Mariza in Amsterdam

Mariza performed at the Concertgebouw last week and we happened to be in attendance. That she is a talented Fado singer is something I knew from her recordings. Turns out, she is also an engaging performer.

At one point she asked the audience if we could sing along a couple of lines from Rosa Branca. She’d sing:

Quem tem, quem tem
Amor a seu jeito

And we’d simply have to reply with:

Colha a rosa branca
Ponha a rosa ao peito

Most of us laughed because we thought it was some kind of practical joke. There were islands of Portuguese speakers in the audience, but by and large, the audience did not know Portuguese. Written down this way, these might not seem like a lot of words. But to sing something quickly after hearing it for the first time in a new language felt like an insurmountable challenge. Mariza divided the hall into five sections and section by section we mastered these lines and eventually sung with her.

Her troupe was very talented too. I guess to perform internationally at this level you need to be. Since most of them had their own solo careers, the program for the evening was organised in such a way that the members of the troupe also got to perform their works without Mariza getting all the limelight. Literally so – she’d step off the stage and let the members of the troupe take over!

When the concert ended, she thanked everyone involved in producing the show by name – right down to the person controlling the lights on stage and her makeup assistant – a kind gesture one doesn’t encounter often. Usually it’s the diva and the countless, nameless others that work in the shadows.

And then came the encores, which went a full fifty minutes over the scheduled time. She joined the audience, sung numbers the audience kept requesting and even welled up a little at all the adulation she got from the crowd.

And to think she’d be performing all over again in Hungary the very next day…

p.s. Given that Concertgebouw is a venue I usually associate with the dry, formal atmosphere of Western Classical performances, the warm and intimate air of this performance felt pleasantly out of place.

p.p.s. I have no idea how I came across Mariza’s first album. I was already listening to Fado 10 years ago and buying CDs online. I suspect that it might’ve been a recommendation by Amazon.

Anyway, a CD of hers went with me on long drive from Bangalore to Shimoga once. I had no idea what my friends made of the music, but they put up with it. I even remember one of them asking if I knew what “tristeza”, a word that came up a lot in the song Ó Gente Da Minha Terra, meant. (It means sadness, which I didn’t know then). We had stopped along the way to ask for directions (or to let a particularly heavy spell of monsoon shower pass), and I caught a reflection of the CD lying on the dashboard in the windshield.

Who knew, I would be attending a live concert of hers some 9 years from that day in Amsterdam?

p.p.p.s. I knew I had the picture somewhere but finding it took a lot more effort it should have. Back then, I was terrible at organising my photos. This was the hierarchy under which it was finally found:

Really Old Shit > DColon > images > sorter2 > Shimoga

I am thanking myself of 9 years ago for having the good judgement to name at least the last folder correctly.

p.p.p.p.s. It’ll be gravely remiss of me to leave you without Rosa Branca.


Photoblog: Photo #75 – De Lezende Kip

While walking through a quiet neighbourhood in Amsterdam today, I came across this gable stone depicting a rooster reading a book.

The inscription reads:

De lezende Kip – 1992

Which translates to:

The reading chicken – 1992

This being a warm afternoon, the French window on the first floor of the house bearing this gable stone was ajar. Just as I was about to walk off, the window opened. A kindly, bespectacled man – probably in his late 70s, looked out, noticed me, and asked me if I knew English.

I answered in affirmative but I wasn’t sure where this conversation was going to lead. I began to prepare myself for being admonished for having taken the picture. Not that anything like this has ever happened, but I can see that some people might get touchy about tourists going around taking pictures in a quite street.

The man said, and I paraphrase, that back in the day when houses didn’t have numbers, you could get directions to the right house by using these gable stones. Like “walk past two houses after so and so gable stone and you’ll reach my house”.

Here comes the spiel about privacy – I thought to myself. But I was so wrong.

He then mentioned that his father was really into books and his girlfriend’s father a merchant. Both the fathers put in a little bit of money to help them build this house. So when the house was ready in 1992, to commemorate their contributions, he got this gable stone commissioned.

“Why the chicken?” I asked.

“Oh, because my girl friend’s father was a poultry merchant”

I thanked the man sincerely for sharing this bit of private history. The gable stone would definitely not be the same without it.

This city never fails to surprise.


Cabin fever

For various personal and professional reasons, we haven’t travelled in five months. This is perhaps the longest we’ve gone without a trip outside our city. You never quite fully see a city like Amsterdam so it has not been very difficult keeping ourselves entertained by playing tourists over weekends. Plus, with changing seasons, the city changes. Old streets and favourite haunts suddenly feel new. After all, this constant renewal is what the seasons were made for, weren’t they?

On a summer evening in May, when the wind is still and the birdsong fills the air, if you look at the canopies of old trees by the canals and filter out the lamp posts, the bicycles locked to the bridges, the sputter of diesel engines of the boats in the canals, the impatient trill of bicycle bells and the vroom of the occasional car, it feels like you have wandered into a tropical forest.

Or on a similar balmy evening, you scan the sky and stumble upon this one of a kind lamp post in your neighbourhood. In the background, sea gulls circle the sky and squawk. Your mind drifts to waves crashing on a pristine beach in Côte d’Azur. You can’t travel (and for all this romanticising about the sea, I’ll pick mountains for a getaway anyway), so you treat yourself to a bottle of Provence wine.

On a totally unrelated note:

For someone who started blogging in 2003, this post post struck a chord. I started writing to get to discover myself. I found that when I would sit down in front of a blank screen and carefully give words to my thoughts, I would understand them better. It was like meditating. The comments I would get would spur me on to share my life even more. Perhaps it was an ego trip or perhaps something as basic as not wanting to feel alone.

In the past 12 years or so, the act of blogging hasn’t lost any of it’s mediative qualities for me. However, the world has moved on to social media. Given my limited social media presence, blogging increasingly feels as if I am corking a message into a bottle and setting it adrift into an ocean. Strangers occasionally discover random posts through Google and once in a while favour them with an acknowledgement through their comments. I don’t particularly mind this arrangement but I sometimes wonder how much longer could I go on?