Klezmer Festival, Day 2

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My previously mentioned friend, Mark, arrived in town at around 5pm yesterday. He got a late start on his travels from Jerusalem because he got occupied with finishing up at his job, where he works overnight hours. Despite the fact that he hadn't slept for well over 24 hours, he still showed no inclination to sleep. I made chili for dinner and showed him how I did my job. He talked a lot about his workplace. He's a manager at a big communications company that has a big branch in Jerusalem. The work itself is pretty meaningless to him, and he's sick of being forced into the role of pointy-haired boss. Unfortunately, he's been completely unable to find opportunities in his original and preferred profession of social work in the several years that he's been living in Israel. Eventually, Mark got his work stress out of his system and he gave me a little gossip about the old neighborhood over dinner.

A little before 8pm, we could hear the preparations for some musical performances, so we went to the stage set up in the nearby miniature amphitheater to take in what the festival had to offer. The first program of the night on that stage was entitled "Niggun v'Agadah", meaning "Tunes and Tales". It started with instrumental performances from a clarinetist and a keyboardist, and after a short while they were joined by a storyteller. We stayed around long enough to listen to two stories and associated accompaniment and musical interludes. The storyteller had a theatrical flair that I found amusing. My Hebrew is good enough to have followed the gist of the stories, but not good enough to recount them in detail. The first was allegedly by the famous storyteller of the Eastern European shtetl, Shalom Aleichem, and was about his passion as a child to learn the violin despite parental opposition. The second story was about a group of Klezmer musicians who found themselves playing in a very non-Jewish venue and the hijinks that subsequently ensued.

I had to pee after the second story, so we broke away to return to my apartment, since it was close enough for me to prefer to avoid the port-a-potties and pay toilets that have been set up for the festival. As we approached my door, Mark confessed that his need for sleep had finally caught up with him. I thought it was about time. He thought there might be a chance that a few hours of rest might restore him enough to enjoy the final hours of the night's festivities. After putting Mark to bed, I went out to wander a bit on my own.

However, I didn't get any further than the little plaza in front of my apartment building. A bunch of my neighbors were sitting around the food stand I mentioned yesterday, and two were playing instruments. Mordechai was beating a drum and Moshe was strumming a banjo-like instrument of Turkish origin whose name is weird enough that it failed to stick to my memory. At first I just sat around and listened, but eventually I made an attempt to sing along with the tune. It was difficult to follow the slightly exotic melodic style, especially since the drum tended to overpower the stringed instrument, but I think I did a half decent job. Mordechai passed the drum to me after a while, and I later passed it along to someone else to head back to my apartment to fetch a surprise. Treading carefully so as not to disturb my snoring guest, I collected my kerosine bottle and fire-dancing accoutrements.

I returned downstairs, and without much introduction I started spinning my poi (a pair of chains with kevlar wicks on the ends) in time with the music without any fire. This built up enough interest for me leak out the fact that they could be set on fire, which generated more interest. I gave several burns worth of performance with poi, double staves, and single staff. My favorite is still the single staff, but I managed to discover some new variations on my two basic double staff techniques (in-sync double figure-eight and out-of-sync double-figure-eight) which looked pretty good from my perspective. It's pretty hard to keep your actual spinning in time with music, but you can compensate for this by carefully matching your footwork to the rhythm instead. A satisfying crowd was drawn by the impromptu performance. I'm sure they would have appreciated more of a spectacle, but I got tired, sweaty, and thirsty. I hung out in front of the building a while longer in hope of finding a second wind, but it didn't come so I meandered home.

I flopped into bed and read more of George Orwell's 1984. Mark woke briefly and we both decided that we'd rather stay in bed than go back out again. And thusly the night concluded.


Comment from jeff covey at

an oud?

p.s.: announcing that you're thirsty is how street
performers like you get free beer.

Comment from Daniel Pearson at

No, the instrument was definitely not an oud. It was shaped very much like a banjo, but it had no frets on the fingerboard and had five or six sets of double strings. The name had about three syllables and featured a prominent "J" sound toward the beginning.

Comment from Daniel Pearson at

p.s. beer dehydrates me.

Comment from Steve Killen at

I don't seem to do so well in the keeping-time-with-my-feet department, but I've found that you can adjust your spinning to the mood of the music, too.  Although usually two runs puts me out of breath for a while.  A shame you don't have photos.