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Two days later we’re on the stage, and I’m trying to convince myself it’s not THAT bad. “This is just what live music is like, man”, I tell myself, “It’s never going to be quite as perfect”, while Beza keeps throwing significant glances at me, kind of like making eye contact and sort of jerking his head to the side, and I’m all trying to figure out a way to discretely make a gesture that says “Yeah bro, I see you, I just have no fucking clue what that means”, but still looks to the crowd (and unlike my other gigs, there actually is a crowd) like I’m getting down and having a great time and like we are just crushing it and really nothing is wrong here everything is under control, guys, just some pros up here doing pro stuff, and in the middle of this strange game of kemps or charades or whatever he kind of throws in the towel and just goes verbal about it, only three feet away but it’s kind of loud in there, so he’s sort of whisper-yelling, if that’s a thing “Other part! We’re at the other part!”, and I’m trying to smile in a way that says “Dude, what fucking other part, no one told me there was an other part, this is literally the first I have heard about this song having more than one part”, and I’m thinking back to the one rehearsal in which I was supposed to learn this whole hour of music, replaying in my mind everything Cheikh said to me, desperately searching for something that might help me, and I remember at one point he said something to the effect of: “Drummer come like, ba ba ba babaBabaBaba, bass man, he come like a dun dun dun – dooo doo noo noo, and then you hear riggity diggity da – dada doo da, and you come like dun dun dun digga dun dun. but if you hear rut da da da — du da da DA, then you come like UGH! bom bom bom bom BOM BOM”, which, you have to understand, he doesn’t just sing the parts to me, he mimes playing the instruments, and dances, and smiles for the audience, that gigantic delusions-of-serious-show-biz smile, the dreams-of-selling-out-arenas kind of smile, and this is how he teaches me the music, it’s how he taught me at the one on one rehearsal at his house before my first M’bolo show, with me never guessing that on future days, for future gigs, we would play this ridiculous game again and again, play it at various practice spaces throughout the city, and in meetings at coffee shops, and at a chance run-in outside of Macy’s the day before our weird ass trip to Harlem — semi-blocking the door in this bizarre spectacle of attempted racial harmony — where he’d grab my guitar and yell at me on stage and some guy would try to sell Galen drugs outside of a quaint little corner store and all us Americans would learn through the sleepless car ride that the Wolof language isn’t spoken so much as it is shouted, shouted into phones, shouted at phones, shouted from front seat to back, shouted with great exuberance and outbursts of assent like “UGH!” that make me think like “How the fuck is this happening in my life that I am in this car with these people going to play this music at this place”, this place where I’ll hang at this stereotypical NYC shit apartment, where I’ll sit on the couch trying to remember how that one bak goes while a dude walks in and nonchalantly gets down a prayer mat before calling Arone by some other name, because apparently he goes by Faisal when he’s in New York, which is maybe a little strange when you think about it.

“Hi Brian,
I have a show Friday evening – do you have availability to play with us?
Let me know what you think!
Jerjefe, Cheikh”

A month earlier I’m playing at Park Street, probably some unbelievably hokey blues thing. Let’s just say it was Scuttle Buttin’. So, like, I’m Scuttle Buttin’, doin’ my thang or whatever, and I notice some dude with dreads is watching me, and of course now I’m all self-conscious like “Cool, people are actually watching for once and I’m playing fucking Scuttle Buttin’.” Whatever, I finish and now he’s coming up to talk to me like:

“You doing good. Is nice sound.”
“Thanks, man. Do you play?”
“I have band”
“Oh yeah? What do you play.”
“Ehhh… drums. And sing.”
“Cool, man.”
“You want to be in my band?”
“Totally, here’s my card. Give me a call. I’m Brian.”
“Cheikh.”
“Sorry, what was that?”
“Cheikh.”
“Cool, man. Nice to meet you.”

And I want to throw in some random shit here about my possibly sketchy past, because that is kind of the constant backdrop against which everything in my life takes place lately, and I guess that sort of starts to beg the question about whether this is even about the story or just me putting my personality out there, or a certain version of my personality with this glib impersonation of all these styles I’ve observed, this kind of residual hooliganism gradually acquiring all sorts of nods and winks w/r/t the greats and the not so greats, this grindhouse orgy of insincere gonzo maximalism, adding even more levels, even more laps around that whole immature pac-man tunnel of irony, self-identifying in the gouchest ways possible, yet understanding that, folding that into the whole crazy joke like one of those solipsistic british mysteries in which you’re lucky if you’ve even learned the character’s names by the end, let alone figured out who the killer is.

And, if we’re being honest, I didn’t especially want to be in his band. I mean, I didn’t especially not want to be in his band either, it’s just, people come up to me all the time and have some sort of project they say they want me to be involved in. Basically the protocol in these sorts of situations is that I give them my card and then I never hear from them again. I guess these exchanges are sort of like saying “Let’s have lunch sometime.” I mean, maybe we’ll have lunch, but more likely it’s a pleasantry to the order of “I totally don’t think you’re a contemptible piece of shit. Or maybe I do think you’re a contemptible piece of shit, but I feel like being nice for some reason. Could probably go either way.” But, now I wonder if maybe Senegal is one of those countries in which they just actually have lunch?

“Do you know what chord that is supposed to be there?”
And the smile drops.
“No. Bass man, he have all that stuff.”
“Is he coming?”
“I tink so.”
I seriously hope that bass man is coming, because I really don’t know how to play “root da doot da doo”, or whatever, on the guitar. My professors straight-up did not cover that one.

“It is my great pleasure to introduce: … M’bolo! blah blah blah blah blah peanuts adult talking trumpet sound blah blah blah blah … And I assure you, they are ALL masters of West African music!”

And I’m pulling some kind of Buddy Jesus pose, because what else do you even do in that situation?

***

So, if you enjoyed that, then two things:

1) What is wrong with you, that was terrible.
2) I've got a little blog thing going on, which can be found at http://ridechillwaves.wordpress.com/ and is perhaps best described as an ongoing exploration of my own crippling narcissism and of all the ways in which I am a truly horrible person. Thanks for reading!



Comments

The following comments are for "The Ballad of M'Bolo: Part 1"
by DromedaryLights





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