What I would give to play music, or even be able to sing would be nice. I open my mouth to yodel a few notes and kids run screaming to their mothers. It might seem strange for someone who has the gift of creating art well enough to make a living from it, to envy another talent. I appreciate, and am grateful for, my talent. It’s just I think music is a gift to lift the world.
You can be sitting in a plush state of the art concert hall listening to a world-class orchestra or lying in a sleeping bag on a rough old Greek ferry listening to someone strum their guitar, and the feeling is the same. It lifts your spirits, enriches the whole experience and stirs every emotion.
I can still hear the young guy playing his guitar and singing softly to the stars one summer night way back in 1974 as I lay in my sleeping bag on the deck of a ferry bound for Greece from Italy. I eventually went back to live in Athens for six years and have lots of memorable Greek music moments. Not to mention the umpteen concerts I was lucky enough to go to while there, like Jose Feliciano or Van Morrison. But that simple guitar always comes back to me with a stirring of travel excitement.
Mention 4th of July and I go back to 1986 in Ibiza with Sasha. Lee and I were living on our 30-foot sailboat in the Mediterranean. Our celebration was a small BBQ on the rocky wall of a deserted, unfinished harbour when this large Russian clutching a bottle of vodka walked up. He asked politely what we were doing, then
announced he would join us for our 4th July BBQ regardless of the fact we hadn’t invited him. He grinned, “Russian, American, who cares. We can drink together.”
He ate the ribs and salads as he drank his bottle of vodka. We learned he was an opera singer from Moscow and, for some reason he never explained, had disgraced himself. He was wandering around Europe to console himself. The sun got lower, Sasha got drunker. He suddenly threw his head back and started to sing. My God, he hadn’t lied about his voice. It was powerful and magnificent. He sang for about 10 minutes. Then he stopped, had a swig and started weeping, “Oh! poor Sasha, poor Sasha,” he wailed before blabbering in Russian for a minute or two. He took another swig before singing again. The singing was heart stopping. Our own private opera as we watched the soft twilight fade to moonlight on the gentle sea swells. The weeping and wailing added to the atmosphere really. So it continued for some time then abruptly he got up and staggered off. We never saw him again. But what a gift he had given us that 4th July on the rocky edge of a ‘nearly-finished’ harbour wall. Pure magic.
Every country has a unique musical tradition. No one can say “thank you” the way the Zulu’s do, they sing to you. I worked with the Amandwe Support Group a couple of years ago on landscapes. Afterwards they made tea and we sat together. Then they said, we will sing for you. Even thinking about it brings tears. Singing is pure Africa and just hearing a snippet of it can make me homesick quicker than the thought of Africa’s vistas or the special scent of her earth.
My time in New Orleans was deeply involved in it’s music - and that’s why I wish I could join musicians and play or sing. I’m a huge fan of “Playing for Change,” watching their videos brings all those special musical moments back. And I do believe people can interconnect through music more than any other medium. It can make the world a better place if we let it, and if we really listen to it. And, damn, but it can just make you smile. I"ll always love music and the happy memories it brings. But I guess I’ll just have to keep painting unless some miracle happens!!
Listen to what I mean and get hooked. Go to http://www.playingforchange.com and follow them on face book at https://www.facebook.com/PlayingForChange