Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Thursday, 11 August 2011
Thursday, 11 August 2011 14:46

Experience the Bodega

I’m Dionne Machado, I come from Canada and I have been living in Taiwan for two years, teaching English and attempting to learn Chinese. In the first days of July, a friend invited me to a Concert of World Music in Taipei. The title was strange but reasonably catchy: “Sombreros, Sandals and Smiles”. It was a free event, as well, so it’s not like I’d be out of pocket if it was crap. So on Saturday, 9th of July, I grabbed a nice little dress from my wardrobe and followed the directions to get there. The concert was taking place in a small Spanish restaurant, hidden in the labyrinth of lanes of Zhongshan MRT area. After getting lost several times, I finally found the restaurant called “La Caja de Música”, which means the music box in Spanish. The place was already quite crowded and there was a nice atmosphere. I snuck some tapas, grabbed a glass of sangria and started mingling.

The metallic and reedy notes that wound their way up from the basement, signalled the start of the show. I was standing on the stairs as there were already no more seats downstairs and caught the finale of Luo Chao Yun, a female pipa player who was experimenting with a slide technique on her instrument with all kind of objects. You could feel the tension created by the extreme concentration of the performer. The second band, which comprised of a guzheng player, a percussionist, a saxophonist and a pianist joined the pipa player on stage for a bit of improv. I’ve never heard anything like it, and, if I’m honest, I still can’t say if I liked it or not. It was just... new and surprising! It seemed to me like it had a narrative to it, like a detective story told by an anguished pipa.

After briefly introducing themselves, the second band, Ka Dao Yin, launched into their own musical tale. The saxophone evoked for me the black and white movies from the fifties with its deep lamento, while the staccato of the guzheng seemed to provoke a feeling of urgency, and then the layer of stasis was there too, with the psychedelic waves of the organ (or the organ setting on a keyboard). They also improvised other pieces that had a quicker rhythm or a different colour to them (but which were all quite cinematic to me). I don’t know much about music, but it seems like improvisation is first of all a matter of resonances and correspondences, like a continued dialogue between two instruments which become the extensions of the musicians who wield them. Unfortunately, this kind of place might not have been the most appropriate for that kind of music as you could still hear the laughter and chatter of the people in the restaurant, which diminished a little the dramatic intensity of the show.

More wine and tapas during the interval got me in a good mood for the last band, Alma Itana. I hadn’t heard of them either, but I was highly excited by the idea of hearing a combination of different influences, latin, flamenco and reggae. And I was not disappointed! There was a real energy and a tangible connection between the musicians who apparently vary their set from gig to gig. That night there was about 8 of them cramped on the little stage, literally sweating out their enthusiasm and visibly enjoying the music together with the audience. The atmosphere was infectious, so much so that the owners of the restaurant, who also play in the band, left the bar unattended to join the jam session. The basement was transformed into a dancing bodega and the temperature rose by 10 degrees in an instant! I emerged from the basement soaked in sweat, but with a really big smile on my face. The experience even made me revisit the Gypsy Kings’ album that had gotten lost in the innards of my PC, and put it back on my ipod, in an attempt to recapture the rhythm of that night.

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Photos by Morris Tsai


Videos excerpts from the concert at La Caja de Musica


Next concert will take place on August 19th at the Tien Educational Center in Taipei city (First Floor auditorium, N.22, section 1, Xinhai road). More info here.


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