May 6, 2007

Hum Into The Microphone

I am sitting in a softly lit dance space in Ampang. It is Saturday night around 8:15. To my left is a small group of people I have never met. They teach at a school across town from where I work. They seem nice. I can’t think of anything to say to them. I mull over the idea that no matter how hard I try to the contrary, I have become this anti-social. After all, we are all teachers at a music event. Those are two of my favorite things, but I sit tight-lipped.

A few weeks ago, a friend told me that he was setting up an open-mic with some teachers at his school and was wondering if I would want to sing a few songs. I have written several posts, here and here at Intrepid Flame about my dream of playing music in front of people. Last year, I sang at a variety show at my school and I love it. Since then I have been looking for opportunities to get over my anxiety and play music in front of others. So I said yes.

The guy who set this whole thing up couldn't make it. He baled out the last minute and put Alan in charge. Alan and I have been to several shows together this year, and for some reason I can sit and talk with this guy for hours. But that is another story, let’s get back to Saturday night.

Alan is in front of us with a woman he met at a party, who is playing violin, and his friend playing some Irish percussion instrument. They are singing Biko by Peter Gabriel. His pliant fingers are deliberately playing each chord as his soft voice let’s loose the words.

Thoughts float in and out of my mind. They look something like this: There is something very pure about a group of people sitting around on a Saturday night producing music. I am getting a bit nervous, even though there are only about ten people in the room. They move on to a song I have never heard, and the woman’s voice anchors me back into the room. I am nervous about following them. They sound great. They know what they are doing. They can sing in key and keep rhythm. These are things I cannot do, even after playing for over ten years. My fingers search for the strings. I speed up, slow down, I forget entire verses and simply strum till I find myself again. Although, I want to be…I am not a musician. What am I doing here? Snap out of it! You can do this!

“Jabiz, do you want to go next?” Sure I say. What the hell! This is why I came! Now I am in front of the group. They seem harmless. As I am double-check the tuning of my strings, I wonder where this fear comes from. I hum into the microphone, fiddle with a few chords. This is it…I am off.

You are going too fast. Slow down. That’s right A minor, G, you have played this song a million times. Shut up! I can’t even here my voice. There it is. It sounds pretty good.

I am almost done with the song when I remember that singing should come from my heart and not so much from my brain. I close my eyes and simply sing. It feels great. I am not worried if I am in the right key, or if my words match my fingers. I simply try and let the song do what the song needs to do. The second song is faster and louder. I raise my voice and hear it boom in the tiny room. I am finally not whispering. I like the way this feels...

I am playing at the teacher variety show again this year. I can’t wait!


  1. hey j,

    good for you. keep on performing. sounds like a great idea to get together and share your music. i'm not a musician but i know from my husband that there's nothing more invigorating than performing live.

    oh and that irish percussion thing is a bodhran (pronounced bough-rawn)( and it's really hard to play!

  2. go for it!!!! i sing here at home for the cats :) i used to sing in a choir but i don't do solo work. i know what you mean about socializing- i hate the stupid meaningless small talk- i want to jump right in and get talking! why play games? most people get put off by that and don't know what to do- i also don't really like most folks because i am getting anti social- and a bit weird :) that's not really true- just wanted to stay in step with the rest of the post. well, i guess i am a bit weird :) do any of the native folks teach? i'd have to look at the pic again but it was like looking at a room here.