NEW YEAR EVE
There were tented
stages, small concerts, yarn spinning, spoken words, Big top with Australian,
and African bands,
the whole festival leading up to New years eve and
Culminating in a huge fire show using lanterns and horse lanterns with
people in them, elephants and fish kangaroos etc.
all dancing to a carnival, drunken waltz that would stop every 24 bars
for a few seconds to freeze the dance movement and hold a frame, suspending
the movement so we could view the figures.
The whole piece started with a thanks and honouring to the original aboriginal
owners of the site land. Then two aboriginal men started a fire with wood
in the traditional way without matches, one lifted the fire into the air
for all of us to see.
He then gave the fire and
passed it to another
character who ran around with
it as a torch, waving and dancing
with it around the huge fairground wheel that had been built out of wood.
The procession of translucent animal figures with lights inside them,
got wilder and busier and more and more populated. Sparklers and fireworks
were set off, and sparks began flying, all colours of swirling flaming
blizzards of fire on the huge wheel.
Last time I was
four years ago, star
figures entered the arena
lit up by lanterns, as
they entered and some 60,000
people looked on,
a real shooting star fell
across the sky, every one
cheered in awe, as some
kind of gift.
or prayer answered.
As if it had been arranged
by some direct connection from
earth to the heavens.
Some 80,000 people
for this annual event from
high up on the hill down towards
the stage erected for the
huge 100 person choir.
all dressed in white.
Singing a kind of slow East
All rehearsed by a woman
Who by the end of rehearsals
was losing her own voice.
The day before I
was asked to play on my own in a wine bar tent, I had told the owners
that it would be a band I decided we would be called the fire walkers
or 'The Familiar Strangers'. I didn't know who would turn up, if anyone.
I started playing alone. Aimee joined me on a few songs at first, playing
Bodhran. Then I played a tango on my trombone, in the middle of this,
then appeared another trombone player, one became two trombones, plus
my 'bone, then a fiddle. Then accordion player came up. Then a young woman
playing string harp. (I hushed everyone so we could hear her solo.) Then
a double bass player with a bowler hat asked to join in. Then Greg Sheehan,
a wonderful percussionist mate, came up and played tambourine. Then an
African four string "balong" player. Then a reed section of
two players were playing off from the stage, as by then the stage was
full to overflowing.
Lots of folks were dancing on the red dusty earth off the stage.
"The fire-walkers" became many and mutated into a big dance
rhythmic jam, a band became "The Familiar strangers" solos were
taken. and given.
I called for more wine, that was our payment. Champagne arrived.
I drank it like water as I was thirsty for liquid.
Wine was flowing, at 5am drank tea in a tea tent, buzzing.
Went touring up
Northern New South Wales coastline.
In A white flashy Holden Commodore
I hired, with automatic gears,
central locking and a big trunk!
I drove 60 miles
up from Sydney to wards
Byron. Departing Sydney at 1pm, sunshine,
8 hours later I was passing through
lightening and storms, thunder,
raining down in sheets,
bouncing off the road.
lights frazzled from huge trucks,
reflecting and fractured by the rain
and water and darkness,
I got to Grafton around 10.30 and drove
the darker back roads inland,
on towards Copmanhurst inland.
to visit Jimmy Storey in his 50s, a mate,
I met some years ago in Queensland,
president of the Romany association of Australia.
At Jimmy's place remote and dry,
no rain here since November,
you could see the dark full rain clouds over
towards the coast, but there was no
way of pulling or coaxing them over here
towards the dry, cracked parched countryside,
to fall onto corrugated roofs,
to fill up metal guttering and be flowing
into the huge water tanks erected to
collect any rainfall, however sparse.
100 Acres and jimmy was building a new
house of wood, brick legs and plenty of
windows for light.
Jimmy had rice and meatballs ready to eat.
Pictures of his New Guinean wife,
kids and grandchildren on the shelf,
all kitchen, living room together,
his office/space full of Romany Gypsy books,
pictures of Jimmy with Macedonian
Gypsies on his European tour,
other Gypsies, pix of Django Reinhardt,
a small library of books,
CDs of Gypsy music from around the world.
Jimmy was doing a course in Business
studies for music and wanted to pick
my brains about the little I know about Marketing, music agents,
recording etc etc.
We would discuss all that next morning
over breakfast, he sang me a song for
UK British Romany who were evicted from
their house, also one about Swiss/nazi
gold taken from the gypsies (as well as
from the Jews)
There was some kind of sadness in Jim,
he and his wife were not getting on
so well lately.! They had always lived
closely together near their work,
he was now touring and away alot
playing festivals etc, story telling etc,
forming a band.. playing gypsy music,
Jimmy had taken a music making course
learning about midi and sampling.
Jimmy is from Ayrshire and tells me his
grandfather was a ROM,
there were a few Roms in Australia
and he was trying to bring them together
and the kids,
there was an invitation of ROM kids
to an International Romany festival.
I must ask jimmy where it is
and pass on the message.
Dorothy, Jim's wife, who was not there,
she worked in a women's refuge,
Jim told me that the area was a desert culturally, was stuck in the 50s.
NSW COAST TOURING
Drove onwards North
to Byron Bay,
hungry for a swim,
that night, all Motels are full,
Janie, and Pete, her house mate.
Their house is A 5 minute walk
from the beach.
Janie is a warm, bright and enthusiastic lovely woman teaching and studying
She is delving and searching her family tree,
Jewish Polish, Scottish, Orcadian, and
she talked about some
secretiveness in her family,
about a possible Romany background.
Janie knows Jimmy.
She has never been to Britain yet,
a pilgrimage is in store...
Byron bay is a beautiful
not too much surf and rip, snorkeling around seeing schools of fish around
to the shore.
That evening I drove
to stokers siding,
through Uki, a village hall where I played
to a mixed crowd, kids and babies too,
'new age hippies', 'spaced out' local ferals etc and 'straighter' folks.
Next day was a gig down in Byron Bay,
the great Northern Hotel, big sound system.
Aimee had to catch
a 10pm train to Sydney
and get to Jambaroo festival in Illawarra.
where her old-ex band Anam were playing.
My support, a band started at 10pm.
The train platform was full of travelers,
bags etc waiting for the train.
Peter and Janie also came to see Aimee off.
Like an old film, those moments of
departure, doors closing, whistles,
We signaled through the closed glass of
I joked and pantomimed the train moving off,
by moving twisting my feet the opposite
way as if the train had already begun to move.
Our hands touching the glass but not each other.
from either side, kisses blown, "I love you's"
The train took off, got to the end of
the platform, till some girl screaming and
running "Stop the train"
I thought someone had got caught in the
automatic doors or something but,
no, someone had missed the train further
up the line and driven to catch up with it here.
The train stopped suddenly.
The girls mum and dad came running
with a push-chair and baby in it,
carrying it, bags, cases etc.
I quickly grabbed one or two and ran with them
to help put them onto the delayed train.
lifting up the baby in its push-chair etc.
Walking slowly back down the platform to
Janie and Pete and back to the club to play
my gig in Byron Bays Northern Hotel.
Nambucca is a wonderful
Estuary sand and sea
dunes and vegetation rivulet waterways
bending and twisting, like the
Mississippi, Back onto itself.
I caught a chill,
runny nose etc from the
Air conditioning in last nights pub, where I sweated and sang.
Now tired, I took a pill and dozed on a
beach to recover.
Sunset eating fish and chips before
Met John Money, Weddoes old tour Manager.
and his mate who is a horse breaker.
I arrived at Waurchope
salty and sticky
from the sea and my sweat, after a
sound check in the small wooden hall,
I went to take a shower at Neals' mums
and dads house.
Waurchope is or
was an old timber town,
used to be redneck country and still is
conservative, Krissa the organizer, told
me that people are slowly changing.
She was recording old women in the area,
oral history projects and had discovered an
old photo album of photos taken secretly
by an old POW camp prisoner, photos of the
prisoners, men in the pantomime, cabaret,
comic theatre shows, dressed up in women's
clothes, some looking quite beautiful made
up, long flowing dresses,
posing with their "lovers in character".
Some as 'dancing girls.'
The photos were quite tiny.
The man had recently died so many
unanswered questions remained about the
kind of shows and rehearsals, where
they got the materials for the dresses
and costumes during wartime in a P.O.W. camp.
Krissa and her kids lived in Bonny Hills,
her ex husband lived next door,
she carved and sculpted out of wood,
strong figurative pieces, she used a
cutting machine to help save her time before
working by hand,
Commedia Del Arte latex
masks hung on the wall,
made by a maker up the coast,
she had worked in a theatre company in
Melbourne and now locally doing shows.
parades and agit-prop, trying to save an
old theatre space in Waurchope ....
In Waurchope, Graham
? a fiddle,
cello, guitar maker told me that in
Classical concerts there is some
detachment between musicians and the
audience, and yet there is a sacred place
you can go to in the music,
he told me that I took
him "to a sacred place",
but also reached out in a
non secular way, mixing the earthly
with songs and stories about people.
"With your feet on the Ground
You sang about life and touched
and moved Us in more than one way,
a mixture of both Earthly and sacred."
What a lovely and humbling thing to say.
Graham showed me his technique of
tuning the backs of fiddles as he
carves and shapes them, using
a tone frequency and sprinkling dust
on the fiddle as he chisels and
carves its concaveness.
The wooden back is laid over a
speaker and the dust vibrates into waves, shapes,
curving with the frequency Symmetrical if
it is chiseled evenly.
Centuries ago, makers, like Stradivarius,
would knock the wood and listen to
the resonating tones as they chiseled.
Also using extra thin wood on
Classical Guitars, the table will
resonate more and be louder,
using carbon fiber ribbon in a
criss cross mesh in 70 degree angles
to re-enforce the balsa struts
He uses native Australian woods.
M.U.A. ( Maritime
Union of Australia) BENEFIT:
its a funny pride that class consciousness , all the references about
John Maclean, communists, the red Clyde and my pride all mixed up. A pride
I was taught by my dad, but which I feel is like a religion, having a
vision of the world. It came out tonight when I sang 'Passing the pain'
down for the wharfies, for all the folks there to unite us all, solidarity
and sing together. I had been drinking there all afternoon.
On the microphone, I mentioned the Liverpool Dockers and Gough Whitlam
who was forced by The queens governor, Kerr to stand down in some sinister
coup to do with not re-newing the pine gap treaty. I rambled on , as usual,
about the Falklands/Malvinas war and the enemies that are made for us
by our Fascist Governments Thatcher and Galtieri, Malvinas, saying basically,
I thought we had the same enemies, both the Argentinean people and the
British people and they were our fucking ruling Goverments. Also I spouted
on about the amount of internationalism and support from abroad there
was for the Liverpool Dockers on their long battle/strike but none for
them in their own country, Britain, Murdoch and the Labour party and TUC.
had a covered blanket on the media.
but everywhere else there was the Australian wharfies, Longshoremen from
California, Mexican Grape pickers Union workers, the boycott, solidarity
was strong and far reaching, to me that is beauty, that others can recognise
another's plight, and act, as their brothers would. This is why this MUA
Victory is so important to all of us everywhere in the world.
I got everyone singing on Passing the pain down. After I'd sung and got
back to a beer. John the MUA rep, who I hadn't met, thanked me shook my
hand, and hugged, took off his Sweaty MUA tee shirt and sweat shirt etc
in public and gave me them, etc. He took off his shirts with MUA printed
on and gave them to me infront of folks there. The feeling he had and
I felt were the same, recognition, the Liverpool Dockers, and him were
he was born in Edgware hospital. Like me!
We were f*****g brothers, father and son, relatives, related, bonded,
shook hand kissed hugged expressed our
Yes I was drunk too, had been drinking at this pub all afternoon after
playing outside in the rain
.earlier in the day, it was an all day
Benefit of music with bands playing etc.
A couple of women ask me to play a bar called the 'Rising Sun' whenever
I get back to OZ. I was supposed to be leaving next day. Flying back to
I Played the trombone along with John McCauslan and others.
A dog was running and jumping around in the pub as we played.
Back at someone's house. Irish woman sang and played piano, I played trombone
Got back to my room at 5-5.30am!
Was woken at 10am to vacate my room and I hadn't packed yet!
Ali, in a minibus taxi came to pick me and my bags up as pre-arranged,
Ali from Palestine has a 21 year old married daughter back in Jordan,
he has another four two boys two girls, youngest is 8 years.
Ali studied Islam for 4 years, the took degrees in Teaching. He taught
in Jordan for 2-3 years.
Now in Australia since 1971.
I asked about religion,
told him eventually my mums family was Jewish.
"-ish" I jokes.
But that she ran away with my Atheist dad, so I was never really brought
up with any religion.
He said it was a religion not a race and we talked about the state of
Israel, warmongering, power etc. How Israel was an American state, a missile
site, and strategic base to make war from. Wars over oil, I suggested
that in the future we would have war over water!
I said we in Britain had our Colonial past in Northern Ireland.
Eventually he was very candid when I had asked him what the word infidel
He didn't know, he said perhaps someone who is not married
I asked him if it meant unbeliever, like "Heathen" a word Christians
use for pagans or non Christians.
No there was another word for that. He told me it, I can't remember it
He told me he could
wear a turban to make money and pretend he was a guru. A worldly wise
mullah etc. He had the qualifications as he was a teacher, and there are
people who pray and say they believe but are false and use their religion
to gain worldly things. He said after studying Islam and reading so many
books his brain hurt or he became even more confused, now as much as he
wanted he didn't believe in a god, "I am like Salmon Rushdie"
He said smiling. All this world today is a miracle, you can be travelling
around the world in 1 day, faxes, phones, space, men on the moon, 200
years ago they would not believe all this would be, it is a miracle,
He then laughed and confided that he would never tell anyone else these
thoughts he had, no one would understand, he was surprised , here he was
telling me in side his cab as he was driving me.
I told him my childhood question. Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons,
Navels. And Did the trees in the Garden of Eden have rings in them?
How Christ, Mohammed, Moses were revolutionaries, prophets this is why
they had stories told about them around campfires in the desert, then
someone came and wrote the stories down in a bible or Koran and they became
"Yes " he said, why is it that all the prophets only came to
the middle East and Arab countries, what about other countries, in India,
Aboriginal culture, Asia, why were none sent there."
Religion, like the Vatican, is ego centric, I said.
That's why they locked Galileo under house arrest, he discovered that
the earth, and we are not the centre of the universe."
We have codes, thou shall not kill, steal etc.
These are good Ancient universal laws, we need them.
We agreed that as long as no one harmed another then that was fine.
"I want to help create heaven on Earth" I told him.
We had arrived at the Airport.
Turkish words learned
from Bora. Turkish Exile I met in Canberra.
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