This day started out pretty slow. The previous night was the first time I was able to stay out past ten without falling asleep. I slept in a bit, enjoying the dreams and the experiences of recent past. I was a little confused on the arrival of Ben, the videographer and sound engineer for the Banjo Earth project. He was a bit disoriented on the dates and some miscommunication occured. So, I expected him today, but his arrival was not until tomorrow. Thus I got to hang around the house a bit, clean up, and catch up on some writing and music. I heated up leftover noodle soup from last night, and enjoyed lunch with my housemate Lusha, who was dining on some crabs she had bought from the farmer’s market. The night before, we noticed one of the crabs she was keeping in the sink had gone renegade and escaped. Unfortunately for the crab, they make this little sound when they are short on water, and listening intently, I heard the tell tell sign over in the corner of the kitchen. A few brisk moves with some kitchen utensils and the crab was back in jail. Haha!
After lunch I loaded up the banjo and headed down to the Drum Tower, close to Tiananmen Square, to meet some fellow musicians for a practice. My travel banjo case is a Price flight case, solid and strong, taking great care of the instrument inside. However, it must weight about 50 pounds, and lugging this thing around the city and subways feels like carrying a coffin. After making it down to the tower, I was quite worn out. I didn’t see my friends on the street, so instead of continuing on I just sat there on the street corner, by the Drum tower, and started playing some banjo. This turned out to be great fun! It’s not often, I imagine, that Beijingers find a bluegrass banjoist on the street in their great city picking through American and Chinese folk songs. Every so often, a large group of onlookers would amass on the street, armed with their phones and cameras, and enjoy this real live hillbilly in their midst. The smiles and thumbs up were worth their weight in gold! Everyone had to have their picture taken with me, and even a few folks tossed some Mao-graced paper notes into the banjo case. The history of my ancient surroundings, the Drum Tower, which was originally built in 1272, made this experience very unique. I could feel the spirits of Chinese past all around me, and could even see the smiles of ghosts while I played.
I talked with some new friends who had stopped to listen for a bit, and began the trek back home to drop off my heavy cargo. Once I got home, I was a bit worn out from the weight. But, it was still kind of early, and I really wanted to see this Mongolian band that was playing at the Temple Bar, a future venue for the Banjo Earth concerts. Thus, I put on my sneakers, and headed back out into the city. After getting lost a few times, I began to find my bearings. On the way, I encountered a guitar player/singer who had a huge crowd listening to him on the street. I happened to be walking by as his set ended and got his name. We exchanged info, and hopefully can have him play on the album. He sounded great!
Eventually I made it to the Temple Bar, and am very glad I did. The manager, Pink, is a power woman in Beijing. She has a really cool, easy vibe, speaks great English, is very cute, and makes you feel right at home. She booked our band at the bar, so we chatted a bit about the show and the place until the band came on. They are called Tulegur, and play a raucous mix of Mongolian ethnic, psychadelia, and funk. The singer does quite a bit of Mongolian throat singing, and their sound takes you right out into the plains of Northern China. It is a very rich and deep sound. I was really impressed and talked to them at set break. We chatted about them also collaborating on the Banjo Earth album, and it seems to be a great possibility to make that happen.
As I sat listening to the band, an American from Arkansas who is living in Beijing sat next to me. We chatted a bit, and by either coincidence or divine intervention, he happened to be a filmmaker and musician. He expressed great interest in helping with the project. These kinds of serendipitous things have been happening really fast ever since I stepped foot on Chinese soil, and even before in the creation of the project. I’m not sure what the mechanism behind it all is. All I know is that it is happening, it is beautiful, and I am thankful. To me, it sounds like the Universe giving it’s blessings for this project, and the energy behind it. There is love in what I do, and I feel that is where my “luck” comes from.