shelley and Keats lived by The Spanish Steps in Rome, and many other places that memorialize the Great English, especially of The Lake, poets. I crossed Abbey Road too, where the Beatles recorded some of their classics.
Then came my interest in British rock music. From the Beatles to whatever it is the creative souls are promoting as they try to enter America the market.
In a way, I am an Anglophile enjoying life and learning from what this world has to offer from multi-vocalic, multicultural, multigenre, and multidimensional perspectives. This is the beauty of not being trapped in one single story, in one narrative of life, especially one forced upon you by religion and its bigots primarily. Rock music gave me comfort. Since I was a child. In my house, there were vinyl records I played, from Tom Jones, Uriah Heap, Rolling Stones, Jackson Five, The Carpenters, Deep Purple, and many more. I had early exposure to the musical artifacts of Liberalism.
So, I was trained and unofficially schooled, and psyched and socialized to be an Anglophile if one must say that. I have loved it ever since, though my readings of religion and philosophy, especially Sufism and Transcultural Philosophies have often given me the quieter state of mind I need, in my “yoga of the mind” sessions. From Anglophilia to CosmoLogosPhilia, if you may.
A Rock Mixtape of my Life
If there is a short playlist of rock songs of my life it would be this, over the years, since I was perhaps ten:
A Whiter Shade of Pale (Procol Harum) The Wizard (Uriah Heep). Satisfaction (Rolling Stones). My Generation (The Who). Woman From Tokyo, Highway Star, Sweet Child in Time, Burn, (Deep Purple). Temple of the King (Rainbow). We’re An American Band (Grandfunk Railroad). Let it Be and numerous early Beatles songs (The Beatles). Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin). Comfortably Numb and the wide range of Pink Floyd (Pink Floyd). BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (Queen)
I stopped at Queen’s classic Bohemian Rhapsody, which I consider emblematic of British creativity and liberalism both in its composition, vocal range, and the powerful message of which I could spend two lecture periods in philosophy talking about the meaning of every line of the lyrics.
His Majesty the Queen
Thus, I am a lover of the Queen, an Anglophile by birth and design, and grateful that my life has been enriched by “the devil’s music” as well. Rock lives in me. Though my life is about enjoying the offerings of world music I play as my students enter the classroom – from Ottoman Sufi music, Ambient Jazz, Celtic Harp music, Javanese Gamelan, Baroque and Classical Music, Techno-Ambience Fractal Music, Music of Africa, and even Mongolian Throat Music! – rock is the foundation of my bringing up.
But the music and lyrics of rock, especially by Queen and Led Zeppelin, and of course Pink Floyd has given me the added dose of spirituality in a strange but delightful brew of Sufism and my critical reading of religious scriptures and literary classics across cultures and genres. You may read more about my confessions in my latest book Grandma’s Gangsta Chicken Curry and Stories from my Hippie Sixties published by Penguin Books, a memoir of growing up in post-British Malaya. [https://azlyrahman.substack.com/p/on-azly-rahmans-memoir-grandmas-gangsta]
So, I am what I listen to, happily colonized to my heart’s and soul’s content. Call me an Anglophile too, if you may. His Majesty the Queen and I will always be together.