Wednesday, September 21, 2011



To be honest I was very reticent about going on this tour at all. Leaving my family, my hard working wife and 3 wonderful kids to go to anywhere for a month is reason enough for pause. Compounding my concerns is the fact that some of the countries on this tour have had 'Arab Spring' events all year in the news. More than any other tour that I've ever left home for this one took the most personal courage for me to leave the 4 parts of my heart stateside and quell my own fears and preconceived notions. However, in Jordan the higher purpose and opportunity that the good people of the state Dept have provided us with came into clear focus and this has given my spirit strength and my music renewed intent.

Day 1 was a free day to have some R & R and ease our jet lag. We took the opportunity to visit the Dead Sea with our amiable and ever helpful guide and facilitator Emad. As you can see from the posts and pix above that hi jinx ensued and a fun and relaxing time was had by all.

That famous Dead Sea mud really does do wonders for the skin making it feel smooth and supple when you wash it off.

The guys call me 'Mudman' in the band so ofcourse I was the one to get slathered head to toe. Most Americans only get to do this unique salt sea visit from the Israeli side and not the uniquely beautiful Jordanian side. However, as I gazed across the water to the land on the other side, so near you could almost swim for it, I found it a bit hard to be so close but yet so far from Eretz Yisrael. 

The countryside between Amman and the Dead Sea coast was dotted with unique Bedouin tent dwellings and their small herds of sheep.

We were told if we were to approach these temporary homes the people living in them would welcome us with open arms and break bread with us without hesitation as is their custom.

Day 2 had us playing for kids aged 7-11 at the UNRWA School of Wehdat, the oldest and largest Palstinian refugee camp in Amman. Their enthusiasm and apprciation of our performance touched us all very deeply. They were so sweet and open in thier expressions of joy from the music. One girl said she had never seen people playing music before. This was the moment I realized how important it was for me to take this journey along with my band brothers and what this tour is really about and ofcourse what a powerful force for good music can be. As I was packing up saying goodbye to the kids I could not help being misty eyed from the experience.

That evening we played a free concert open to the public concert at The Al Hussein cultural center in downtown Aman to a crowd of about 300 people. The new American Ambassador to Jordan, Stewart Jones introduced us and said some brief remarks.We really enjoyed playing this perfectly sized concert hall and it's good acoustics helped my bass sing the way I like it to. Our sound AV engineer Ramzi Abu Mahammad couldn't have been more patient and helpful in securing and transporting the right equipment for all our performances in Jordan. The audience was warm and receptive to our music and we enjoyed playing an encore for their standing ovations. What a unique and great day, practically a dream!

On our 3rd and last day in Jordan we traveled to the city of Irbid in the north of the country to play and conduct a workshop at The Princes Basma Center, a youth center for young adults where they learn art, computer graphics as well as music. We were touched by the art work that they made for us from downloaded pictures of us off the web.

I was surprised at the hi tech bank of computers that they had for the kids, complete with the latest scanners and web cams. Their welcoming director Ruba Shaddad told be they were learning how to use Photoshop and other graphic programs. They also had a small, but nice recording studio. We performed for the kids and then encouraged the musicians among them to perform for and then with us.We really enjoyed the percussionists, violinist and keyboardist that played. We joined them in an informal jam session in their Mid-Eastern style and I couldn't help thinking how similar the groove was to alot of the Klezmer music that I play back in NY. They were really talented and the keyboardist was proud to tell me that he had won 1st prize in a nation wide competition, but he lamented that he only could play in an "oriental" style and he did not know "occidental" style. I told him how great he played and how interesting his improvising was. Johnny remarked that he could superimpose his style on top of our western style to create something new. Musically this kind of cultural exchange is one of the main goals of our wonderous journey. There is alot more to come...

1 comment:

  1. Thxs for sharing note to HG..Terrific blog...Enjoy, stay safe.