Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Musical Education

I'm being lazy this week so instead of writing a blog I am going to publish an email I sent to my friend Kamille way back in October.


Ever since my parents brought me my guitar from The States I've been wanting to happen upon a Latin guitar virtuoso to inspire me with his magical strumming fingers and teach me lovely light-hearted Spanish tunes like "la bamba" or "cielito lindo." My hunt has been all but fruitful.

My first hopeful encounter with a potential maestro was way back in May, I think. My next door neighbor, after over hearing me toil clumsily on my guitar, beckoned me to his stoop to tocar la guitara with him. I was stoked. He is old and his family is catholic so I figured he'd know some good classic tunes. But to my chagrin, about two minutes into the session I discovered he was tone deaf and had sluggish fingers. Generous-hearted and well meaning he was, but my maestro he was not. So it was back to stumbling through chord progressions on my own.

Until tonight.

I whipped out la guitara this evening for a quick after dinner sesh. Sitting in my green plastic chair under a dangling light bulb in the backyard I began warming up with a little "Knocking on Heaven's Door" (the second of the two tunes in my huge repertoire) After the song I was shuffling through my sheet papers when I heard a, "ssshhht, shhhhht, shhhhht" coming from my neighbors house (different neighbors than before). I turned my head only to find their entire family lined up at the fence listening to my awful attempt at Bob Dylan. The father figure (I still don't know the brother/sister/mother/father/son make-up of the family) asked me what "notes" I know. I told him that I've mainly been learning chords and asked him if he played the guitar. He replied, "yes". Enter second potential virtuoso. Eager to see what tricks he had in his bag I handed my guitar over the fence and begged him to play a song. The family insisted I come over to the house and sit and listen. I obliged, as any respectable neighbor would do. I walked through their house to their backyard and they pulled up a chair for me. The father figure then started tuning my guitar, teaching as he went along how to tune by ear. "Yes, finally, someone that can play the guitar!" I'm thinking to myself. Still getting used to the sound and feel of the guitar he started playing some familiar sounding chords. I couldn't put my finger on where I had heard them before but all was good, i was getting into the music. Then he started up with his first song and it hit me like a load of bricks. Those familiar chords, paired with that familiar plucking rhythm combined with those all too familiar lyrics- this was loudspeaker worthy evangelical church music. It abruptly and painfully dawned on me that I had just invited myself to a personal evangelical sing-song session. I began to whimper internally.

I have nothing against Evangelicals or Evangelical music, it's just that I sometimes feel inundated by their preaching. I have the chance to absorb the religion at least twice a day. I wake up to a loudspeaker sermon at 6:30am and eat dinner to a loudspeaker culto at 7pm. I just wasn't in the mood to sit through "Lavare, lavare" "Glorious Dios" "El Señor" songs at such close range. But, I did. The family and kids clapped and sang along while I sat there with a forced grin on my face. I was calculating in my head how many songs I'd have to bare before I could politely excuse myself for the evening when something strange began happening to me. The redundant plucking of the overused chords and creepy lyrics put me into this crazy trance. I felt like I was being transported into the sepia tone world of "There Will Be Blood". I realized this is why all those people go crazy at the church down the street and start screaming and babbling in tongues. This music is possessing. I had to get the heck out of there before it drug me to the dark side. As soon as the song was over I said, "that was beautiful, you'll have to teach me it sometime." Grabbed my guitar and hurried home. Safe on my side of the fence I poured myself a glass of boxed wine (strictly prohibited by Evangelicals) to wash away the culto-ness of the evening's events. As i sipped the drink of the gods, I thought to myself, "this tastes amazing, leave it to vino to save me." Then, reciting what wise Don Edgar once told me, I said to myself, "and hell, if it's the devil, then let it take me."


  1. What's so bad with being transported to the sepia tone world of "There Will Be Blood"? Do you not like milk shakes?

  2. Nice, Nate. Your comment leads perfectly into my next blog...