Tag Archives: music

Saint Patrick´s Day Special: My Favourite Irish

17 Mar

Ian is a teacher and ex-colleague of mine, one of the first people I met when I arrived in Spain. While car-pooling to teach company classes in the port of Valencia (where you actually get to drive on the race track, how cool is that), we´d be cracking the silliest jokes while his little car radio would be blasting old-school songs from Carole King to Soulsister. (Yes, my Belgian friends, Soulsister!) He was one of the first people that made me feel at home in this new country, something I´ll be forever grateful for.

Marian Keyes
Marian Keyes is a writer whose novels are generally written in a light and humorous tone, although the themes she deals with are often dark and controversial (alcoholism, domestic violence, depression, to name a few). I guess it´s this combination that makes her work so addictive. I started reading her after I´d come across a secondhand copy of The Brightest Star In The Sky, which I bought for less than a pound at a jumble sale in a little Welsh village.
I usually grab one of her thick books when I´m struggling through another, much thinner book, and then I always end up finishing her book first.

I accidentally came across a youtube-cover of “Take me To Church”, and that´s how I got to know this Irish singer-songwriter. (I just found out from his wikipedia-page that today is his 26th birthday -synchronicity! Always a good sign.) Allergic as I am to simplified tunes and uninspired lyrics (see Supermarket Serenade), I immediately fell for the soul and poetry of his work.

So: long live the Irish!

And a happy Saint Patrick´s Day to you all.




Supermarket Serenade

3 Nov

I can´t count the times when I fled from a store simply because of the background music. I walk in, become instantly overwhelmed, and just walk out. Or I try to cope, grab some clothes to try on, head for the changing room, and then leave without trying on a single piece, spurting out as if some monster were on my heels. And I know that when afterwards I relate my unhappy adventures I sound like an eighty-year-old. (“It wasn´t music, it was just noise! And why do they put it so loud?” Yes, grandma. Get over it.)

I used to have only one Happy Background Music Memory (“Love me tender” in a secondhand bookstore), but now, I´m delighted to say, I have two.

It happened last week at the supermarket. I was trying to decide what brand of cereal to buy (another high score on the grandma-scale), when I heard flamenco. Live flamenco, sung by a booming male voice. Following the trail of sound I arrived at the supermarket´s fish department. The South-American saleswoman who always smiles and puts extra parsley with my salmon, had come from behind the stalls with fish and crushed ice and was standing in the aisle. Before her were three men, all dressed in the same darkblue tracksuit. Jobmates, I suppose. They looked like they had been driving around in a van and had popped in at the supermarket to get a snack for on the road.

The tallest of the three, a slender, grey-haired guy, who looked more like a retired James Bond than a gypsy, had gone down on one knee in front of the saleswoman.
Esa mujer,” he sang, with that typical flamenco vibrato. The whole department vibrated along with his love song. The woman smiled -she always smiles, but this man had managed to make her smile even wider. When he had finished, he got up and they chatted a little, like the old friends they probably were.

Nothing like a decent bit of serenade to lighten up your shopping.

Sing At a Wedding: Check

15 Sep

(Number 4 on the list)

Take everything you know about weddings and store it in a far corner of your mind for the duration of this post.

Now think bellydancers and paper airplanes. Think festivalbracelets and foodtrucks. Think blonde female priest. That´s the kind of wedding I was invited to by Tim and Tina. And they had asked me to sing. What an honour!

It all started off a lot less glamourous than I had imagined. Excruciating pain in my left eye the day before, frenzied search for an eye-doctor. Damaged cornea, he said, and an infection on top of that. I was in a bigger panic than the day before my own wedding. Luckily the eye-drops I got worked wonders, but I couldn´t wear my contacts, nor any make-up. So I had to resign myself to singing to strangers while wearing my glasses. Uh-oh. I know how silly that may sound to you, but I have a dioptry of -13, which means my eyes look very, very small behind my glasses, which gives me that hyper-intelligent, but far from sexy, nerd-look. But apparently it´s a lot easier to get over something when there´s absolutely nothing you can do about it.

The wedding took place in a beautifully restored Flemish barn, where a stage had been mounted and decorated with colourful Indian lanterns. Tina, who is a gifted belly,- and Bollywooddancer although Belgian by birth, wore an amazing cream-coloured Indian wedding dress. She had bought it in Mumbai, just after Tim had proposed to her in front of the Taj Mahal (which is a super cliché thing to do, and therefore a very original thing for Tim to do, who usually keeps himself very far from clichés).

The ceremony was lead by our friend Leen, a teacher, singer and actress. She did a marvelous job, with lots of love and humour. There were many moving speeches, Tim´s brother and his wife gave a wonderful performance of “Head Over Feet” from Alanis Morrisette, and then I got to sing an a capella version of “Don´t cry for me, Argentina”. I had adapted the lyrics -the chorus going something like this, to give you and idea:

I love you so much, Tim, said Tina/ and I promise I´ll never leave you / all through my wild days / my mad existence / I´ll keep my promise / don´t keep your distance – etc.

I´d been very insecure about the lyrics – unlike the chorus, the verses had nothing to do with the original text anymore and were very personal. It´s quite a risk, taking something you´ve made up all by yourself and throwing it out into the world. It makes you very vulnerable. So I was super-nervous, hands trembling like crazy. But everybody was listening attentively, like they didn´t want to miss a word, and I got so much positive feedback afterwards that my fear of coming across as the Ultimate Nerd slowly evaporated.

Instead of wedding rings, Tim and Tina exchanged festival bracelets -how cool is that? Imagine a bride with a pair of pliers in her hands! Then Leen and I sang “A Whole New World” from the Aladdin movie. By that time I wasn´t trembling anymore, and it was beautiful. It´s so nice to sing a duet. It´s one of my favourite things in the world.

And then came the most spectacular surprise: a live show of belly-dance and Bollywood performances! Fourteen dancers taking turns swirling and swaying around, tying bells at their feet, throwing scarves in the air, through the movement of their bodies invoking all the emotions on the spectrum of love. And of course Tina was there, dancing as we had never seen her dance before, with that irresistable joy and conviction that brides radiate on their wedding day. We just stood there, gazing at her with our mouths open wide.



4 Dec

I thought I could sing, until I started taking singing lessons.

There I learned that it´s not just about keeping your tone, and that increasing the volume isn´t achieved by simply singing louder. It´s all about exploring your instrument, that one instrument that you carry inside you. So basically it´s about exploring yourself. The shyness that keeps you from really opening your mouth. The fear that keeps your muscles tense. So you have to let those negative emotions go and relax. And then little by little you feel how you can create a space inside you, between you tongue, your teeth and your palate, for the sound to be.

You have to plant your feet firmly on the ground like a tree, so you can pull up the energy through your whole body, then draw your breath from deep within you, and give it the soul of sound.

Then you will feel how your head literally becomes filled with music and how it makes the air around it vibrate, how it fills the space around you and –if you´re lucky- the heads of the people who are there. And if you´re really lucky: their hearts.

I can honestly say that of all the people in this village, my singing teacher is the one who really got into my head.