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- In this newsletter:
- *** Ten Years
- *** News and Current Projects
- *** Cool Things Friends Do: Anna-Marie Kingsley
- *** Womad Taranaki 2013
A happy Easter holiday – or whatever else you celebrate at this time of year – to all my dear cherished readers!
So now it has been ten years that I have been living Downunder. I have worn out my first pair of hiking boots. I've learned to paint properly, and to do complex stuff on a computer, and how to grow my own vegetables. I thought I could give up music in order to do these things, only to find that music doesn't give up me. I own a house, but I still have to figure out a way to earn my own keep. I yet need to learn how to stay polite when clients are rude and disrespectful, and think they can endlessly take advantage of my time and knowledge for free, or sneak out of paying me my hard earned dues just because I am a woman and a foreigner, and have no big bulky husband to send around and beat them up. I better hope my trusty old car will make it through another year or two. Or three, but that might be pushing it. One day, I would quite like to be able to travel again.
I was meaning to have a big party, but when the time came, it just all seemed too much hassle: so I decided to treat myself to another beach break instead. I'd set my sights on Blackhead beach, up the coast just past where the Wairarapa turns into Hawkes Bay, so on Friday afternoon I took the old Route 52 – the secondary highway which runs parallel to State Highway 2, and winds its way through the smaller towns closer to the coast – and ended up spending the night, yet again, at Porangahau.
The campsite at Porangahau beach has three great advantages: it is precisely the distance I tend to manage to cover before dark, when I finally manage to set out from home three or four hours later than I'd originally planned (a very regular occurrence when I go on holiday). It is always open, and rarely very busy, so one can rock up any time of the day or night. And it appears to be free of charge: at least, I have never managed to figure out to whom, if anyone, I was supposed to pay a camp fee.
It is also next to a huge beach, and it is nice and shady, being situated in a pine grove, so it could be a great place to hang out for a few nights. But as a result of its being (apparently) free of charge, the facilities are very basic, to put it mildly, and it is not very well kept: it tends to be littered with other camper's garbage, and I find it just a tad depressing, really. Not exactly where I wanted to spend my Big Day!
The only reason I didn't make for Blackhead directly, was that I wasn't sure I'd be able to stay the night there: I knew there was a campsite, but last time I dropped by, I'd been unable to locate the caretaker. Also, I wasn't entirely sure how much further it was up the coast road. Less than an hour's drive, as it turned out the next day: and this time I managed to find the caretaker, who was really lovely and let me stay for half price, seeing that I was sleeping in the back of my car (too lazy to set up a tent just for one night), and even donated the shower token – perhaps I looked like I needed it?
I couldn't imagine a better place to celebrate my survival of the past decade. And a better reminder of why, after all, it is worth going through all the adversity I have encountered, and continue to encounter here. The coastal area is a Marine Reserve, and teems with all sorts of sea birds and aquatic life. There is a shallow rock reef lining the beach, which makes it less ideal for swimming, but I found something like a large natural rock pool to have a dip in. Perhaps a good thing that I didn't realize at the time that this particular part of the beach is called Stingray Bay … lucky me that I didn't step on one! The beach is towered over by a huge old pa complex.
I spent the afternoon strolling along the beach all the way to the river mouth which is its northern boundary, and the small settlement of Aramoana. Not the Aramoana of mass shooting notoriety – that's down by Dunedin – a rather more peaceful Aramoana. It's a great picturesque spot to do some sketching, and I came home with no less than three new pencil sketches, which is not a bad cut for a day and a half. I didn't realize how much I've missed doing open air sketching!
Proudly launched: divadiane.eu
News & Current Projects
It is done: I proudly introduce divadiane.eu, my latest web design project! Diane and I went to early music school in Bremen together, and she was one of the international group of people I used to hang out with then: Scandinavians, Hungarians, Austrians, and a couple of people from the USA. She was also on the team when we went on a school trip to Rome, to perform Monteverdi's "L'Incoronatione di Poppea" at the Villa Massimo, and we did a little tour of German churches together once, when she jumped in for a the singer I was normally working with, who could not make it.
What we didn't realize at the time, is that we also share an enthusiasm for all things Science Fiction and Fantasy! When I caught up with Diane again a couple of years ago on Facebook, she told me all about her involvement with StarShipSofa, the podcasting magazine which, had just been shortlisted for a Hugo Award! And it won it, too. I also owe my recent involvement with the Amazing Stories website, to Diane's suggestion that I should contact the editor.
Her website was a bit of a creative challenge: I needed to visually combine elements that would appeal to viewers who might hire her for an early music gig, or take singing lessons, with elements that would say "offbeat science fiction geek". We talked about it quite a bit, and I initially suggested something like a steampunk approach: except that instead of drawing on 19th century style, I'd go back a bit further, to the Renaissance and early baroque era which we both hold dear. She also wanted warm oranges and reds and pinks, but without looking all fluffy and barbie-dollish!
Unlike the other clients I have worked for so far, Diane did not provide me with a pre-made graphic design, or image files and a reasonably clear idea of how the site should look: which did, on the one hand, make the process more challenging (designer anxiety kicking in: I was perpetually worried that she'd hate my suggestions!) – but it also gave me an opportunity to flex those designer muscles, and even do a bit of illustratorly work.
I am very pleased with the result: once again, what takes a while finally comes out well. Some bits and pieces of text are still missing here and there, but the site has a content management system, so the client can take their time with filling in the missing bits. We are still in the beta phase: meaning, some things probably don't work properly – if you spot anything that looks odd, a link that leads to the wrong place, or anything else not functioning, please let us know! The more browsers, the jollier. :D
And of course: I am open for business! If anyone wants a fancy site like that for themselves, just write me an email, and we'll take it from there.
Illustration-wise, this month has been quite a busy one: At the time I sent out my last newsletter, I was busy working on an illustration for a Grimm tale, "Von dem Machandelboom" (The Juniper tree), for John Howe's monthly challenge: to meet the deadline, I ended up having to take some shortcuts, so this is more in the nature of a Work In Progress, but I think it will make a very nice addition to my portfolio, once I get round to finishing it up properly. It is one of the grimmest tales in Grimm, so I tried for a dark threatening colour scheme, a thunderstorm approaching perhaps. The piece de resistance is, of course, the juniper tree – though I admit that I cheated a bit, it is based on the pencil sketch of a South Wairarapa macrocarpa tree, which I posted last month. Macrocarpa is a type of cedar – and though the trees are not related, they have quite a similar habit. and they both have a tendency to show a lot of dry branches that look like old bones. Which suited the story quite well.
I have also done a couple of things for Illustration Friday: A clock-faced gentleman to illustrate the concept of "Yesterday", and a 3D piece! I haven't played around with Lightwave 3D in quite a little while, but it is something that I wish to some day find a bit more time for. I'd been fixing up a model I had done back when I was at Natcoll – a Lovecraftina "Elder Thing" – and having licked blood, I then tested if I could come up with something simple enough that I could do it in a day, and submit for Illustration Friday. Clearly, I was still channeling Lovecraft, so I then recycled the piece with more of a cthulhoid focus ... or should we say, tentacle.
As promised, I have also made a start on my illustrated children's book to be: I sat down with the text and a storyboard and made a plan – and I have been sketching hares! Moreover, I have been trying to sketch hares whose upper lip is not yet split. Nothing much to show as yet, but here are some preliminary hare sketches, in pencil, and in ink.
On Amazing stories, I have been looking at the skies: Alien skies, and how different artists imagined them. And Architects of the Future – and what kind of building they might put into such an unaccustomed environment.
One thing I have been meaning to do for quite a little while, is to sit down and paint some flowers from my garden: small size watercolours which I can offer for sale, for cheap. So here they are: A marigold, a "Mexican hat", and a couple of cornflowers, each on A5 size paper. I will endeavour to continue the effort this coming month. I have listed the little paintings on Ebay for now, though I hope to eventually have a proper sales platform on my own website. I would be extremely pleased if any of you desire to acquire an original artwork of mine: find my Ebay listings here.
Don't forget there is also the online shop: harp music CDs can be bought here, or downloaded from CD Baby, iTunes, or Amazon. I haven't had a sheet music sale in a little while: but yes, the harp sheet music books are still there. There are some calendars left for those of you who like to leave things for a little later, and my splendid new New Zealand film locations map, of which I have indeed sold a few.
The coming month, I plan to plough ahead on my children's book illustrations, and my website, and to find a job. Of course, each one of these tasks is big enough to fill the whole of a month, or maybe two ... My savings account is now running close on empty, and paid work has not turned up. I mean, none. Whatsoever. My projected income for the next month is something like $60, before expenses.
Heartfelt thanks to those of you who gave me a shout-out and recommended my services: If anyone has a job for me, or wants to buy my stuff, or knows someone I should get in touch with, or has any other helpful suggestions in that vein – please, please do. It would be sad to have to shoot myself for lack of money, just when I was getting ready to finally have that illustration career.
Given the seriousness of the situation, I have decided to put another one of my harps on the market: This is a Martin Haycock Gothic harp – suitable for medieval and renaissance repertory, or anything else anyone may want to play on it, which requires a range of 3 1/2 octaves, G - c'''. It has a hole and pin to accommodate a d''' string, but is missing the peg, though this could be replaced by a friendly harp builder near you. The harp has bray pins throughout (except the two top strings), though they work well only on the lower strings. It is a medium-sized Gothic, which sits on your calves, or a stool, and it has a nice rounded soundboard, easy on the hands and wrists.
The harp has some historic value: it is one of only a few historical harps built by Martin Haycock, Frances Kelly's husband, before he turned over the harp making part of the business to his apprentice Simon Capp. I am not sure of the year it was made, it must have been circa 1985, if not earlier – which makes it an early reconstructed early harp!
The harp used to belong to Andrew Lawrence-King – in actual matter of fact, it is the instrument that features on the cover of his very first recording, the one with the Christmas carols. I bought it from Andrew when I was studying in Bremen, and it has been with me all those years. It comes with a custom made padded, water-repellant bag – if I am rightly informed, the handiwork of Andrew's mother. Perhaps it has some collector's value for the devoted fan? Then again, he might not be that kind of famous. :S
You can hear the harp on a few tracks on my CDs: "Lament for Gandalf", on the Travels in Middle-earth CD (yup, those are the bray pins) – Suite from "musicalische Rüstkammer" (without brays), and "Amoroso", on the 700 Years of Pop CD – and the Faenza codex piece "Rosetta che non cançi mai colore", on the Rent a Nightingale CD.
Asking price: € 1990 / US$ 2550 / NZ$ 3000, or best offer. Can be shipped from New Zealand by regular mail, shipping costs not included. Email me if you are interested – and make sure to pass this on to all your harp playing friends!
A couple of weeks ago, I had a call from a lady about harp lessons. Which would be a nice thing if it actually resulted in her booking the lessons, and paying me for them, but I am not too sanguine. I told her firmly that if she wanted to study with me, she need to have her own instrument, and invited her to come around and look at the available options. Which also provided me with a last-ditch deadline for sorting out the furniture in my office! The place has been a mess of boxes, unsorted bits of paper, and pieces of furniture in various states of dismantlement, ever since I got my precious Ikea shelves, and the rest of the garbage of a former life, shipped over, a year and a half ago. I'd moved my work desk to the lounge last winter, to be closer to the fireplace, and to give myself some space to sort these things: but there it stayed until well after Christmas. I am pleased to say, though, that it was worth making the effort even though at times it seemed far too overwhelming a task. The new setup is much nicer than it was before: my desk is now in front of the window, rather than stuck in a corner, and the big bookshelf covers the best part of the back wall, offering some additional insulation from cold and noise. Plus, there is a nice big empty space can one for if and when that lady comes back and actually wants a lesson.
From the garden, there isn't all that much to report: the apples are now ripe, and plentiful this year, and I've started to collect the first of the walnuts. The peppers are still going strong, and so is the kamokamo: I harvested a giant specimen last week, and am finding out all its uses! For one thing, it makes a great addition to a lasagna. The zucchini have been a little disappointing this year, but I am looking forward to making some pepper and zucchini pickles over the Easter holidays. With a bit of luck, the small handful of jalapeno chillies I spotted ripening on the three little plants which survived the rigours of spring storm and summer drought, will be ripe in time to turn them into homemade fruit chutney. Let's try that again next year!
One of the passionfruit vines I bought from the off-shelf last winter has died, but the other is doing quite fine, and making a great contribution to greening up my garden fence. The other day, I acquired a small grapevine, which will, in time, hopefully get to cover another section of the fence. I decided that I am going to need a juniper, and perhaps a pomegranate, but I might leave that for when I need another Christmas tree. The tiny little tree seedling that poked its head out of one of my pots last winter, has been careful tended, and appears to be turning into a birch (it might have been a rowan). I need to allocate it a good spot. And it's about time to start shopping for that almond tree!
Cool Things Friends Do: Anna-Marie Kingsley
Anna-Marie is one of the lovely local artist I have met through Wai Art, and she is also one of the group's most active – and successful – members. Her specialty is very specific: She paints taps. As in, hot and cold water taps. What is this all about? Read it in her own words:
"I am 44 years old, and was born on the east side of the Coromandel, in New Zealand. My dairy farming family moved down to a sheep and beef farm at Colyton in the Manawatu, when I was ten. I was quite bright but disliked school as we seemed to waste so much time. I was below average in art at school and our grumpy art teacher spent most of his time telling us how useless we were. As usual those that could, did, and those that couldn’t, never learned how."
"My twin sister was very talented though, and my mum and grandmother were both competent amateur artists. So my teenage years were spent coming home and finding my mum completely immersed in painting (she kneeled/crouched on the floor when she painted which always looked very uncomfortable). She would ask for critiques so I learned a lot about art through osmosis."
"I fiddled about with art and did the usual watercolour flower cards for Christmases etc, but it wasn’t until I was 35, after my son Allen was about 15 months old, and a friend asked if I would support her by going along to an art class run at the Masterton Art Club. It was an acrylic course with Jan Eagle, and I’m not sure I learned anything but it seemed really fun. I bought some cheap acrylic paint and some canvases and started with ubiquitous kitchen art phase with lemons, olives, chickens, etc. I started painting big when I saw a Stephen Allwood exhibition and realised the impact of big artworks. "
Q: So — why do you paint taps?
"I paint taps for two reasons, firstly because I really enjoy painting taps – it is technical and difficult so always provides a challenge and stops the subject from becoming monotonous. The second reason is for marketing. I realised quite early on that you need to find a niche in the art world; something that is uniquely you, so the artworks can instantly be identified as yours from twenty metres away. Your name needs to be seen on the artwork label 8 times on average for people to remember your name is associated with a certain type of artwork – the easier you make it for viewers to remember your name and artworks the more likely you are going to be recognised and perhaps purchased."
"I enter a lot of national art competitions and for four years had a delightful winning spree. I talked to some of the art competition judges and was told that I was winning because my artworks were unique and interesting. I was also told that I was only going to continue to win awards if I showed a continuous, significant (but also logically progressive) shift in what I was painting. Hence I included material one year, and flowers the next. This year I am continuing to paint flowers and have included barbed wire."
Q: You are very active within Wai Art, can you tell us a little bit about how that group came about, and your involvement in it?
"At the first art course I went on I met Jane Giles and Tracy Lysaght, and they encouraged me to come along to the Carterton Art Group. It was a very small group then, and with the inclusion of younger and more vibrant artists it rapidly grew into a very large group. We rebranded as Wai Art Trust and started holding national exhibitions. We had a fabulous marketing person as a trustee, Paulette Harris, who rebranded us and gave us a professional look. Wai Art’s primary aim is to support and promote Wairarapa artists, so we are very artist driven and always try to get the best deal for them."
"Wai Art is often thought as just the Wai Art Group, but that is actually just a part of what we do that provides education and support to local artists. We also run Wai Art Scape which gets artists artworks out into local cafes, shops, businesses and rest homes. We also run exhibitions in the Carterton Event Centre, The Big Wai Art Sale, and annual Wai Art Calendar competition, set painting for amateur theatre productions, the Carterton Outdoor Gallery, and we also facilitate art workshops. We have also just set up Wai Art Press which is a small publishing arm that helps writers and illustrators publish illustrated children’s books."
"We have a wonderful group of trustees who are a delight to work with and it is a huge amount of fun. We are very lucky to have a large group of fantastic enthusiastic volunteers who are always willing to help when big events (and small) are on."
"Currently, I am busy painting for a solo exhibition at Kapiti Law Gallery in Waikanae opening on June 1st. It is a fantastic gallery to exhibit at – very professional and enthusiastic."
"My next big project is a ‘book by committee’ that I am managing. It involves 10 writers and two illustrators and is called Peanut Butter Island. It is about a rat that takes a holiday on a conservation reserve island and wreaks havoc. Writing by committee is a wonderful process and I thoroughly recommend it for getting the best possible script and illustrations. Definitely have to leave your ego at the door though; it only works if you are completely open to others ideas and are confident enough to accept changes to your work."
Q: What was your favorite "moment of an Artist's life"?
"That would definitely have to be when one of my art students sells their first artwork. That public affirmation it is an incredibly exciting, defining moment in any artists life and they will always remember that first artwork sale."
Womad Taranaki 2013
The other treat I gave myself for my birthday was to head up to Taranaki for Womad. I hadn't been since 2005: since then the price seemed to go up and up, and my income went down and down, and the lineup didn't look all that interesting, most of the time.
This year, Mari Boine and Jordi Savall were on the bill – along with a select number of acts representing various music traditions I am interested in. Performers like those don't make it out to New Zealand every day, so it's best to grab them when they do! I could only afford a ticket for a day, so I settled on the Sunday, which covered most of the performers I really wanted to hear, though I sadly missed out on the contingent of musicians who came over from Mali. There were three acts from that nook of the world this year, for some strange reason.
I drove up to Taranaki on Friday, and put up my tent at the motor camp in Stratford – the plan was to take the Forgotten World Highway to Tauherenikau on my way back, a spectacular drive through one of the most remote and sparsely populated areas on the North Island, and a road I hadn't been down since that a-while-ago summer I spent at the folk camp in Tahora, where the Elvish Hymn popped into my head: the first time ever a tune popped into my head begging to be worked out and written down, so I remember that!
Saturday, I went for a hike on the mountain, then headed down to Opunake beach to catch the sunset. The thing to do in Taranaki. I've done it a few times, and fairly recently, too, but it's always a winner.
New Zealand has been in a drought for the past month or so, but that Saturday evening, the rains set in – and it continued to alternately drizzle, drift, and pour all through Sunday. Which made for a rather subdued Womad experience, but a surprisingly large number of people put up with the weather – all the pre-paid ticket holders, I assume – and at least it was still reasonably warm. I congratulate myself on my forethought for picking up an umbrella at the Stratford New World, before heading into New Plymouth – the best $11 investment I ever made – and for putting on my waterproof hiking booths instead of my dancing shoes (one of their last ever assignments). I did bring the photo camera, but gave up on the idea of dragging it around with me all day in that weather – so, sadly, no photos of Womad. There are rather a few from the drive back, though.
I've been interested in Mari Boine's work for a good long while: ever since my friend Pia Örjeheim pointed her out to me on one of my visits to Stockholm, which means that it must be well over a decade ago. My Womad Sunday kicked off with her "Artists in Conversation" session. I think there was a message for me in the things she had to say about living without being ashamed for who you are – her ethnicity, in this case, as a Sami living in Norway, who was perpetually made to feel inferior on account of her language and heritage – and how she felt compelled to speak, or rather sing up for her people, as if there was "an old wise woman whispering in her ear". To her, it is completely a matter of course that who is talking through her are her foremothers, not her forefathers. That, also, is something which feels familia through the part of my own background which is Scandinavian.
Sami is part of that widespread and not terribly well researched family of languages which are spoken by ethnic minorities stretching halfway round the Arctic rim, from northern Scandinavia all the way to central Siberia. Finnish and Estonian are another branch on that tree, and so is Hungarian. Another trait which Sami culture shares with Siberia, is the practice of shamanism. Mari Boine's music draws from these roots: the traditional singing style called joik, and the persistent drum rhythms that go with it. These sounds have a palpable physical effect on the listener: you can literally feel it in your body. But this performer is no traditional purist: she seamlessly integrates other music styles which are also intentionally trance-inducing: North American First Nations drumming, the singing and dancing of the whirling dervishes from Turkey, and 21th century electronica.
Hearing Jordi Savall perform was a blast from the past and then some. I remember hearing him and Montserrat Figueras in Berlin in the 1980's, back when Early Music was still "that odd bunch of people playing weirdly shaped out-of-tune instruments they have built themselves" – something that happened not in the big concert halls, but in humble venues, like the church in Berlin-Wilmersdorf where they did an Easter Vigil concert back when I was still in school, or just out of it. I remember hearing their Llibre Vermell de Montserrat recording on radio, and falling in love with medieval music. I remember spending half an afternoon looking at museum exhibits in the company of their daughter, Arianna Savall, whom I met at the 1992 harp symposium in Utrecht, without realizing at first who she was. I remember the stories my harp teacher used to tell about his crazy gigs with Jordi, and Montsi – he worked with them quite regularly back then. They were some of the first who went to living folk and non-European music traditions, to draw inspiration for their performances of European music from earlier times.
Most of all, I remember Montserrat Figueras' voice. Her unique way of embellishing it, which seemed to owe more to oriental singing styles, than to European classical training. She was a very beautiful lady, too, and a striking stage appearance, not easily forgot. She and Jordi Savall were the soul of Hesperion XX, everyone else more or less came and went. It should have given me pause that Jordi Savall was announced to perform without her: She died, well over a year ago, and I never knew of it, until I checked the liner notes for Womad, where she was referred to as Jordi Savall's *late* wife. She was such an icon of my music-infatuated younger years.
I can't begin to imagine what it must be like for Jordi Savall to perform now without her. Their creative partnership, and their marriage, has lasted more than four decades, since they met at music college in Spain, and went to study early music in Basel together, the year after I was born. He must feel amputated when he walks on stage these days. Then again, what else is there, for any artist, than to try to put out as much beauty as one is given time for, until it is one's own turn to go. I can't say that I remember Jordi's viol playing as such, particularly – rather, it was the ensemble performance, and Montserrat's voice, which left the deepest impression. Back in the day, there was often a certain roughness to early music performances: everyone was still struggling to master the appropriate techniques, to bring out the best from those old instruments, and from a musical repertory which worked very differently from the one most of us were trained in. Although Hesperion XX, and their other incarnations, were always top of the heap when it came to technical mastery and musicianship.
What I heard at Womad was a performance which gave the impression of being carefully matured over many, many years, until "instrumental technique" becomes a meaningless word. This is a guy who sings on his viol. And the sound reaches out and touches you, just like Mari Boine touches you physically with her joiking. But where her music comes along as something substantial which grabs you and shakes you, which nourishes, but might potentially dislocate quite a lot of pain, Jordi Savall's viol playing is more in the nature of a ray of clear, comforting light. You might choose to follow it and let it console you, but you might also choose to ignore it. At least that was how I experienced it, sitting there on a rainy day in Taranaki, pondering these things.
Another thing I didn't know until I checked the Womad program notes the day before driving up to Taranaki, was that Jordi Savall was traveling with another significant person from my past, namely, my former harp teacher. I hadn't been expecting that – for all I knew, Jordi after all has a daughter who plays harp rather well. But then, I had been sublimely uninterested in what the teacher was doing these days, being that he counts among the few select significant people from my past whom I really have no desire to ever meet again.
Watching him at Womad, made me ponder the difference between people who develop and mature, and people who get stuck in an act, and stand still. There was no sense of maturing in his playing: the same shticks, the same affectation, the same cheap effects he already used 25 years ago, not mitigated by any development in expressiveness that I could discover. If anything, rather the opposite! I used to admire his wonderful sense of rhythm. But this performance confirmed something that had begun to dawn on me quite a while ago: he has no particularly great sense of rhythm. He just knows to attach himself to people who do.
What struck me most forcibly, however, was what an expert he is at hogging everyone's attention: he sat in the middle of the stage, where apparently the stage technicians had expected the soloist to be placed, because the video monitor remained trained on him throughout the entire performance (not a pretty sight). Moreover, after the first piece, he actually grabbed the microphone he was sharing with Jordi Savall, and resolutely swung it in his own direction. So where at first we had heard the shining, colourful sounds of a beautifully modulated viol sing, with a suitably subtle harmonic and rhythmic accompaniment tinkling away underneath, the next piece treated us to the rather clunky sounds of some rather dull harp chords, which rather overpowered the viol player whom most of us had come to hear. Fortunately the sound engineer shifted the balance back to more tolerable proportions for the next piece, but it must have taken away from the enjoyment of the music for more people than just me.
Jordi's group was also the only one who complained about the weather, and had to be shifted to an improvised venue in the food tent at short notice – and while I sympathize with the fact that those instruments really aren't designed for the outdoors, it did make them come across as slightly primadonnaish. Particularly when the harper, who by the end of their slot had also taken over all the talking, rubbed it in that "the instruments had to be protected" (yeah right) – and who cares about the audience's inconvenience. Every one of the other performers sat out the rain. As did the audience, for that matter.
I could have known these things from the first time I ever met the harper in question, at the impressionable age of 19, when he burst into the seminar room at Basel, arriving late for the first ever historical harp symposium, and stood on a chair to take everyone's acclaim. I remember that well. I also remember that for the longest time, I bought his act.
I wonder how many of my own attitudes have been shaped by having these types of behaviour presented to me as appropriate, even desirable? But fortunately, I think that I myself might just belong to the group of people who do indeed develop and mature: I find it hard to put myself in the shoes of the twenty-something who went all starry-eyed over this puffed-up bag of ego. Perhaps at the time it was something that I needed, to compensate for the damages done by others to my sense of self and self-worth. Unfortunately, as it turned out, I was driving out the devil with the beelzebub. I am glad to say that I have found some better role models in the meanwhile.
Womad is always full of surprises. I met a few people I knew from Wellington: my friend Nani greeted me with a giant Caribbean hug, and asked me quite matter-of-factly if I was performing. I declined this, but said it would be nice, one day. She was practically bubbling over with excitement to let me know that she had got her old harp back, and how much she loved it. As a side note, she also told me that she is pregnant. This was a new thing for her, she said, and all her boyfriend's fault. But she didn't say that in a mean way. In fact, if I have ever met anyone who, while being unapologetically extrovert and naturally the center of attention, is incapable of meanness, I suspect it would be her. Some people just, you know, rock.
Sitting behind me in the food tent listing to Jordi Savall, was a 20something red-haired girl who smiled broadly at me when I turned round to go. She looked vaguely familiar, so I asked if I knew her, and she said "Indeed you do!" – I'd accompanied her for her singing exam, years ago, must have been the first year I was in Wellington. She not only remembered that, she also made a point of hanging around in my vicinity until we'd had an opportunity to chat. All in all, it was an uplifting experience: If there are people in New Zealand who travel across the country to sit in the rain all day and listen to Tuvinian throat singing and such, there might be hope for New Zealand music yet. It rather reminded me of what I myself was like, at that age.
Then of course, at festivals like these, there is almost always the one performer or ensemble one has never heard of, but is blown away by. This year, for me, it was Ayarkhaan – a three-piece all-female vocal ensemble from Sakha, or Yakutia, in Eastern Siberia. Vocal and mouth harp, that is. Their language is related to Turkish, Mongolian, Korean and Japanese, not to Sami and Samojedic, Finnish and Hungarian, but their vocal style struck me as quite similar to Mari Boine's joik. Moreover, they win extra brownie points for the best stage outfit, ever. Now I know where the creators of Flash Gordon (the camp film version) got their inspiration from!
A sweet interlude of more familiar Anglo-Saxon fare were Abigail Washburn and Kay Welch. It was quite peaceful to sit there huddled under an umbrella shared with the next person who didn't have one, and listen to their good oldfashioned USA folksy style singer-songwriter thing – with just a dash of China thrown in for good measure.
Another performance I had been looking forward to was that of Sudha Ragunathan – not because I particularly knew the performer, but because I have always enjoyed listening to Indian classical music. I haven't had the opportunity to listen to a lot of Carnatic music though – most of the records I have, and the performances I have attended, were musicians from Northern India. It was the second-to-last time slot of the evening, and the last performance I heard, being rather soaked enough by the end of it. By then it was dark, and the rain drifting down quite steadily: not only on the audience, but on the performers sitting at the front edge of their stage. The tabla player looked a little worried for the pitch of his drum, but the singer didn't bat an eyelid: she just carried on, with a smiling face. And regardless of how her throat might feel the next morning!
The last song of her set, she introduced with a translation of the lyrics. Quoting from memory, they went something like this: "Creation is not whole without you being in it: your being makes the universe complete." I cannot think of a more thorough affirmation of every person's, every living beings worth, and of their right, or indeed their duty to exist.
Arohanui, from Asni