We've returned from our NoteSpeak American debut at the Jaipur International Literature Festival in Boulder, Colorado, incredibly inspired by the entire experience and are back to our routine. I haven’t had time to post a blog as we were off the plane and at Milan’s Fashion Week with our band Lisa & The Welcome the next night, a pretty surreal jump, and have been gigging ever since.
We rolled into Boulder early so as to have time for a couple of rehearsals with the local musicians we had hired. The festival’s kind generosity did not extend to bringing the whole band over. We were anxious to meet Dexter Payne (Sax and Clarinet), Russ Meissner (Drums) and Eric Thorin (Bass) who our great friend Lisa Bell had scouted for us. We liked the sound we had heard from all of them and were convinced they’d be a good fit.
At our first rehearsal, I gotta say though that, Marco and I were astonished at HOW good a fit they were. We set up in Lisa Bell’s living room turned rehearsal studio and began to work through the setlist. Right out the gate, we were impressed with how well they knew the material and the enthusiasm each brought to the room. As I watched Marco walking everyone through each piece I marvelled at the effortlessness of the endeavour. Phew, relief! What could have been a disaster turned out to be the purest of rapports. The incredible level of musicianship brought to the table by each player was astonishing.
After that priority was taken care of we got to the business of filling the theatre. Lisa Bell had a flyer printed and placed strategically throughout the festival and Marco and I headed to local radio station KGNU for an interview. Marco protested that he oughta be out riding a bike through the mountains and just let me handle the press.
I told him, ‘C’mon, I’ll just translate for you, it’ll be intriguing for the listeners.’
But we needn’t have worried about his participation. When we showed up at the station the DJ, Dennis Rider, was incredibly well informed and enthusiastic about the project, which is by no means the norm, and jumped immediately into conversation with the somewhat taciturn Marco.
I was left giggling to myself throughout (Marco is famous among our friends for his antipathy for photos and his deep reserve.) as the two bonded over NoteSpeak and Marco lost his reluctance of all things promotional and just enjoyed speaking with Dennis.
If you’re so inclined you can hear the September 14th interview here , it made me silly happy the fact that previous to our songs he played one of my favourite artists, the incomparable Ani DiFranco.
Then off to the opening night dinner of the festival. Now we finally were to meet the organizers and some of the writers on the panels.
The dinner opened with an amazing Anne Waldman reciting a couple of her poems. For those of you who don’t know her- She and Allen Ginsberg founded the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute. She was featured in Bob Dylan’s film ‘Renaldo and Clara’ and is an all-around fascinating poet. I was thrilled to hear her and to speak with her after that performance.
The room was cracklingly fizzy with energy, I was beside myself with the joy of being surrounded by creative types who are all in love with words just like me, in love with language and communication, all of us invited to @JLFBoulder to fulfil it’s stated purpose of being “… a festival of ideas and innovative minds” and a “platform for minority voices in Boulder.” I had too many intriguing conversations to recount here, Lisa Bell and I were among the last to leave, as is our wont.
That happy, effervescent, home among my people feeling saw me through the festival. My only regret, that I couldn’t attend more panels what with rehearsals, soundchecks, promotion, instrument hire etc. etc. But brothers and sisters lemme tell you about the panel I did catch.
First a teensy bit of backstory… Right before leaving for the States I was reunited with my Australian friend- sculptor Greg Bowering who I hadn’t seen in 23 years (and woooweee there’s a whole ‘nother blog right there! ).
I was researching the writers speaking at Zee Jaipur who intrigued me (and there were so many!)- reading their work and he was looking through the list of speakers. He came across Yassmin Abdel Magied’s name and told me, “If you see no one else go see her and tell her she’s incredible from me!”
Luckily one of the panels that Yassmin took part in, “On Cultural Appropriation”, was the day after our show on the same stage we had performed on the previous evening.
Lisa Bell and I attended and I was gobsmacked by her in every way.
Now let me be superficial for a N.Y. minute, even if the photo doesn't do her justice she won best dressed at the festival hands down in my opinion… just sayin’. Though clearly, that wasn’t what was astonishing.
The beauty that is Yassmin is the speed and dexterity with which she forms her arguments and rebuttals and the absolute inarguable sense of them. She and Jovan Mays, one of those intriguing conversationalists from that first dinner, were the only people of colour on the panel.
Though the other writers seemed like a very well-meaning bunch, there was much talk of ‘artistic licence’ and ‘as long as it’s well researched’, as well as the reminder that so many authors write in the voice of a gender that is not their own, there was an important point they were all missing.
Yasmin’s argument that while yes though that is all well and good; real damage could be done by getting it wrong. That an author who does not ‘get it right’ regarding Muslim women of colour, for example, are perpetuating a dialogue that then shapes an uninformed reader’s view of Muslim women, potentially influencing them to accept as truth that which is not, contributing to a formation of an opinion seen through the own writer's lens and contributing to a misunderstanding that might also inflame readers. The potential for lasting injury and it’s ramifications in such cases, that posit, was to my mind irrefutable.
I was reminded of the Italian expression “Non ha peli sulla lingua”- literally translated She has no hair on her tongue- what it means basically is that she did not mince her words. I’ve not put it nearly as eloquently as she did, but there’s the gist of it.
Met some virtual friends in the anolog world for the first time...It was incredibly inspiring to finally speak outside of Facebook with the talented Katrina Dawn Miller and loved meeting the unflappable supremely organized Suraj Dhingra with whom I'd been conversing for weeks as we organized details for our participation at the festival.
And generally had the most wonderful time...
Ooooo and I also had an extraordinarily flattering and rather exciting invite to return for something really special in April, more on that next time ;) !
It was the best possible start for NoteSpeak across the pond and I couldn't be more grateful. So Namaste to all ya'll!