triskell

                  

I've been playing quite a bit of music recently.

You see, a group I'd never met and I were hired for a "Breton rock concert" at a bar. We were hired on Sunday. The concert was to be on the following Friday. The group was already formed, and I was supposed to join it just for this concert. This got off the ground because I happened to know one of the musicians. Out of six musicians, only two had ever played rock before. Two others were classical musicians, one was a jazzman, one played funk and blues, and I was more on the traditional folky-dancing side. Not really compatible.

The thing was, they were all excellent musicians, who are well-known in Mayotte and who give live concerts all the time, both together and separately. They are working towards seriously becoming "the best group in Mayotte". Playing with them was actually quite a privilege.

Oh yes, and another thing. Breton rock doesn't exist.

We got off to quite an interesting start. Three out of five of them were music teachers and talked to each other using such technical vocabulary that it could have been Leprechaun for all I understood. They talked about "improvising in the mode of D transposed to B", for example, which quite honestly was not a lot of help. Then, of course, they stared at me when I made a wonderful series of mistakes and false notes, proving to all present that I didn't know what I was doing. Deciding to be nice, they asked me for pieces I knew and played those with me. Then turned the three-step pieces into two-step ones, transposed them from major to minor and changed the tone of the piece, so none of the original notes remained, or at least not in the same order... then asked me to improvise over the top, as I knew the piece "so much better" than they.

We had a total of three rehearsals, one in a café where people were listening, so no mistakes allowed. In each rehearsal, we would play the pieces once. Then they would look at each other, say: "That's all right, then", and carry on to the next piece. They didn't even bother playing some of them, just saying: "Is this one OK for everybody?" and turning the page. Once they'd understood what the group director wanted, they would play the first few bars to check and that would be that for that piece. I think we must have gone through a good thirty pieces in one hour. And of course, we didn't repeat the same pieces from one rehearsal to the next.

As far as I was concerned, I was to be with the group for precisely one week: three rehearsals, one concert. The group director didn't see it that way. He wanted me to stay with the group for at least the next few concerts, because a lot of their songs are in English... and they wanted help with the accents and general pronunciation. In order for this to happen, they wanted me to sing with them. I explained that I didn't mind giving them pronunciation lessons, or going through the songs with them to try to help, but getting me to sing was not, repeat not, a good idea. Besides having a rubbish singing voice, I can't actually sing in tune. Even when I'm singing by myself, I go way off-key and change keys all the time without meaning to.

They didn't believe me. How can a musician possibly sing out of tune?

One of them sang a few notes to me and asked me to sing them back. Then they asked me to sing along with one of their songs.

Now they believe me.

I have a feeling that was my first and last concert with that group.