I wrote those words months ago, when even I had no idea how much they would ever mean to me....
As I sit here completely overwhelmed by the last two days of my life, I know that I will have to allow myself to become completely consumed with a raging fever in order to tell you what has happened to me in the last 48 hours. Never in my life has any music made me smile so big, soar so high and cry so deeply. Come close so you can hear me whisper my deepest desires and bare the depths of my soul......
Last night, I was the Queen of the gypsies... maybe it was for 5 minutes, maybe it was for 2 hours, maybe it was for a lifetime, maybe it never happened..... but.... I swear...
What is it like to be in love with 12 men and have them make love to you all at once? I can hear that you are aghast at my daring flirtation with utter brazen unbridled nymphomania. With wild gypsies no less, some in their 80’s. Maybe I can find the words to make you understand the answer to this shocking question. I will try...........
Months ago, I went to Tower Records to find something new for my students to listen to. I was teaching a World Music class for a grade school and I was searching for something new to present to my young students so they can know that there is an entire universe outside of TV, the mall and rap music. As I scanned the world music section, my eyes fell on a CD with a picture of an older man and a young boy, each with violins. The older man had the most amazing character of expression on his face and it completely captured me. The CD said “Taraf de Haidouks”. A quote on the cover from The London Times said, “Music from deep within the gypsy soul.... wild and untamed, they are on fire as one... a stomping performance full of dark passion, their virtuosity is phenomenal.” I decided to give it a try. I brought this little piece of plastic home and my life was changed forever.
I was up until the wee hours of the morning listening to the music over and over. I was set on fire. The next day at school I watched the amazing reaction of the children from Kindergarten through Fifth grade. It is always interesting to watch them awaken from their shroud of “attitude” about what is cool to listen to. The children danced and became very excited, so I shut the door to the music room and let them turn into wild gypsies, one class after another. Every class wrote letters to the gypsies which I have since given to the Taraf de Haidouks. They researched Clejani and Romania and wrote reports. They were made curious and thoroughly inspired to learn and strive for creativity which is exactly the objective I had in mind.
Later that day after leaving the school, I searched the internet for more information and within the hour I was communicating with the band’s manager in Europe, who was kind enough to respond to my inquiries immediately. I found their tour schedule and determined myself to see them when they were in Los Angeles on May 1st. From January to April, I listened to this CD many times and was particularly moved by one track. I made all my friends listen to it, my favorite song in all the world. It haunted my dreams and set my heart on fire. I wrote those fateful words to a friend, “Listen to this song. The music makes one's blood boil and long to be in some obscure, untamed place with the one you love and desire.”
Well, from January to May first, my life barreled along at it’s usual tumultuous pace and I completely forgot to purchase tickets or make plans to attend the concert. On Sunday, May first, I woke up and realized that today was the day the Taraf de Haidouks were to play in Los Angeles. I was completely overwhelmed by the feeling that I would stop breathing if I didn’t see them which is highly unusual for me. In fact I can’t remember feeling that way about any music since I was a teenager. Just to give you the proper perspective on my lack of breath, I will tell you that, being a musician, I have heard lots of amazing music in my life. I finally called the ticket office 15 minutes before they closed and decided to go ahead and attend the concert alone. There were only a few seats available up in the balcony so I bought one of those.
As I drove to the concert, I had a very strong, overwhelming feeling that my life would be changed by seeing this band. I parked my car and walked by the back of Royce Hall and saw some band members standing behind the building , so I went up and introduced myself. I spoke with the tour manager that I had corresponded with. Next to him a man stared at me with great intensity and asked to be introduced......
His hair looked a little messy and a bit untamed... not the contrived look of wildness that is currently so hip and fashionable with musicians but he was the real unadulterated thing. The “thing” that scares people who claim to like passion and art, but keep it nicely under control, in boxes that they can plug in and turn up and turn down and switch on and switch off. His was a look of uncontrolled, soaring, glorious passion. It burned in his eyes as he kissed my hand and uttered some enchanting French words. I had no idea what he said but it was completely enchanting just the same....
They invited me back stage for the show, but feeling shy, I said I would see them after the show and went to my perch in the balcony. It was all I could do while they played to keep from flying over the balcony. More than halfway through the show I decided to go down to the front row after confirming that there was a section of empty seats there. I landed in my new seat and my new friends were clearly happy to see me there dancing in my seat.
There was a very small gathering behind stage after the show. I met my friends and we were immediately engaged in the liveliest conversation, during which I was dragged into a room with a piano where I was talked into playing a bit of one of my own songs. We didn’t have any problem communicating despite the language barrier. I ended up taking a couple guys to the Rainbow Bar for drinks and pizza. One brought his instrument and played all the way there in the back of my car. It was heaven. We went back to the hotel and played and danced and sang and laughed and talked some more. I found out that my very intense friend wrote the song... my favorite song in all the world. I was completely mystified by the connection I had to him. I went home after promising to return for dinner the next day.
On May 2nd, I managed to muddle through my work, being so on fire to see my friends again. I made it through rush hour and arrived at the hotel at 5 pm.
We all went to dinner at a nice restaurant with a large outdoor patio because these guys smoke an amazing amount of cigarettes. The dinner party included the twelve band members, one other visitor from Los Angeles who grew up in Clejani, who also amazingly turned out to be one of my neighbors, and little ol' me. We ate and drank wine and they all took turns playing and singing after we ate. Do you think it was enchanting? Ahhh, there are no words to tell, except what I have already attempted to describe. My new found neighbor was able to fill in some blanks for me about them and for them about me, which really made us all more comfortable with each other.
During those hours in the restaurant I was truly transported to another time and another place of profound, untamed happiness with these,
the most beautiful, precious, heart-felt people on this earth.
One thing I learned about these enchanting musicians,
they always give more then they get.
We left the restaurant, took pictures, talked, played some more music and laughed plenty.
Finally it was time for a difficult goodbye.
Here I sit, a mere 48 hours later, trying to force myself to return to my life. I realize that I have to learn to live with this feeling of not being able to breath until I see them again.
Is it not amazing how something like the smell of cigarettes, that was offensive to me before last night, can now be transformed into a reminder of ecstasy? I told myself that I need to wash the clothes I was wearing last night, right away, so I can get that stinky cigarette smell out of them. But I think I will pick them up off the floor where I cautiously isolated them last night. I will wear them and cherish the stink of me as I return to my plush hi-rise office. I want to savor the sweet aroma of my moments as the Wild Queen.
I will go back to my life of quiet, clean, responsible desperation. I do not want to become homeless, cast out of society and have to go live with the wild gypsies in the forest....
*Listen to the music.
You will know
what I know ...
- Ionita Manole and Johnnie Depp
the cd cover
history of the taraf