Scotch and milk

If music is life in the form of art, then cocktail is jazz in the form of a drink.

Consists of two ingredients
yet a complex drink
A hint of fire
smells of grain and malt
cutting through the fat
strong and sudden
burns your throat immediately

Performed without arrangements
yet a curious tone
The music of freedom
escaped from the void
running through the blood
smooth and sombre
tinged with tones of melancholy

In lighting with a blue hue
a band of soul-searching performers
mingling wistfully in tune
The horn in turn
breaks the pensive tone
swift and quick
now comes an upbeat melody

While sipping this glass with rue
a meld of contrasting elements
blending carefully in taste
The milk in turn
soothes the burning throat
sweet and thick
served as a gentle remedy






With a glass of scotch and milk in one hand and Bird’s bebop playing in the background, I wrote this poem after revisiting James Baldwin’s ‘Sonny’s Blues’, a short story that tells the troubled life of a young jazz musician and how music has saved him from his suffering.

Communication and self-expression are vital to human existence. Like all forms of art, music has been used as a tool for expression. It is beyond language. In music, even silence has a purpose. It conveys more meaning than words can. Through this well-crafted story, Baldwin underscores the redemptive power of music and the critical role it plays in self-liberation.

If scotch and milk represent the bad times and the good times in life, then music, among other things, is what carries us through life.

Baldwin passed away 35 years ago today, on 1 December 1987.

‘…There was a long pause, while they talked up there in the indigo light and after a while I saw the girl put a Scotch and milk on top of the piano for Sonny. He didn’t seem to notice it, but just before they started playing again, he sipped from it and looked toward me, and nodded. Then he put it back on top of the piano. For me, then, as they began to play again, it glowed and shook above my brother’s head like the very cup of trembling.’

– James Baldwin, Sonny’s Blues



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