Sunday, May 2, 2010
Remember when the web referred to something other than photons streaming together and all things preceded by “e” as in e-mail, e-book, e-cigarette? I do. I came late to email and all things webbish not being able to afford a phone line much less a computer. But such is a musician’s life. Gear first, all the rest in good time or until your boyfriend or girlfriend can afford it. The old joke of “what do you call a musician who’s broken up with his girlfriend? Homeless” is scarily too true. So, this weekend I played some gigs at a Powwow. The Spirit of the Painted Sky Powwow to be exact. It was their first annual intertribal powwow and I was much honored I was asked to be the featured musician. How that came about is the story of how every happens, through seemingly unrelated connections, the web of our lives. I had played at the El Paso Museum of Archeology a few times as a guest musician and for one of their functions just to show my support. Someone involved with the Intertribal group was there and bought a CD. Her daughter borrowed it indefinitely and she wanted another. Hence she suggested me to the board who had heard of me already and things fell into place. I was in town, Las Cruces, just barely so said sure it would be my honor.
I’m there playing in the absolute challenge of the elements. We had a late cold spell, wind storms all amplified by the canyon where the powwow was being held, we are tough here and see wind and grit as a badge of honor the way people up north see the cold freeze. These wind gusts were tougher than us though. Tents and people were flying around like Dorothy. I play Native American Flutes and help from the wind is not welcome unless you invite that help. I had intentions of playing Coyote Oldman’s Anasazi flutes but the wind was a critic and said no way José. We played in the powwow circle and the Dinéh drum group prayed and sang for the wind to be calm while I played. I did the same and it worked. While I played the first set there was calm, sun and only a few breezes. I was so humbled I improvised a wind song. See our connection with the elements isn’t something artificial or an advertising tag line of Green. It is something I’ve always known and felt so to be amongst other natives who use this as part of their language and way of thinking was refreshing. There is no baggage or falseness here. When we say we will ask the ants to stop biting for a few days it is real. We feel it and know it, and our confidence is what makes it so.
Okay so to illustrate the webbings I referred to. On the bill was a Capoeira group. They are the Brazilian martial arts/music group that you see at festivals, markets and the like. I have always loved that form of celebration developed by African slaves. The energy and authenticity of it is so visceral. They set up next to my booth so I brought them some water and made them feel welcomed. I had the thought to bring them a chair. I brought over two from my tent after I saw they were using their Congas as tables for their Navajo Tacos. They thanked me and one guy said thanks man, my legs are really hurting as he took off his lower legs. He had prosthetics on both lower legs having lost them in the Middle East wars. I was just humbled and said a small thank you to creator for guiding my dumb ass. Living with an inflammatory muscular and bone disease every day and I do I’ve come to appreciate just how much gumption it can take most days just to say I’m gonna do something great this day and it will probably hurt a lot.
By the time I did my second set the winds were just beating us like hurricanes on a trailer home. I was playing to a big crowd who were braving the winds turning my back to the wind as much I could and finally switched to my Halo, a melodic steel pan drum. When I turned around I saw that the guy with no legs had been holding down my flutes, speaker and everything else. I had no idea he was there helping me. I played my heart out on that Halo and people stood up from their hay bales and just clapped forever. I knew I had made a connection that was well beyond me.
Next day the guy with no legs came up and thanked me for letting me help him…I’m like no dude, thank you and gave him an autographed CD. He said he had been at a Chapel in El Paso in prayer for peace in Juarez. It was an organized event that brought thousands out. Juarez, just 45 minutes from me, had seen 3500 (only the ones people know about) drug related murders in 2009. He said he was there praying and met some older man to whom offered a ride. Turns out the man needed a ride to the Spirit of the Painted Sky Powwow in Mc Kelligion Canyon to perform with his Capoeria troupe. He gave him a ride and came into the powwow and cried. He had found home. When he told me his story I cried because I know and understand home. So I’ve made new friends, new fans, new connections and added new strands to my own web that my music has spun for me. The Capoeria group can be found at http://www.Capoeriaquintosol.com I’ve been invited back for next year already and you bet I’ll be there, dust, grit, wind and all. See this profession isn’t for the squeamish or the ones who think life is an accident. Aho.
Randy Granger at the Spirit of the Painted Sky Powwow 2010