A Musician for a Month? Goa, India

Time. Why do we spend it the way we do? Why do we do this thing and not that? I dont know the answer, but I know that that lately there’s been no time for writing blogs.

I’ve been in India.

The idea was to come here and play music. Those of you who know me may know that I have another job as well. But I always feel this urge to create music. I just have to do it, have to create. Unfortunately there is so little time back home if you are doing the regular thing, working full-time, saving for your future security, building a life and a career for yourself, trying to carve out your rightful share of the fat pie that is life. All that is fine, but as we get more serious no one can argue that there isnt less and less time to do those things that you half remember loving, maybe painting, telling stories, playing at something or riding a bike around like a maniac. Or maybe you used to love photography, whatever. And so often we get that feeling that that thing we used to love is not our thing anymore, that we just do it for fun every now and then. Like I say back home, “Im not a real musician, I just do it for fun if I have any time left over”.

So I thought Id come over here and free myself from the distractions of working and going to the post office and answering phone calls and emails and servicing the car and fixing that light and paying bills and making appearances at your ex best friend’s barmitsvah.

There was another reason why I wanted to come to India and give music a go again. I guess like almost everyone I get a bit of social anxiety. About 10 years ago I used to play quite a few gigs in rock bands as a bass player, but I was never 100% comfortable on stage. As time went on I drifted into other things and a career path, but along the way I think I may have actually turned down a couple of gigs because of my discomfort with the stage. And that has been nagging me like a hungry mule, like an unfinished chapter, that I had stopped doing something out of fear.

So I set myself a target, get to Goa, network with some of the many musicians that flock here from all over the world, be a musician for a month, and see what happens. I also set myself a number play 10 gigs in front of a crowd.

So I got myself a flight, my muso mate Craig came across early to look for a house, and I joined him over here, ‘green as’ in my cargo shorts and black K-mart singlet (the only clothes I brought). I literally had my keyboard, a box full of FX pedals and microphones, and one small shoulder bag for hand luggage!

Coming in to Land in Goa

Next challenge, get a house to set up for jamming and recording. Craig had already sorted this out by the time I got to India, good work. Here is Carsten, a champion from Denmark who comes to Goa to be a musician every year, and is looking to move there permanently! Im recording him in our makeshift studio room.

Carsten recording in our music room

Next step, find a way to get around with a fully weighted ‘almost piano sized’ keyboard worth over 2 grand… The only practical answer turned out to be balanced behind me on a scooter. Getting around was pretty crazy, this thing balanced on the back of the bike, mad traffic, bad roads and marauding police. But once I got the hang of it, it was easy: as they say in India, anything is possible, and people carry a hell of a lot more on one scooter than I was doing.

A balancing act, reckon my insurance would cover me for this madness?

Sorted. By the time I got to Goa my mate Craig was already playing in a few bands and spreading the word that a keyboard player was coming to town, so I went to some of his shows and met some musos. Next thing we asked someone if we could do a set before they played at the Sri Bar, a bar restaurant full of daybeds and carpets and candles, really nice ambience. I was kinda nervous about it, but loaded my shit up onto the bike and hit the road for Vagator hill, telling myself that once I got the first one out of the way it would get easier, believing it in my head but not in my gut. Me and Craig played some beats and put live bass and keys on top for awhile, and it went down alright. Next thing you know the next band sets up with us and we jam.

NOW it sounded awesome, a female vocalist called Jan, Carsten on guitar, me and Craig on keys and bass, and an English dude called Warren playing percussive style guitar my tapping on it to create drum sounds. I ended up staying for the rest of the night to play bass for the main band, was heaps of fun, and by the end we had one hell of a dance floor going at Sri.

Janet and John’s: Beachside Bars is what Goa is all About! Played down here one night

After this, the ball just kind of kept rolling. It seemed that once you had one good performance under your belt, other people would hear about it, and be up for playing with you in another outfit. One of them was a straight up blues rock cover band playing Zeppelin, Doors, Pink Floyd tunes etc at a place called the Stone House. This was a good gig, we got a good dinner, free drinks all night, and a stack of rupees each that helped with our other expenses during the week. Not bad at all. Good on Elton, our champion bass player from Dubai, for finding us this gig.

What to play next?

God damn need a taller desk

The other players were Carsten on guitar and vocals, Craig on drums, and Vova, on guitar and vocals.  We had no rehearsals and while had a rough list of tunes, usually Vova or Carsten would just start playing whatever song they felt should come next, and me and Elton had about 10 seconds to figure out the chords. A few train wrecks, but mostly sounded pretty sweet, and who can be bothered rehearsing anyway.

Vova, the one with the long grey hair, is something else. He is from the Ukraine, and actually learned how to speak English from listening to rock n roll tunes on an illegal radio behind the iron curtain! Consequently he has a real cool way of speaking, and many of his sentences sounded like they belonged in a song. This guy is a great musician, is a full time player in the Ukraine, and comes to Goa every year to play 2 shows a day and make some money. He really lives it. At one gig the bar owner asked for a quiet number to finish off the set, and Vova played a cover of Love of My Life, the Queen song, and almost made us all fucking cry.

Another band we ended up playing in was this live improvised psy-trance band called Unit. THIS was the shit, and every gig I got a real sweat going. The bar was in Arambol, an hour scooter ride to the north, and a bit of a hippy mecca.

Me on Keys and FX, Jovis on Didge, Christophe on Drums, Craig on Bass

Christophe plays a Funeral Log from Africa

UNIT at Sporting Heroes, shirts optional

Jovis and Craig – shirts not necessary here

The band was completely improvised, led by Chris the drummer, who was always speeding up and slowing down, building intensity and dropping out. I was making resonances and soundscapes with my keyboard, feeding it into a delay pedal and letting it feedback on itself, and trying to play rhythmic figures, but these were pretty hard coz I almost couldnt play fast enough to keep up, even with two hands bashing the same note! We ended up recording with this band at a studio looking over the river that borders Goa and Maharashtra states, and Im looking forward to getting my hands on the finished recording.

I feel really lucky to have played with each of the people I played with. We shared some real moments of unspoken communication, transcended language and culture barriers, and had a kickass good time.

I got to play in a couple of other lineups, but one last standout gig was at this Russian bar called “Doroga”. Craig had gone down there to play with a guy called Wolfman, but he had refused to play unless he hash, so Craig stole the gig for us. We played a few times as a trio with Dave Sands on buttons, and then got some singers down to join us for a reggae/soul/grooves set. Its always great to play with good singer, you can get inspiration for what to play from what they sing, and build on each others music. Sanjae from London and Chris from Pretoria brought the house down, despite it officially being a dry night in Goa due to local elections. Afterwards we got invited to a Russian party, and it was a real treat, they we’re very friendly and too hospitable, giving us all kinds of vodka, caviar, and boiled potatoes. Needless to say, it was a crazy ride home that night with the piano on my back.

So, time, why do we spend it the way we do? I dont know the answer, but I have heard one thing: They say that a man or woman is defined by their actions, not by some title or neat conceptualisation that they may have of themselves. So despite that nagging voice telling me “Im nowhere”, despite any boring ass conceptualisation of myself as some kind of professional, I’ll tell ya one thing:

Right now, I am a musician!


What will you be today?

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4 thoughts on “A Musician for a Month? Goa, India

  1. Nice blog! I love Goa some of my friends have been thinking about doing this. Did you find that the gigs paid ok to support a reasonable basic lifestyle over there?

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