Sunday, November 28, 2004

Billy Breaks the Indian Music Scene...

The air is filled with exotic wailing as the Bhati family kick off their traditional Rajastani music concert. On the left there is Praveen Bhati, the youngest son, his fingers a blur as he masterfully teases a hundred different tones from his Tabla Drums. In the centre there is Mama Bhati, sitting cross legged before what appears to be an indian version of the accordian, and wailing mournfully into the precariously balanced microphone. At her left shoulder sits another cross legged young man, pale skinned and long haired. In his lap he holds a guitar, which he looks at from time to time as if wondering what it is for. Who is this guitar guru? Could it be Billy, the undercover hippy? Actually no, it's Joel, his younger brother. Billy is sitting in the audeince laughing and taking photos... :)

It all started when Kelash Bhati, the family sitar player, tried to convince me to come to his concert. After discovering he wanted 100 rupees for the show I told him no thanks, but we started chatting anyway, and eventually he discovered that i played Guitar. We arranged to meet up and have Jam, and 2 days later me and my brother Joel met the bhati family in a small garden behind the Sunset Cafe. They told me to play one of my songs, and Praveen tried to accompany me on Tablas. To be honest it was pretty appalling. The tablas just weren't designed to play slow 4/4 beats to folk songs! We got some better results from just playing random chords over his beats, and after 20 mins of jamming we were renamed the "Rajastani Western Fusion Band", and arranged to meet at 7:30 for the gig.

By 8pm ppl had started arriving and there was quite a nice little crowd developing. Eventually, after about 15 mins of crakle and feedback, the musicians got up onto the stage, including my brother, and seated themselves cross legged before the microphones. The one of the brothers called to me, "First my mother she play one song for the God...". "Ok" i reply. Joel saw what was happening and tried to get up, but he was too late. "No, no! You stay there, no problem!" the family all chant in unison. And then the concert begins.

After Joel's rather awkward couple of songs, Mama leaves the stage and Joel performs some solo guitar accompanied by Tablas which goes down very well. Then I join them and we bash a load of "fusion" songs, some of them mine, some of them improvised. After each song the mother comes up and grabs my hand in hers and thanks me as if I have just saved her baby from a lion. Things are going pretty well! Then the sound man decides he's probably not needed and goes to sleep under the table. Somehow we continue on regardless until I am sure my hip is about to dislocate from too much sitting cross legged and we finally call it a day. Our first indian gig is a roaring success... it's only a matter of time before we hit the bigtime... :)

The camel fair has come to a close, but many of the fairground attractions are still around. Yesterday i went to see the "Wall of death", which I have always wanted to see since seeing it on tv as a kid. It's basically a larger wooden cylinder, about 50 feet high and about 35 feet diameter. You climb a ladder and stand around the top rim of the cylinder, while inside at the bottom wait two small cars and two motorbikes. The the show begins. At first just one Fonzy looking indian guy wearing flip-flops comes in and revs up his motorbike. seconds later he is driving it at high speed around the INSIDE of the cyinder. So yes, he is basically driving horizontally along the wall and using centrufugal force to keep him from falling. As if this wasn't enough, he then takes his hands off the handlebars and starts smoking a beedie whilst riding side saddle, 40 feet from the ground on a fast moving, gravity defiying motorbike. But it gets better. By the end of the show there are two motorbikes and one car all driving simoultaneously around the inside of the cylinder. The car driver is hanging out of the door whilst driving and the two motorbike drivers are sitting back with their feet on the handlebars smoking beedies. Somehow, nobody dies! Brilliant! :)

Nanu, the owner of our guesthouse, has a habit of smoking brown sugar before breakfast. When this happens you can be assured of some very strange and confusing conversations. Yesterday he was spotted rummaging around in the shower, lifting things and looking puzzled. "What have you lost?" asked Kieran. "Huh? Yeeesssss, lost. I have lost it. Lost my leg. Cant find it....". Today when I got up he was still searching around the yard, sifting through the ashes of the fire and everything. "What are you looking for?", I ask him. "Yesss, I lose it". "What?". "I lost my smoking good feeling thing...". Ahhh, well that would explain the frantic searching, although if you ask me his wife elka probably found it and dumped it down the toilet!!!

more tales from the edge soon... :)

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