Jammin’ – music for travel


I never was musically refined. I may have liked certain songs back home over the decades but never ran out to buy every album, cassette, or CD that the artist made. Hell, I don’t even know the titles to many of my favorite songs, let alone their words or who sang some of them. I just liked their beat and rhythm.

My ears finally opened up while working in the Amazon headwaters in Aracuara, Colombia. Mondoro’s bar was alive to the trumpeting thunder of Latin music. Three generations danced wildly. I revered Monica’s hourglass figure whirling rhythmic gyrations with her hips rolling vibrance to an energetic drumbeat and shoulders grinding tune to a guitar. Her jet black hair and up-reached arms enticed a delicate bounce to blaring brass notes. Pouting lips motioned Spanish lyrics, words that didn’t matter.

If I hear something that I like now, I try to track it down from cooperative DJs and a notepad from my shoulder bag, “…and who sings this one..?”
Most other of my favorite music times while travelling have been the jam sessions. I remembered Bambu on a beach in Thailand facing seaward thumping a well-used and well-traveled tonga drum. He came from Mozambique and brought the African rhythms with him. They reverberated for hundreds of yards in either direction. Small crowds gathered, often with someone toting a guitar and a jam session would be under way. I was captivated as much by the carefree style as the magical sounds.

The jams are not as common here on Phu Quoc, probably because it is less traveled, so it was a real treat hearing music drifting from two doors down.

Steve Gold, the American musician staying in A1, and the visiting Frenchman Yannick Monot were practicing for a session at the Bistro. I had heard them the other night at the Viet Thanh beach bar and both were brilliant. Yannick was a professional musician who played a wide variety of cajun instruments. He was traveling light on a two week vacation from Germany and only packed three blues harmonicas. They took turns playing Steve’s guitar. Together, they sang out a nice variety of French and American songs ranging from folk to rock to blues. On some tunes they even alternated verses between the two languages. At the Bistro they were joined by the talented half-Chinese, half-Vietnamese, Hang Quynh Chi. She also strummed several captivating tunes and it was the first time I had ever heard classical music played on guitar.

Sunset diners clapped and cheered, several even made requests.
Whether around a northern campfire, in an outdoor beer garden, or seaside on a tropical beach, no music seemed to ring so loud, clear, and heartfelt as the impromptu jams by total strangers from different parts of the world. Both Steve and Yannick gave me copies of their recorded music to download onto my ipod. Here is a link to Yannick Monot & Nouvelle France, one of his several bands, performing in 2009 at the Bessunger Jagdhofkeller music cellar in Darmstadt, Germany. If you are on the road in Europe and looking for some fine live entertainment, you can find his schedule here along with more songs. If you’re on a tropical beach just listen for the beat of a drum or strum of a guitar, a jam session could be nearby.