Monday, July 17, 2006

A Passage to India

I write this from Goa now, where we've arrived to start a serious holiday by the sea after a very fraught week to put it mildly...

Landed in Mumbai on Tuesday after a 17 hour journey to slate grey skies, thick oppressive clouds and crippling humidity (monsoon season here)...after clearing customs we took a rickety ancient taxi with our bags stuffed in the boot and my guitars and fx suitcase (my Monster case, a/k/a The Flying Mary to quote my friend Faust of Prague--an unwieldy bulky beastie known and loved by many a factote 'em internationally) lashed precariously to the top of the cab, and made our way through the dusty chaotic tumult of midday Mumbai to the hotel...only to switch on the telly to be greeted with scenes of bombings in Srinagar, Kashmir... crashed and jet-lagged, we collapsed for a nap of several hours, then awoke to call pur local promoter Ratan, who promised to pick us up at our hotel in an hour for dinner... one and a half hours later we got a call that he wasn't coming, and that we should not leave our hotel that evening, as there had just been a series of 7 bombings on the Mumbai rail line...we switched on the set, and numb with horror watched the televised carnage which had just taken place not all that far from where we were staying...we watched the news reports over and over and over, then went downstairs for a desultory dinner, and then, exhausted, fell into a very troubled sleep.

Needless to say, our Mumbai gig was canceled the next day.

But upon awakening, Caroline and I ventured forth out of the hotel into the heart if Mumbai to reconnoiter/get the lay of the land...and mirabile dictu, it is a real testimony to the fighting spirit and sheer good -humored positive vibes and vitality of the Indian people that the megalopolis that is Mumbai was absolutely thriving, alive and kicking, people seemed to just shrug off the bombings which was just the latest in a series there going back fifteen years--kind of like the London sang-froid after the Blitz--and it was business as usual in the saree shops and clothing boutiques and amazing outdoor laundry with workers scrubbing a city's linaments in troughs of muddy water quite near one of the bombed stations in fact, and it was all smiles round the Gate of India and the worldclass Taj must go on, la lutta continua, don't let the bastards wear you down...

Next day DJ Cosmo arrived with her crew from London, percussionist Ben Mitchell (super nice guy and great player, he did Top of the Pops with Take That the day Robbie Williams quit!) and intl. boho dancer Katie, and they had inveigled Ratan and his guy Savio to keep the Hyderabad gig on (like Mumbai, another promotional jammy for Bacardi), so on Friday we flew to that city and spent an afternoon inspecting this great hi-tech anthill built on top of some very old bones indeed, in fact we loved the Old City and the clamor of the open air market where the ladies bartered and finagled with the bangle and tsotschke vendors like pros...and shoe-less we climbed the marble mountain of a very famous Hindu temple for a magnificent view at the summit of all Hyderabad with its 7 million plus denizens spread out far below...

late at night we went to a cool Bhangra-Beat club called Liquids where we danced away all the heartaches and frustrations of the trip so far with a crowd of Indian partykids, anyway we're all pros and had come there with a mission to entertain, which we were determined to do the next night, with a vengeance--

back at the Taj Banjara hotel, we checked out their basement disco and rapping dj, and after midnight we hung out around the pool overlooking an artificial lake behind the hotel, marveling at the giant leathery bats that kept swooping out of the trees to flutter overhead and occasionally dive bomb the pool to take the waters there (that recurring Bat motif strikes again!...)

Saturday we did our afternoon soundcheck in Hitex City, an industrial twilight zone on the outskirts of Hyderabad (the city where most of your your tech support phone inquiries get outsourced to--and, usually, answered in British-accented Indian tones) where we set up our gear in a huge sweltering corrugated shed the size of an airplane hangar (yup, playin' the sheds this summer, Ernie)... followed by media interviews with Wow, Indian Express, and ETV (the girl from Wow who interviewed me was really cool, nice and sweet and pretty and she'd actually done her homework and was fully conversant with my musical history)...

Kali the Destroyer, Hyderabad India

Shiva the Destroyer, Hyderabad

One of the 4 Gates to the Old City, Hyderabad

Hyderabad Old Town market

Note retching female on the right

Click to enlarge (hosted by flickr)

at last we hit the stage of a much spiffed-up and (finally) air-conditioned shed for the Bacardi B-Live Bacchanale with that loveable Bacardi Bat motif on huge banners overhead a flyin', blasting off at 10pm for a slightly truncated set as the civic powers that be had mandated a citywide curfew since the bombings, and right away I got a cheering crowd of young and old music freaks gathering in front of me who air-guitared my every move, their vociferous shouts of approval goading me on to play even more crazily...and Cosmo was pumping up the volume with a select mix of rare grooves and techno and trance old and new...and thousands upon thousands were pouring into the joint as the hour wore on and they were thoroughly grooving on our music and ogling Katie's alluring and provocative dithyrambic display (too provocative apparently, as eventually a cop asked her to cease and desist from her not-all-that rude dancing)...

and then finally, we were told it was time to cool it down by the police, and Ratan importuned them forjust one more encore...and Cosmo slapped a super-hot dance mix of The Doors "Break On Through" (yeah!) on her turntables, and the lights were flashing and the hot bodies in the crowd were throbbing and I cranked my sea-foam green Strat up to 11 and she began wailing and ululating in synch with diamond shaman Jim...

and then that Morrisonian Spirit of Dionysos unleashed was stricken and struck dumb from the stage--as the police jumped up and threatened to arrest us all if we didn't shut it down right then and there...

which, it is my sad duty to report, we did (albeit reluctantly!)--much to the general groans of consternation from the sweaty party throng who had gathered to participate in the old hypnagogic ceremony--all of them now super-primed and amped after knocking back copious amounts of Bacardi mixers on sale for a song at the back...

oh well, that's show biz on the frontier!

Cosmo and the gang split back to London the next morning at 6am...

and Caroline and I flew first back to Mumbai and then made our way to gorgeous green Goa by the sea--time for some serious max'n and relax'n, first real vacation in a year...

(yes I love doing this for a living--but outside of that actual shining hour where one is generating heat and light onstage...

well, outside of that, there are still a few compensatory perks, let us to lovely India being one of them...)

and will now draw a discretionary veil over these proceedings-- in fact I'm going to take a break from writing this blog for a bit for some much needed r and r (and a chance to do some composing and songwriting--I write best in hotels, for some strange reason)

See ya on the flip flop in August! (if we're all still here...)




Blogger Mojo Station said...

Hy Gary,
do you know Jessie Mae Hemphill, an old and important bluewoman from Senatobia, Mississippi? Yesterday, is dead. Is a bad news for the blues listeners.

( )

7/23/2006 12:44 PM  
Blogger Gary Lucas said...

yes, i'ts really sad about her passing!


8/02/2006 2:42 PM  
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