Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Music of the Night

You know, World Music is an underappreciated genre that is unfairly chucked into the discount music bins of our consciousness. Because we refuse to believe that anyone could actually like alien pot-clanging orchestras, we chalk affection for world beats up to pretentious affectation and an aesthetic that centers on not-shaving-armpits or the desperate clinging to cultural artifacts of greying former peace corps volunteers. (Big sorry to, like, all my colleagues.)

But, after my cultural experience last night, I'm here to tell you. This is absolutely correct.

They lulled us into complacency early. The Concert Hall of the Kennedy Center was fairly full; congresspersons, ambassadors, and Mayor Williams were in attendance. The Kazakh orchestra onstage clutched violins and were clad in black. They played Mozart and Grieg and even got down and dirty with some Gershwin and Bernstein. It all seemed so very safe and bourgeois.

Then after intermission, out came the Folk Orchestra. First of all, they had on awesome costumes.

And they all had variations on awesome guitars, and they rocked out a few ditties, and we were pleased with ourselves, so well behaved and culturally tolerant.

And then.

The goat man, as I came to think of him, took to the stage. The dude was wearing a pelt. And a fur hat so huge it must have traumatized multiple goats. He was introduced as a premiere collector and performer of traditional instruments. He looked intense. "Alright," I thought. "Now we've got the purist. He probably thinks that orchestra behind him is a bunch of sell-outs that only exist for tourists." Let us have it, goat man.

Then. He sat down in front of the orchestra, this man in animal pelts descended from the nomadic horsemen of the Kazakh steppe, he sat down in front of God and the Kennedy Center and a room full of dignitaries, and he took out a mouth organ. You know. The doingy doingy doingy thing. Don't get me wrong, I dig the mouth organ, but I'm not done.

He was going off on this mouth organ. His fingers were flying on the metal doingers and it was like, I don't know, wild flourishy flamenco mouth organ. But I'm still not done. While he was mouth organing, he started making a noise that can not be described in the English tongue. It was so deep and guttural it sounded like the noise that comes when you turn on a stereo only to find out that a speaker has blown out and it blares a harsh painful foghorn-like bleat. This man started making that noise. Loudly, and sustained, and all the while modulating it with the doingy doingy doingy. I've never heard anything like it.

Then, I notice Kriston's shoulders are starting to shudder with abandon. He's got his face buried in his hands and he is convulsing. And suddenly, I'm eleven years old and I'm back in church and my sister has done something stupid but it's enough to make me giggle. And because I'm fully aware of the utter inappropriateness of laughing in church, I become a slave to the urge to destroy myself laughing. Kriston got me going and together we're shaking the whole row with our barely contained seizures. I try to rein in my mind. Breathe in and out through nose slowly. Think of anything else. Then Kriston lets loose a nose snort and I'm off again. Crying. Lacerating myself all the while for my intolerant cultural insensitivity. Doingy doingy GRRRRRRRRR doingy doingy. It was then I noticed that shoulders throughout the entire hall were joining our restrained jitterbug. It was collective agony. The goat man had barely reached his last note when someone started the clapping prematurely and we all let loose with relief. Kriston turned to me and said, "We have to leave now. Because I don't ever want to hear any other music."

As a result, Kriston and I have perfected a routine in which we perform traditional Kazakh mouth organ music for your entertainment. Do request it next time you see us. We are awesome. Plus, I apparently have to watch 10 bazillion zombie movies to make up for this evening.


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