I Do Not Want to Work; I Only Want A Puff

paris eiffel tower by eva the dragon 2014

Je ne veux pas travailler
Je ne veux pas déjeuner
Je veux seulement oublier
Et puis je fume

I discovered this song several years ago. Dreaming of running away to Paris, I picked up a “Paris” compilation album. In the midst of diapers and cheerios, Julia Child’s 1950s Paris seemed like the place for me. I only understood the woman when she sang,

I do not want to work
I do not want lunch
I only want to forget
And then I smoke.

Washing the dishes, I joined in during the chorus.

Fast forward a decade.

All over Bahrain were banners with a fantastic photo of a grey-haired man with a bow tie and a woman with an umbrella who obviously traveled by hot air balloon. Paired with an elegant Japanese woman – together they were Pink Martini and Saori Yuki. I had no idea what their music was but I loved the photos. My friend called and said she bought us front-row, balcony seats for the National Theater show. YEAH.

Pink Martini’s lead singer China Forbes stepped out wearing a bright green Bahraini jalabiya embroidered with silver. We were expecting a Japanese diva. In an American accent, China sang Let’s Never Stop Falling in Love. She had a fantastic voice. Wow!

“I bought this dress yesterday in Bahrain,” she announced. “I love it.” Everyone clapped their appreciation.

Thomas Lauderdale, the piano player, welcomed us and gave a little speech in Arabic, obviously thanking everyone for inviting them to Bahrain. The Bahrainis were thrilled and applauded his effort. Pink Martini was off to a crowd pleasing start.

China introduced the next song, Sympathique.

“This is the first song we wrote,” she said.

Suddenly I was back washing dishes. It was my theme-song. China was the woman who only wanted to smoke and daydream. She was my soul sister; the singer I am not.

Finally, in a long, sparkling red dress, Saori Yuki appeared moving like an elegant geisha. I have decided to adopt her graceful small steps that made her move like a mermaid. After singing Yuuzuki from their album 1969, she said,

“I was in City Center the other day and I saw a big photo of me near Shoe City. That is me? I was so surprised. Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said with beautiful delicate bows.

Thomas Lauderdale introduced Uskudar as a traditional Turkish song the ALL Turks know the words to.

“Are there any Turkish people here?”

The lady sitting next to us raised her hand and hooted.

“Would you please come up on stage and sing it with us?” Thomas and China asked.

Nobody moved.

“Please all Turkish people know the words to this song.”

I reached over. “Go on, go sing.”

That was all the encouragement she needed. The woman jumped up and made her want down to the stage. She radiated pure joy as she sang and belly danced.

How do I describe Pink Martini? Excellent orchestra. China Forbes has beautiful, clear voice. Thomas and China know how to engage the audience with their jazzy songs that evoke a playful era. Pink Martini has a crowd-pleasing show.

Near the end Saori Yuki sang Puff, the Magic Dragon in Japanese.

With that, my evening was complete.

My mother took me to my first concert. It was Peter, Paul and Mary at the Red Rocks Amphitheater. The only song I remember was Puff the Magic Dragon.

 

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Oud, Liwa and Al-Sout

Weaving through the narrow streets lined with gold shops, I said to my Bahraini friend, “I have never been here before.  Where are we?”

“This is the old Muharraq souq.  Remember when I showed you my grandfather’s house?  We are near there.  The Mohammed Bin Faris Hall is next door to my husband’s father’s house.”

“Next door” or “Near to” are typically included in the directions a Bahraini gives but they are not literal.  My experience is Bahrainis are so knowledgeable about the honeycombed streets, they find it difficult to give detailed directions an outsider needs.  If I wanted to ever find my way back, I would have take a daytime, reconnaissance trip.

Arriving before 7pm, we met some old school friends on the doorstep.  Hearing I was from California, one women became particularly interested.

“Where – in Los Angeles?” she asked.

“Yes, as a matter of fact.”

“GO TROJANS,” she yelled making her fingers into a horn.  “I went to USC.”

“So did my husband,” I told her and instantly we became friends.

My new friend insisted on showing us the recently opened Mohammed Bin Faris House Museum where the legendary Bahraini artist used to live.  Born in 1855, he recorded several Al Sout albums in Iraq and two albums in Bahrain before his death about 1946.  Looking around his one-room house, his albums did not go platinum during his lifetime.  Still seventy years later, his music continues to be played live.

At 7pm, ten Bahrainis wearing matching winter-grey thobes entered from the stage left and began setting out their instruments – a qanum, violin, oud, several drums and an electric keyboard.

“Who do you think will dance?” my friend asked me.

“It will likely be that guy,” I said pointing to the tall thin, young man who reminded me of Harold Perrineau from LOST.  “The others are too chubby to be dancers.”

Without any introduction, the singer began.  A slow song, “About love,” my friend whispered to me.  By the second song, the tempo sped up, the clapping began and then the dancing.  It was not the young Perrineau look-a-like; rather, the oldest man, a tall man of African descent with a missing front tooth began a slow, somber walk across the stage.  Soon the music inspired him.  He spun around, placed his hand on his ghuttra and jumped high off the ground then spun again.  The twinkle in his eye showed us how much fun he had before returning to his seat to help out with the percussion.

When the spirit moved him, he would get up.  As the songs continued, love song after love song, his shoulders started shimmering and his gestures grew more flirty.  He paused to pose for us, the photo-taking audience, or to smile at a friend.

“Is he doing this for show,” I asked my friend.  “Would your husband dance like him?”

“No, he is performing.  My husband would not dance like that.”

“His jumping reminds me of the African dancers we saw in Tanzania.  Is he Bahraini?” I wondered.

“Yes, but probably his ancestors were from Africa.”

I read later, liwa is a traditional African dance performed in the Gulf by people from Tanzania and Zanzibar.  Usually the al-sout was a male-only dance performed at night.

mohammen bin fares hall

The Mohammed Faris Hall is modern and formal but the audience was fluid and friendly.  Some arrived late then walked across the seats to kiss their friend hello.  Others shouted their Salams to the band when they entered.  An elderly man called out for his favorite songs.  And a woman announced in a loud voice before she led a pack of friends out, “We would love to stay with you all night, but we have another appointment.”

We did not have another appointment so continued to listen to song after song about love – “if you love me, how could you have done this to do me” and “I see your face in the water I drink”.  Finally, the topic moved from loving women to loving Bahrain.

ABOUT MOHAMMED BIN FARIS BAND

7pm every Thursday night, the band will perform in the Mohammed Bin Faris hall.  Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture, their concerts are free.  There is little parking around the hall.  It might be easier to take a taxi.

The Hall opened in April 2013 and is part of the Muharraq revitalization project.  Across the street, a new Zaffron café has opened.  It is built over an old date juice building.  The acrylic floors make you feel like your floating.  Zaffron serves breakfast, coffee and tea.

The Muppet Show Versus Swedish House Mafia

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As Susan readied her school backpack Sunday night, she mentioned feeling anxious about their Monday morning concert.

“What are you talking about it?” I asked.

“Tomorrow our guitar ensemble performs at the Music Festival.”

SURPRISE!

Although all the technology exists, there are so many calendars, schedules and websites to consult, things still manage to creep up on me.

Mojo and I wanted to see whether our guitar lesson investments have paid off.  We reorganized our morning and made it over to the Senior School in time to see the eleven Senior Ensembles play.

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The ensembles ranged from classical flute and strings to rock and roll and were equally divided between St Christopher’s School and the British School of Bahrain.  St Chris students are known for their success completing the British ABRMs’ programs.  While BSB’s music program recently gained momentum on the international stage.

James Arthur, the 2012 British X Factor winner, began his musical career at the British School of Bahrain.  During the X Factor, he talked about his four, golden years of living in Bahrain.  After his mother and step-father divorced, he and his mother moved back to the UK.  Like many Third Culture Kids, their return to “regular life” was a shock, and he became difficult.  His mother kicked him out of the house.  He credits music to turning his life around and getting him off London’s streets.

bsb deema and saiyf

BSB is mentoring more, potential X Factor stars including Gershom, the young man with over-sized Ray Bans, who sang and accompanied every group on either the guitar or the piano.  Under Lydia Martin’s musical leadership, BSB played songs by White Stripes, Swedish House Mafia, FM Static and Luminate.  Each ensemble also had a catchy name: Against the Tide, 50/50, Noise Pollution, Ehsan and the Rest, and The Getaway.

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On the other hand, St Chris’ ensemble entrants performed as Senior Flutes, String Trio and Saxophone Ensemble covering a range from Haydn, Gershwin, as well as traditional English and Arabic pieces.  The closest thing to a rock band was the guitar ensemble who played Coldplay’s Paradise.

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Our whole clan was part of the Paradise performance.  Mark happily surprised us playing a lead part.  Although, we got a kick out of the St Chris’ brass ensemble’s rendition of the 1976 Muppet Show theme song, admittedly, BSB’s pop and rock numbers were crowd pleasers and had the audience clapping and snapping photos.

After the eleven groups played, the two adjudicators put their heads together.  I wondered how they would view the different song choices.

Coming up, they said, “As always, the variety of music makes it hard to judge.”

They said, “We looked at little things like ‘communications between the group’ and ‘looking at the audience’.

So the Winner was?

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Gershom, Yannis, Daniel, Paul and Saiyf, also known as BSB’s Noise Pollution, for their original song, Ocean Wave.

ROCK AND ROLL!

Second place was a tie between St Christopher’s Arabic Drummers and Arnold Brass.

Third place was BSB’s Getaway who played My Heart Says Go

The four ensemble finalists along with the finalists from the other twelve categories will be playing Wednesday at 2:30 at St Christopher’s Junior School.  Come and see the new generation of X-Factor contestants.

About St Christopher’s Music Festival 2013

Each year St Christopher’s School hosts three music festivals plus several musical productions.  The Music Festival open to schools in Bahrain has started and leads into next month’s Young Musicians of the Gulf which is an international competition.

This year’s participants include the British School of Bahrain under Lydia Martin, Nadeen School, Sacred Heart, Al Hekma, the Japanese School, New Millennium School, AMA International School, Amna Bint Wahab School, Ibn Khuldoon and Hidd Secondary Girls’ School are all participating.  There are 233 entries grouped by Junior and Senior Ensembles, Instrumental, Vocal and Piano.

At the conclusion of each category’s performances, the winners are named.  The Grand Finale takes place this Wednesday at 2:30pm at St Christopher’s Junior School in Sar.

Haj Harmony

Touch the Marble by Jamshid Bayrami

“Mysticism and poetry have always been important elements in Islamic cultures.  This has been the case throughout the centuries.  The Muslim world is not composed of a single color.  And it is not static at all.  It is a tapestry of multiple colors and patterns.

Sufism is not an ancient, bygone heritage.  It is a living, breathing philosophy of life.  It is applicable to the modern day.  It teaches us to look within and transform ourselves, to diminish our egos.  There are more and more people, especially women, artists, musicians and so on, who are deeply interested in this culture.” – Elif Shafak, author of The Forty Rules of Love.

Fareed Ayaz and his eight member party will be performing a Qawwali concert to open the Jamshid Bayrami exhibit at La Fontaine.

Listening to the hypnotic songs which typically last from fifteen to thirty minutes may be a new experience for the modern pop music listener, but Qawwali music is not new.  It is a 600-year old Sufi devotional music.

In the West, the best known Qawwali musician was the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.  Peter Gabriel’s Real World label released five albums of his music.  In film, his contributions were included in The Last Temptation of Christ, Natural Born Killers, and Eat, Pray, Love.  Since the 1997 death of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Fareed Ayaz’s party has continued to spread Qawwali music worldwide, winning numerous awards and playing for global audiences.

Fareed Ayaz’s eight member party comes to Bahrain under the support of the Paris-based Theatre de la Ville.

Theatre de la Ville “finds beauty in the Surrealists”.  The theater’s aim is

“not to run away from the world and find refuge in dreams, not even for a second; it is rather to go to the theater to try on a new vision of things, to open up to events or experiences beyond the norm.”

Through Theatre de la Ville’s long list of Pakistani, Indian and African performers, Western audiences have been introduced to new norms.

The concert is in conjunction with the opening of Iranian photographer Jamshid Bayrami’s exhibit, Haj Harmony.  A photojournalist, Bayrami has covered the Iran-Iraq war and Middle East politics for The Economist, Time, and Agence France Presse.  He won the Grand Prize at the Fajr Festival and a UNESCO World Prize for photography.  He is represented by the London gallery Xerxes Art.

The exhibit opening and concert will be this Friday, May 25th at 7pm at La Fontaine Center for Contemporary Art.  The exhibition and concert will be 25bd and if you include dinner around the fountain, the cost is 35bd.

The Most Beautiful Moon on the Walls

An Evening of Poetry, Music, and Singing:

The Most Beautiful Moon on the Walls with

Nasir Shamma, oud player

Rami Alyousif,poet

Dalal Abu Amna, Palestinian singer

Monday, 30 April at 8pm.  Sheikh Ebrahim Center in Muharraq Bahrain.

Post mortem.  I hope someone remembered to go see this.

 

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