Two last shows and the looming road

July 28, 2012

Sitting at Stella’s, a cafe-bakery in Winnipeg, I was told by Nicole’s sister that it was the best place to go for pastries, then I was invited there by Lucien and tasted the goodness on Tuesday, now I’m here on my own after fulfilling all my duties for the day.

 

It’s mid-day, 2:45 PM, I am pretty tired and elated all at once. The sun shines warm but the heavy humidity of the last two weeks is gone. It is a perfect day. The cool air from the vents sweeps gently over my skin, when the cafe door opens I feel the sun rays stretching inside, warm fingers, bringers of life and summer contentment. Yes a perfect day.

 

On this very moment I can look back at my whole stay here and pretty much have to say that it has been perfect all the way through. Winnipeg… a mix of the rural and the urban, of history and struggles, the metis, the white, the natives, the railways all converging here, the horizon, the land and the industry, the looming presence of winter, the unbridled lushness of summer.

 

Hay, hay, hay

 

 

A mix of red-necks and uber originals, from a far away vantage point you could call this balance.

 

There is a respect, a granting of space, maybe because there is so much of it? Even when I ride the bike on the road, I notice that no one crowds me, they leave 3,4 car spaces behind me, maybe it’s because there isn’t that many bikes around and they are not sure how to behave around one but I’ve not had to worry about aggressive tailgating drivers. The bumps, potholes and winter beaten roads are more of a thing to worry about than the drivers. I’ve had numerous encounters in coffee shops with the locals, easy conversations, smiles, one feels welcome. Friendly Manitoba.

So here I am. July 27th. I just completed the last show and we closed the show to a standing ovation. It was very moving. This was our fifth show. The process took me from near terror on the first few songs of the first set of the first show into full command of my duties and the ability to take flight. I had a sideman with me for all the shows, Davidian (on sax, flutes and clarinet) and his contribution was monumental. He infiltrated the songs to their core, flew wildly into inspired solos or he would play just the right things to support the songs. Melonai joined us for 3 shows playing percussion and singing harmonies.

 

I’ve known Melonai since 1995, she has a place of honor in my heart ever since and to have her with me on stage was a real joy. I must thank her and Davidian from the bottom of my heart for inviting me in their home for my whole stay here, giving me so generously a roof, a home, friendship and amazing conversations, support and love. Melonai is actually the one that sparked this tour by talking to the right people and believing in me to make it all come to life. These two are making it harder for me to leave and hit the road again…

 

Melonai and Davidian

 

 

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Thursday night we played a house concert at the McDonald’s in St Norbert. St Norbert is the town where the Trappist monastery is. They live a little ways down the road from the monastery, not by the La Salle river but by the Red River. This time I headed out on the bike. The joy I get from riding still amazes me. It’s something so pure. Visceral. Necessary. The machine, the wind, the motion, the sounds… I made my way down this country road, under a brilliant sun, the homes, barns, trees now sprinkled out over the rolling hills. To my right a field covered in golden oats. On the left down a little ways is the Red River. The smell is unbelievable, the essence of grasses, wild flowers, sun heated earth. I take it in deeply. I feel at peace. I arrived at the house, a long blond ribbon of gravel of a driveway took me to the house which is nestled in trees and basking in the sun. I get a warm welcome. It’s like a movie scene. Two little girls running up towards the house, their shirts bright spots in the sun. The air is fresh, clear.

What a wonder. These people hosting this concert, transforming their home in a concert hall, preparing food and drink and inviting all their friends to hear music.

 

We eat BBQ chicken burgers with fresh garden beans and salad, it’s so good. We chat, laugh, then gradually get everything ready for the show. The guests start arriving. I feel very ready, I want to do this, I am so glad to be here.

We played two sets of rolling music, the songs from the Aventuriere CD. This show is always a trip. Literally a trip. I tell the story : a girl in the east, she dreams of adventures but does not have the gumption to do it. One day, she gets a ticket for the great West, she is all excited to go, but once in the air a storm brings her plane down, but it rains so much that the prairies turn into an ocean and there her adventures start. The music goes from pop to classical, to jazz, to chanson, to rock and the way the set goes we really set it up with big crescendos then down to a whisper, from joy, to fear, to sorrow, to joy again. I see in the faces all those emotions going in and out. It’s truly amazing, to be able to send people traveling in their minds as they sit right there.

 

We finished to thundering applause and then mingled and mixed, chatted and laughed, ate too much sugar goodies and homemade treats. Gradually the crowd thinned out and we were left with our hosts. That is when Michel asked me : “ I didn’t get to hear the Turkish song… I was baby sitting…” Michel will be going to Turkey in the fall for a walking pilgrimage. He is a walked, I have met some of them on my trip. They set out and walk long distances, across the land, with minimal gear. It is a journey of introspection and discovery. I can relate.

Oh you would like to hear it?” He smiled. How can I not oblige?

So I picked up the guitar and started the song…

 

Uzun ince bir yoldayim…” … I’m on a long and narrow road…

Gidiyorum gunduz gece” …I journey day and night…

Bilmiyorum ne haldeyim”   ...I don't know what state I'm in...

Gidiyorum gündüz gece” I journey day and night…

Dünyaya geldiğim anda   ...From the moment I came into the world
Yürüdüm aynı zamanda   ...I began to walk at the same time
İki kapılı bir handa   ...In a mansion with two doors
Gidiyorum gündüz gece   ...I journey day and night

Düşünülürse derince   ...If it is deliberated deeply
Uzak gözükür görünce   ...It seems far away at first sight
Yol bir dakka miktarınca   ...As the route length is a minute
Gidiyorum gündüz gece   ...I journey day and night

Şaşar Veysel işbu hale   ...Veysel is amazed at these events
Gah ağlayan gahi güle   ...He sometimes laughs, but sometimes cries
Yetişmek için menzile   ...To reach journey's end
Gidiyorum gündüz gece   ...I journey day and night

This song, well, it is so fitting for my life right now.  Aşik Veysel was a poet, songwriter and virtuoso bağlama player (a middle eastern stringed instrument in the shape of a tear with a rounded back, it has 7 strings in sets of 2 and 3 and has ¼ tones). 

A ministrel in the tradition of the Turkish Aşik's  coursing the rural roads of Turkey.  He was born in 1894 and passed away in 1974.  He was blind most of his life and his songs speak of how he “saw” life.  With his instrument on his back he would travel and play his music as he went. He is a highly regarded poet of the Turkish folk literature.  This particular song is a classic piece that every Turkish person I've met knew, could sing and loved.  I was first taken by the melody, the way the saz and the voice travel in unison.  And the lyrics, at this very moment in my life, those words are a mirror of what I am living, how I feel.  The long and narrow road, life, time, space, the joy the pain and this awareness of the journey.  This is where and who I am at this moment. 

So Michel is watching me play, the guitar now unplugged and softly resonating in the room.  The words trickle, the images they create appear then fade, the last note lingers and climbs to the ceiling,  it's over.  Another intense, beautiful yet so simple moment.  A jewel of a song bringing humans together.  Universal language.

They offer me to stay the night, it's tempting, but there is concert in town early the next day and honestly I am longing to get on the bike after such an night.  I love riding after a show, it's kind of a way to absorb, re-live and let go all the happenings of the night, to let the energies calm down and flow away.  To merge into darkness, speed, to feel the cold night, feel the hot engine, to fly in the velvet of the air.  

I headed out in the night. “Watch for deer!” said Claudette before I took off. It’s almost cold. The engine purrs. The glow of the headlights warm a semi circle of pavement ahead of me.

 

The night is lit up by a half moon. The stars are bright. I played music and eyes sparkled now we course the night me and Arkadaş. Gidiyorum gunduz gece, gidiyorum gunduz gece….

 

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