II – V – I

July 16, 2015


These days I’ve been studying some jazz theory all over again… I have been thinking about when I got the “Most Promising Guitarist” award at King Edward College in Vancouver so long ago and how many times I felt like I let them down on that… I never rose up to that promise. Last night I played a gig at Atölye, playing my red Gibson jazz guitar, and after the show I sat down with some friends, we’re just chatting… there is a friend there who keeps telling me that I should play an acoustic guitar, that this guitar is just for jazz only or that I should change the pickup and strings, when I had the Go Guitar he complained about the sound too. At some point we were talking about the 10 000 times rule, the so called magic number that makes one competent. I wondered out loud how many times I had repeated some of those scales… that is when my friend said that I would probably need to play them 5000 more times. Yeah. That means I am not so good. Just average. I felt a heaviness.

I walked back home defeated. How can I love an instrument so much and not manage to be any better? I grew up flirting between the horses and the guitar. Summers were especially hard for music as I could not get myself to sit down indoors in a room and practice when the sun shone so bright. I did practice lots but not so well, I realize now. I stayed in the safety of what I knew, repeating over and over and over the same things and didn’t have the guts or courage to explore more and discover new things, I had a great ear that allowed me to cheat my way out of most everything so I cheated… I was OK but never great.

I always did many things… I drew, I wrote, I played, I rode horses, I spent summers camping outside… I followed my heart, but that doesn’t always lead to great achievements. I was a wild child dreaming of running into adventures, parallel universes and undiscovered worlds. A dreamer that had the chance to live in a country where you can pretty much wish for anything and reach it if you put some time, your head and heart into it. Here I would have never made it, musicians here have no gear but they are accomplished.

Walking back home, on Tarlabaşi boulevard towards Kasımpasa around 1 AM, empty taxi cabs honk their horns incessantly, hungry for fares, and this even if they are heading in the opposite direction than you are going In the space of 3 minutes I get honked about 7 times as I cross the boulevard. The guitar is so heavy, well it’s not the guitar that’s heavy it’s the case… It reminds me of being 17 and heading to school with that Guild jazz my professional guitarist of a neighbor lent to me, it was just like George Benson’s guitar on “the other side of Abbey Road” album cover, it too, had an impossibly heavy plywood case that tore my shoulders to bits… My friends words spin in my mind, I question the actual intention behind them. I think about the conversation and realize how we just say words wearing masks; bla, bla, blah. Yeah, communication. My failure to speak Turkish, the awkwardness of English as a second language, it makes us like islands and we try to reach each other sitting in leaky canoes.

I get to my street, and there he is; Scooby. That is how the neighbors call him, the street dog who lives here. I heard the kids call him: “Skubi, Skubi…” He stands on the pavement, it’s made of the fake cobblestones, a sort of cement where they draw the squares on, there he stands, the street lights making him appear as a shadow, except for his rear end that is in the light, his tail wags. He saw me, recognized me and he is almost smiling. I talk to him, pet him. I am grateful for those street animals… they are my friends, there is also a black and white male cat, he’s very lean and athletic looking, he has the look of the Tomcats who would not care for humans but this guy is always happy to get petted, a practical kind of fellow. There is also an orange one who will, a bit more nervously, approach for a bit of human contact. Maybe I like them so much because we are kind of the same, foreign, uprooted beings in this world of strong family ties and almost tribal group instinct. Them and I are accidents here, we are tolerated, sometimes with affection, sometimes with antagonistic vibes.

At home, I check messages, then spend too much time on Facebook, I need to stop that… it has become an addiction. Truly. I troll from one piece of news to the other… feeding my mind with horrors and unfairnesses, inequalities and the brutal blindness and uncaring that most of the richer countries have for the less fortunate ones. 60 million displaced people at this point in time, and Europe only received 40 thousand of them when Lebanon took in 1.5 million… Lebanon is poor!!! where is compassion??? I read about Greece and the oh so ugly face of the Euro group, an entity that seems to be above the law… Then I clicked all that off and grabbed my red guitar. Figured out a cool chord progression for a song I just learned, the Ezan rings in the sky, it’s 3 something AM. I play a little longer, vacillating between a feeling of inadequacy and a desire to not give a shit.



Wednesday night, I had a show tonight. These last few days I have practiced and studied for hours on end. 4 to 8 hours a day. I am digging through the cycle of fourths (can you believe I had never learned it?) scale positions all over the neck, reaching out of safe, known zones, learning new songs and just keep on. I could feel it at the show, some progress, I dared quite a few things, dove in the instrument and the songs. My aim has been for a long time now to write new songs… I always had a hard time with covers, but these last few days another thing I have done is that when I stop to eat, I go on youtube and listen to really great musicians. Jazz. Yes, how ironic, here I am half a world away studying jazz alone in my room and missing out on this place. So yeah, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian, the Alain Caron band, oh and my so beloved Joe Pass ( I had four, five of his albums) Just be immersed. And my ears are waking up anew. So tonight at the gig, flying on all this I played a huge amount of covers but I put my heart in them. When you listen to the really good musicians, they go find the heart of a song, bring it to life in their own way.

I am still waiting for my residence permit’s application results. There was a mess up with the paperwork two weeks ago. I had signed in blue… my papers were returned to me, I sent them back signed in black… this uncertainty hovers above me. I’m OK whichever way it goes but it makes me really want to seize this moment and play and learn because this doesn’t happens much and could be gone in an instant. My poverty is allowing me to do this. My anonymity allows me this, to disappear while the world goes its mad course and study II-V-I progressions in 12 keys.

These days what I keep hearing is how great my voice is… funny… we’re never happy. I wanted to be Jimi Hendrix on the guitar. I discovered I was a singer way into my third album! But the truth is that I need both. The voice, the guitar. So don’t look for me around town these days, I sit by myself quite content, sweating in the summer heat, slowly facing all sorts of things and rules and formulas I couldn’t confront before. To make it perfect today I thought I should give the bağlama a couple hours early in the day, then give a bunch of hours to the guitar, pretend I am in music school and that I have a world-music class. Good things will come of this, new songs I’m sure. If anything else, I will have finally faced some stuff with courage and not just leave things there as an unfulfilled promise.


And yes… all the photos are from my window, same window…


One Response to “II – V – I”

  1. Danielle Liard Says:

    Bon, cet ‘ami’ n’en est pas un vraiment, il ne critique pas constructivement, rien ne lui plait. Des gens qui démolissent les autres, tu n’en as vraiment pas besoin. As-tu vraiment besoin de faire de ‘grandes choses’? Ou as-tu besoin de créer, de ton coeur, ceux qui t’endendent aiment ou n’aiment pas, chacun ses goûts. Mais quant à moi, tu fais des choses superbes qui décrivent de vraies choses. Ou des choses imaginaires qui sont belles ou laides, mais bien décrites. Ne te laisse pas démolir par un envieux.


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