This line from Madonna’s ‘Jump’ seems so appropriate… and rather strangely, it came on my iTunes Shuffle as I was packing yesterday. I say ‘rather strangely’ because it was exactly the tune I was listening to as I packed to come over here - and because, clearly, it resonated both times:
<Andrea grudgingly gives Madge more credit than she really wants to>
A crescent moon has just appeared above the KL skyline, and it’s just too beautiful.
I’m planning for this to be my last post on Lost In Transposition. Thank you for reading this blog. It’s been an amazing thing, to keep it up (although I think some people who have spammed me could have helped with that issue); and I’ve been so touched by the fact that people are reading it, and by your comments, and even by your lurking. Thank you, lurkers. And thank you B, for the inspiration to do something every day.
I hope you’ll forgive me if I round the whole thing off by talking about what this whole crazy Malaysian shebang has meant to me.
<The world forgives Andrea>
Musically: I have learned for the first time how to truly articulate what I do. How to articulate about jazz. How to teach jazz. How to teach. How to teach men. How to teach men who are older than me. I was only half-kidding when I compared myself to the hero of Footloose: if you thought jazz was a niche market in the West, you should try it out here. Maybe there really are six degrees of Kevin Bacon after all. And I am degree one.
It’s been great to be appreciated by a venue. For the management to love what you’re doing, and to support you to the hilt. It’s so uncommon, and to have the rein and the support to do what you feel is right to do, has felt… well, wonderful. And I will desperately miss the opportunity to make music six nights a week. Because of this, I am, without a shadow of a doubt, a better singer now than when I came. My chops are better, my confidence sky-high. And I realise why yesterday’s experience at the street market, and the previous night’s on the bandstand - especially when we just jammed - meant so much to me. It’s because, feeling that way, I felt like anyone for whom music is a full-time occupation. Like all the people who I’ve seen performing who studied music and so take it for granted that it’s OK to make music like this, who stand up there with fellow musicians like it’s the most natural thing in the world. For the first time truly in my life, I feel that way about making music. And that feels incredibly liberating. It feels amazing. Thank you, thank you, T, for giving me the opportunity to feel this. It’s been a privilege. And a blast .
Culturally, I have come to a place where many values differ from mine. Where it’s taken as read that someone is religious unless you find out otherwise; where the ruling party controls the media; where dissent and protest and real analysis is lurking, and as the recent election proved, becoming ever-more powerful, but is not acknowledged nor encouraged as some sort of right. It has at once opened my eyes and made me realise how sheltered my experience has been up to now; yet also made me appreciate how lucky I am - we are - in so much of what we take for granted in the West.
I have come from a developed nation to a developing nation, and seen some of the differences which that entails. T and I talked just yesterday, for example, about how he just doesn’t have time to think about ‘big things’. He literally spends all his time thinking about his own situation, his own survival - and told me that that is very common here. People are literally trying to survive. Compare and contrast with the West - where the Roman Empire, for example, gave us infrastructure; and was later followed the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, so that Europe went on to produce Michaelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci and Voltaire and Mozart and Beethoven and so on and so on… While South-East Asia was simply trying to survive, let alone go to concerts and eat grapes. It’s really no wonder that even major capitals like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are relative cultural deserts (and by that I mean lacking in music and arts venues, museums, galleries and such) - or why as a result, why I couldn’t live here permanently. Unlike most ex-pats, it seems, I couldn’t just choose somewhere because of the weather and the shopping.
And a brief note about music and culture: I’ve realised that the high import taxes on CDs here utterly affects the musical tastes of the nation. Malaysians buy their albums in pirated form, where stall-holders on the street sell the latest CDs for 4 Ringgit (60p); whereas in record stores like Tower Records they cost the same as in the West (ie £8). The result? Everyone listens to the pirated music. Which means that they listen to the music people think it’s worth pirating. The big sellers: Kelly Clarkson. Britney. The Eagles. Michael Sodding Buble. No-one’s going to pirate a copy of Coltrane’s Giant Steps. So nobody in Malaysia is going to get to hear it unless they have money. Result? It’s difficult to get jazz gigs and clubs going. The audience just isn’t there. Because the audience isn’t listening to the music to the first place.
And finally, on the music and culture tip : this experience and this blog has led me to write for the first time about jazz, about the music I make, and as a result write for www.jazz.com. It’s led a heavyweight jazz critic and writer to praise my writing to the skies, and thats’wonderful. As some dead guy once said.
And finally, finally… The personal stuff.
I’m glad I came here alone. I think it’s led to all kinds of meetings and experiences that might not have happened otherwise. I’ve said ‘yes’ to just about everything and met all kinds of people I would never meet in London. And I will miss them terribly.
As I’ve explained recently to several people here: my life here isn’t just my life back home but with nice weather. It’s utterly, utterly different. I don’t meet CEOs. I don’t walk downstairs to a swimming pool. I don’t leave my towels on the bathroom floor, only to find them replaced by new ones on my towel rail (not unless some miraculous deal has been struck between my letting agent and my landlady).
I have, I think, managed the depression I’ve been going through. I have come here. I have jumped. I have made friends, made music, met wonderful people, had the utter privilege of doing something I love, night after night. I have realised how much I love my friends and family (and the musicians I work with!). And I have been myself throughout. And in the words of the song: That’s all.