Newsletter Archive

A Brooklyn Moment

- A Brooklyn Moment
- Ears and Eyes: What I'm listening to and reading
     -Donald Westlake, Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet, and more
- Upcoming Gigs & appearances
     full calendar:
A Brooklyn Moment

I live in Brooklyn, NY, in a neighborhood that is a delicious, varied, and constantly shifting ethnic stew.  Walking home from the subway one night, I had an unforgettable experience, the kind that reminds me why I love my city.

Passing a barber shop, I heard someone inside playing an oud - a fretless lute, common throughout the Middle East - and singing in Arabic.  The music was both mournful and uplifiting, full of suffering and transcendence - a blues, with a Middle-eastern flavor.   I stayed and listened for a minute outside the shop, but the music soon stopped.  I could have resumed walking home... but I leaned into the shop and said, "Oh, don't stop now!  That was beautiful!"  The barber, a middle-aged man with an easy grin, laughed, invited me in, and kept on playing.    

Over the next half-hour, seven other men came in, sat down, and joined the barber in song, exuberant and joyful, their voices ringing in unison.  I couldn't understand a word, but it didn't matter - it was haunting and moving just the same.  In between songs, the men explained that they were all different nationalities - the barber was Egyptian, and his friends were Syrian, Iraqi, Palestinian, Moroccan, and Yemeni.  They had all grown up singing these songs, which had been popular in their youth, all over the Arab world.  It was one of the best-spent hours of my life, having a little moment of cameraderie with these men, all brought together by our shared love of music.

As I watch the news and see men and women all over the Arab world risking their lives for freedom and democracy, I think of my friends from the barber shop, and how proud and hopeful they must be.   There must be people just like them at those demonstrations, raising their voices together in song, singing the joy and sorrow of their lives.  And here in Brooklyn, I can see my friends gathered around a television, cheering them on and singing along.  

Eyes and Ears:  What I'm Reading, Listening to, and Watching
Donald Westlake, "Don't Ask."
Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet, "Complete Recorded Works: Vol. 1, 1937-38"
Planet X, "Quantum."