'Seventy-five banners united over the field'


'Seventy-five years, 

seventy-five banners united over the field.'

after ‘Changing of the guards’ 


trompet + muzikant 2


Tuesday, November 1

‘Is it okay if I try one of these Tibetan horns?’ the man asks while entering.

He sounds like an Irishman, he looks like a hobbit – even more so when his chubby cheeks redden. 

After the first blow of breath I'm astounded, he immediately conjures up perfect sounds. Like a seasoned monk somewhere in the Himalayas.

Must be a musician in heart ’n bones…

He tries another horn and produces a clear, very low tone.

- Is it because of the length that one horn sounds lower than the other?

Always wanted to know.

‘No, it is merely the depth of this dish.’ He puts his finger on the nozzle. ‘The deeper a bowl is before it passes into the horn, the more your lips naturally do blrblrblrblrblr.’

As if he was imitating a toothless baby that belches his porridge for fun.

Conch schelp 2

‘Very different from this Bengali conch,’ he says and promptly makes a long, clear clarion call with it. 

Even more red.

‘Aren’t they used to communicate between the monasteries and hermit dwellings on different mountain slopes?’

Granted, slightly mischievous, I pick up a small Tibetan trumpet made out of a human thighbone. Hardly anybody gets a decent sound from it, not even the monks in the Himalayas. Usually they put the bone to the lips at an angle to squeeze out - with a lot of pressure - a high, shrill sound.

Anything but pleasing to the ear.

schedeltrommeltje

The underlying assumption is to use human body parts - a skull drum for example - to produce sounds that one is supposed to hear in deep meditation or while passing away: the ringing in the ears, the beating of the heart, the pulsing of the blood and so on.

Most musicians are reluctant to put a human bone to the lips, but he respectfully takes it into his hands.

‘Ah, you have one of those, as well,’ he says, surprised. ‘Knew him personally?’

After some fitting and suckling, he gets hold of a fine, thin sound - as far as practicable from a piece of bone. And at last I understand the trick: start blowing very gently.


Dijbeen + muzikant


‘Always fun to make weird objects sing,’ he says almost apologetically, ‘but I'm actually a guitarist, you know. At least, that’s why I am here in Amsterdam for a day.’

- You’re performing here?

‘Yeah, last night, in the Ziggo Dome.’

- Doesn’t that fit … over ten thousand people? 

"Haha, yes, and it was sold out. But they did not come for me, mind you, but for Paul Simon. One of us was here yesterday in your store, the drummer, he bought a pair of small cymbals. They are all a little sluggish, but they’ll be here soon enough.’

- They..?

‘Yeah, the group is out walking with Paul.’

- Oh ... er ... should I close the door behind them...?

‘Why is that?’

– Well, we once had Goldie Hawn here in a tight little shirt and promptly the store stood packed.

‘Haha, that’s what you get with boobies, yeah. But Paul doesn’t have them, at least not the kind people would come for. He doesn’t stand out, glides quietly, nobody notices him, don’t worry.’


Two days earlier

Around the corner Bo lives. In an earlier life he had some success as a drummer in the US. Later as a promoter. While I’m opening the store, he and his small dog come and stand next to me and immediately he starts off:

‘Can you believe it, man? No reaction for two weeks because you are ‘ peechless’..? You’re awarded a Nobel Prize for literature and for two, three weeks you couldn't find the right words for it…? What a schmuck.’

The day of announcement, however, he proclaimed right away how great it was that Dylan had been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. ‘And rightly so!’ But that Dylan kept silent for two weeks, was beyond him.

I gave a shrug and said:

- You don’t wìn a Nobel prize, it is bestowed upon you out of the blue, it is not as if you asked for something.


Besides, I can imagine that one doesn’t want to be associated with an organization that bestows the Peaceprize on ‘Masters of War’ like H. Kissinger and B. Obama.

Dylan Obama

But above all, I like to tease Bo a little, he is a friendly mister know it all – particularly when it comes to music or American politics.

- A well-known Dutch writer, Harry Mulisch, made no secret of his opinion that he did deserve the trophy. Already in the seventies Dylan was suggested. Mulisch thought the suggestion ridiculous, Dylan was no literature, in that case he didn’t want it anymore. According to him, even handing the prize to Leonard Cohen would make more sense.’

‘Leonard Cohen?! I never considered his work music, man, you cannot drum with it. That Mulisch-guy didn't understand nothing.’

I did not feel like explaining to the man from the US that Mulisch probably only suggested it because his close colleague Remco Campert had translated some of Cohen’s lyrics into Dutch.

Frank Zappa stated after Like a rolling stone came out that he didn’t need to write lyrics to his music anymore. ‘It says it all.’ 

Just recently I heard the song come by once again. Still to be recommended, certainly, but who’s actually sing-saying those fairly paternalistic lines to whom?


Ahh you've gone to the finest schools, alright Miss Lonely 

But you know you only used to get juiced in it

Nobody's ever taught you how to live out on the street

And now you're gonna have to get used to it

You say you never compromise

With the mystery tramp, but now you realize

He's not selling any alibis

As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes

And say do you want to make a deal?

How does it feel, how does it feel?

To be on your own, with no direction home

A complete unknown, like a rolling stone


Dylan what


- You're absolutely right, I say to Bo in order to keep the stage. I actually think that in the case of songwriters you should not separate the lyrics from the music. The one affects the other with added value – or something of the sort. Dylan’s lyrics are great but whether his music would survive instrumentally, I doubt it. 

‘Uh ... you have a point,’ he admits - albeit reluctantly.

Wow, Bo agrees with me, I make a little dance of joy. Even the greengrocer down the road glances up from opening up shop.

‘What do you mean by that…’ Bo asks a bit suspiciously, ‘you really think I’m such a smart-ass…?’

- No, I'm just happy I ‘m travelling the day after tomorrow, I fib to appease him. 

 ‘Which musician do you think should have got the prize?’

- Someone who is able to forge lyrics and music perfectly together... uh... Paul Simon, perhaps?

Literature, music, science, I know Bo likes to choose among the chosen, his own segment of the world population.

The dog wants to move on and he gives in.

‘I’ll have to give it some more thought…’


Paul Simon Ton Lankreijer


Tuesday November 2nd I shake hands with Paul Simon. Looking around, he asks how long we have had the store. It turns out to be the intro to a matter that’s been on his mind lately.

‘Last week I turned 75. Now I often consider stopping, can’t go on forever. At some point I must quit.’

In a newspaper I had read that morning that ‘he had actually done a little dance on stage’ in the Ziggo Dome. Apparently that was news.

- Hm, use it or lose it, I react a bit pedantic. In my early thirties, I learned the rough way that I shouldn’t break with what I had achieved but rather transform it into something I would continue to be happy with. And so I quickly ran back at the time.

He looks at me and slowly says:

‘You were lucky to see that, then.’

- Transforming is a better term than breaking, I hear myself overplay my hand. In itself a good thought, but to lecture a word artist... and in his own language at that…

However, the mood remains jovial. The band members look around with interest and buy gifts for people back home. The drummer hesitates over an antique shamanistic necklace with over a hundred different small bells. He checks the price once more and hangs it back. Paul picks up the necklace and places it on the counter with his credit card next to it.

‘What do you consider Paul's best recording?’ a band member asks.

- The Caveman, I say right away, it is one of the few records that Bo and I have in common in terms of taste. 

The reaction of the group is one of surprise.

Which in turn surprises me.

 ‘You're the first in a long time who comes up with that one.’

‘It nearly lead to his undoing, if some Puerto Rican groups had had their way.’

‘Any song in particular?’ Paul asks.

- Trailways Bus.

‘Yeah,’ he nods as thoughtful and dawdling as he seems to react to nearly everything, ‘that is a good song.’

Trailways Bus is about an immigrant who after an illegal border crossing, flees by bus. The melancholic, Latin melody and the various voices perfectly match the words.


Trailways Bus

the capeman

A passenger traveling quietly conceals himself

With a magazine and a sleepless pillow

Over the crest of the mountains

The moon begins its climb

And he wakes to find he’s in rolling farm land

The farmer sleeps against his wife

He wonders what their life must be

A Trailways bus is heading south

Into Washington, DC


A mother and child, the baby maybe two months old

Capeman photo

Prepare themselves for sleep and feeding


The shadow of the Capitol dome

Slides across his face

And his heart is racing

With the urge to freedom

 

The father motionless as stone

A shepherd resting with his flock

The Trailways bus is turning west

Dallas via Little Rock

 

The border patrol outside of Tucson boarded the bus

Any aliens here, you better check with us

Capeman 2

How ‘bout you son?

You like you’ve got Spanish blood

Do you habla ingles? Am I understood?

 

Yes, I am an alien from Mars

I come to earth from outer space

And if I traveled my whole life

You guys would still be on my case

 

But he can’t leave his fears behind

He recalls each fatal thrust

The screams are carried by the wind

Phantom figures in the dust

Phantom figures in the dust

 

Meanwhile, I am reminded of my earlier conversations with Bo. It would be nice to be able to brag a little against him later on.

I decide to summarize our discussion and start a muddled tale. The elderly men listen patiently and occasionally place snappy remarks.

‘Dylan hasn’t created any music for at least thirty years. And definitely not any new musical development.’

‘Cohen…' Paul hesitates, ‘hardly made any good songs at all.’

– A few, I come to the man’s defense.

‘Susan?’ he mocks gently.

- No, but from the first album as well, I believe it’s called the dealer song.

He frowns, doesn't know which song I mean.

- He was just some Joseph looking for a manger, I quote a line that comes to mind.


Leonard Cohen

And then sweeping up the jokers that he left behind

You find he did not leave you very much, 

not even laughter

Like any dealer he was watching for the card 

that is so high and wild

He'll never need to deal another

He was just some Joseph looking for a manger...


‘Oh, yeah... that one... ok, a few good songs then.’

Somewhat haltingly I start my proposition that lyrics should not be separated from their music.

The group remains silent and listens politely.

I continue bravely that if such a prize should exist, it ought to be for both text and music combined and that to me as a longtime fan, the honor has befallen to hand over the Kashba Nobel Prize to… Paul Simon.

Paul Simon Ton Lankreijer 3

The group cracks up and Paul kindly accepts my gift - a quickly but nicely wrapped silver Tibetan box. He accepts it the Asian way: without opening it.



After an hour the band walks down the Staalstraat once again, a group of elderly men, no one takes any notice.

Phantom figures in the dust.

 

A young friend comes cycling towards us.

- You’re just too late, look over there, Paul Simon just left the building.

‘Oh, a celebrity, great, isn’t he that actor..?’

Dylan Adele kopie

She is 23 and yes, she has also heard about Bob Dylan.

‘He's that copywriter for Adèle, isn’t he? Right? No? What are you guys laughing about ..?’



Dylan portret 2


You would not think to look at him, but he was famous long ago,

for playing the electric violin on Desolation Row.

- Desolation Row, Bob Dylan 1965


PS 7 June 2017

Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. They're meant to be sung, not read. The words in Shakespeare's plays were meant to be acted on the stage. Just as lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page. And I hope some of you get the chance to listen to these lyrics the way they were intended to be heard: in concert or on record or however people are listening to songs these days. I return once again to Homer, who says, "Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.”

Nobel Lecture - Bob Dylan


 

 

 

 

 

All photographs and texts © Kashba, Ais Loupatty & Ton Lankreijer. Webdesign: William Loupatty.