Sometimes life throws up these little idiosyncrasies, these serendipitous moments that suggest there is more to this world than what we can see, that we are all performers on God’s stage.
Tonight I went to a fringe show. The last time I saw tonight’s performer was roughly a fortnight ago when he and I were in the audience of a poet who was, in turn, in the audience tonight. I’m a big fan of both of these people but I never expected to see the other when I arrived at each venue – I only expected to see (or even know) the performer.
There’s more to this. Tonight’s performer was Zal, an ex-student of mine, operating under the pseudonym Ru (his musical moniker). When I arrived at the show I bumped into another ex-student who had also come to see him. This ex-student was Chloe, the girl (young lady) who designed the cover of my poetry anthology. It was at the launch of this book that the three of us were last in the same place at the same time – I read some verse, Chloe explained her design and process, and Zal performed during the intermission. It’s like we’ve come full circle (or Cercle in this case).
Zal went by his own name then. He was part of a close knit trio named Kids With Wolves and their music was phenomenal; each time I heard them play I would walk away uplifted and inspired to write. Creative differences saw the band split and two of them formed The Woods but they eventually dissolved too and Zal reinvented himself under the stage name Ru.
I think I’ve been to seven of his gigs now, tonight’s fringe show included. I wasn’t sure, initially, if I would be able to see him perform this time around but I’m so glad that I managed to go because tonight’s performance was vastly different to all I’ve seen him do before. I’m hoping, in my description of what I witnessed tonight, my lack of musical knowledge doesn’t take away from the quality of the event.
Prior to the final song, Zal imparted some of his world view on the audience. He reminded us that while we are chasing our dreams all those around us are also chasing theirs and we should not seek to better ourselves at their expense, rather we should bring them up with us. Whether he did it intentionally or not (and I’m thinking he did), his stage design reflected his ideals. Traditional band set ups involve the musicians standing at the front of the venue with the audience before them while on stage the band members form a visible hierarchy with those deemed more important (e.g. the lead singer) closest to the front of stage. Tonight’s set-up was far more intimate and far more equitable. In the middle of the room was a fake fire and the four performers stood around this with the audience circling them. No one had a prominent position; it was Zal’s show but all of the musicians had equal footing in the eyes of those in attendance.
With regards to those musicians, Wayan “Billy” Biliondana played the double bass. Alongside Zal’s guitar, this was the main source of music for the evening (with shakers coming out late in the set). Billy also added his vocals to a couple of songs and, when he did so, it added another dimension to them that wasn’t present in the other pieces. This isn’t a slant on those songs (or the vocalists), merely an observation and a comment on his deep voice. Speaking of vocalists, Anikka Moses seemed to be loving life and was a joy to watch. Anikka looked genuinely excited not just to be there but to sing each line, even for the occasions where she had no lyrics, per se, and was just crooning. She would also channel the other musicians, often staring at them intently as she was harmonising with their voice or instrument. Laura Strobech, the other vocalist, was equally amazing. At times her singing reminded me of Kate Miller-Heidke, at other times she was so much like a Disney princess I wouldn’t have been surprised if cartoon birds landed on her shoulders, then there were other times when her voice was unlike anything I’d heard before.
Then there was Zal: guitar-playing, song-singing, story-telling, soul-sharing Zal. The songs we heard were his babies, brought to life by a variety of experiences that we are blessed to experience a fragment of. Musically he is part Newton Faulkner, part Paul Simon and all Zal.
Tonight’s gig was the end of a journey but Zal is a man of the earth and there are many more roads to walk – I look forward to seeing where his music takes him next.
PS – there was a weird part during the performance tonight where the fire alarm started sounding for no reason and we had to wait for the State Theatre staff to confirm it was a false alarm before the show could go on. Anyway, while we were waiting Laura gave us this classic joke:
- How do you titillate and ocelot?
- Oscillate its titalot.