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Time: December, Before Concert.
Place: a pizza parlour on downtown Bloor Street, Toronto.
Amid the lunchtime crowd and bustle I dine with the Professor. He is short round and dumpy, yet some suave sophistication filters through his talc. He speaks in fits and starts with enthusiasm and self-absorption. On his lapel he wears badge with an "S" and a cross linked together. All the while he bobs back and forth in an attempt to peer into my eyes.
I am trying to give my attention to the food, a monster pizza decked with everything (four varieties of salami, et cetera).
I am dressed in a denim suit, love beads, long hair and beard. Dark glasses shade my eyes. (Natasha used to say that my eyes were friendly yet intense.)
My companion, Professor Beamish Bookish Ph.D. D.Sc. and bar, is an anthropological musicologist and a leading authority on the musically obscure. I have brought Professor Bookish my Turkistani nose-harp recordings. At the moment, however, Bookish is discoursing on his own celebrated researches, the now legendary fieldwork he had conducted as a young man through New Orleans gutters and dives searching for the origins of jazz. He speaks with a Canadian accent.
"I remember I asked this one old fellow when and where it all began. Fellow just went on dancing and when he exhausted himself he finally answered, "Don't know where it comes from, man. Just know Wertzat..." Or perhaps he said, 'Unless it's the Wherisat." ... or was it, "But I dig Wherizat," which translates as "but I understand it was the What's It"... or where ever. I wish I could remember his exact words. I couldn't hear too well in all that noise and dialect. The music was loud." And here he, Bookish, snaps his fingers rhythmically to show that he too was there with it.
"Yeah... interesting," say I in Camberwellese. l put down my knife and fork. "Last summer I was browsing through second-hand books in the market in Khartoum. I came across something which might corroborate what that old dancer of yours was saying. There was this tattered old velum bound hand-writ tome titled "memoirs of a Missionary" by one Sybil Lovewell, spinster. The old dear, bless her, was out planting God and hygiene in the Congo, Chad and Cameroons, middle of last century. click here for full sized image She kept running into rumours about an amazing tribe hidden behind the Mountains of the Moon in lost valley of Roaratuni. Noble Savage, grooving around naked in the trees." I close my eyes with delight. "Noble Savants, too. People round held them in high esteem on account of their juju. And then as well, there were always allusions to their music. Seems that it was very weird and magic too. The neighbouring tribes had a name for it, but Sybil wasn't too clear about the nuance of the translation; whether it was 'stone music' or 'rock music' or what." I open my eyes just enough to observe Professor Bookish's reaction. "...It seems that the tribes around had no direct contact with these people. Now dig this.. everyone Sybil asked about that particular aspect, the isolation and obscurity surrounding these cats, replied with the same stock phrase, "Well, Miss Bwana, dey keeps demselves to demselves, dat's Wairitzat."
I take another bite of pizza now transformed to juju food prepared by savage Italian cooks and dressed with savage hungarian sausages - yum! "Sybil couldn't get much more out of her informants. They'd keep referring back to the music, hopping up and down and shouting, 'Dem bones,' and 'Juju,' and 'dat's Weritsat, Momma!' and go dancing off into the trees."
By this time
Professor Bookish, too, is jumping up and down, the pizza parlour agog, him shouting,
"Roaratuni! Rock music! Weritsat! Pasha, we must pursue this. My God, Chris, this
might be the lost chord of Israel."
was thin, tall, ageless and groovy. Yeah...