Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The week - Part 1

So I spent all of last week in Colombo with my brother. He is there for academic stuff and I selflessly went to help him settle in his first week. I am the perfect big brother in many ways, happy to drop everything just to help the poor chap.

It's as if I went away for the weekend. I was at work on Friday morning, flew out on Friday night and came back to work on Monday morning. There was a week in between all that, a week of quite a lot of fun.

Now, let me ask you something. Given the choice would you opt to be on or not on a plane that carried Mahinda Rajapakse? We weren't given any choice but, on overhearing a conversation as we walked on to the plane, we found out that El Pres was due on board. My first thought was not a happy one, along the lines of "Bollocks". This would have been even worse if I was one of the 150 passengers who had expected to get off the plane in Male before Colombo. Oh no, Colombo was our first stop, done in record time.

The pilot must have taken short cuts and maybe even used fourth gear at times as we were parked up in Colombo in about 10 hours. Good news for me and bro, the best LHR to CMB flight time I've had. Not so good for the Maldives lot who had all missed their connecting flights to their various atolls. I don't think they even knew that it was because of our VVIP, they were just told that the routing had been changed and they probably thought that the armed guards standing around the plane on the runway were just part of normal security for honeymooning couples and the like.

It's hard not to get frustrated with the cabin crew when there are so many niggling problems on the plane that are not actually their fault but, with true Britishness, I maintained my dignity and composure for most of the flight. I lost it when my brother dropped a particularly smelly one, but even then, I didn't take it out on the cabin crew. I don't think they would have agreed to move me because the bloke next to me, my brother, was farting.

For 9 of the 10 hours my screen was not working and the general state of the plane left a lot to be desired. I mean that the state of the plane left a lot to be desired for the whole flight, not just for 9 of the 10 hours of course. It's always best to clarify these things.

A couple sitting in front of us had their overhead reading lights stuck permanently on and, after much negotiating, they eventually got moved to business class. It took them about 4 hours to achieve this and, whilst I am sure they were fairly pleased, the rest of us had to endure the flight with these lights on in the seats in front of us. I had my iPod, several drum magazines and a book or 2 so I was content.

So, we arrived and got ourselves to our hotel. I still get that feeling of excitement on the drive from the airport to Colombo no matter how often I go there. As a child I would watch with wonder and marvel at the sights. The colours, the noises and the atmosphere are so different to those experienced 12 hours earlier on the way to Heathrow. I suppose I know what to expect now but familiarity makes it feel more like home for me, something I like a lot.

After doing some token unpacking we set off for the evening. For 2 blokes unpacking really means taking a few things out of a suitcase, those things that absolutely can't be left in a suitcase. Like toiletries, smart shirts that aren't meant to be creased and live animals. Everything else stays in the suitcase and is only taken out to be used. That is the way of men on holiday.

We hit the town. I don't remember much of it to be honest. There was lots of Arrack in many different places. Barefoot, Tabu, Clancys, The Gallery Cafe, Cheers pub, that Irish one on the Galle Rd. They all featured at some point, some were total tosh and some were great. The live music was a letdown, Mr Cheese was singing at Clancys. A band who were tight and talented but played music that just isn't our thing.

I was good. I stuck to only one drink. Loads of it but I didn't mix my weapons. So when I woke up the next day I felt like absolute crap, not like total death, which could have been my fate had drinks been mixed.

On the Sunday we decided to hit the CR + FC for the Jazz Jam thing. It's talked about a lot and, as it's only on the first Sunday of each month which I have often missed, we thought it would be a good thing to try. Getting there was an unexpected adventure. Neither of us knew exactly what CR + FC is, we kind of knew it's a sports ground but didn't know what the letters stood for or exactly where it was. The combination of our lack of knowledge, our lack of Sinhala, our dreary Sarf East England accents and several tri shaw drivers and passers by eventually saw us reach our destination. It took 2 tri shaws and one drop off at the wrong place and a walk of about half a mile (really not my thing) and that was just to get there from the Transasia.

This was Sri Lanka and we had figured that, as it was billed to start at 1.00 PM, a 1.30 ish arrival by us would enable us to walk in and find it in full swing, cats jazzing along all over the place. I know what you're thinking (if you're Sri Lankan) and you're correct. Half an hour after the scheduled start time in Sri Lanka is as good 4 months and 2 days before an event in England. The smallest gathering of people, musicians setting up and 21 people to facilitate your easy ticket purchase and entry were all that were there. Here a similar event would have 1 surly teenager to sell tickets and get you in. He would have acne and an attitude and they would both be very bad and contagious. If there was a sudden rush of people and he was put under immense pressure his response would be to work slower or go for his break. In Sri Lanka there are 21 people to do this job. 1 to take your money, 1 to give the ticket, 1 to give the change, 1 to check the ticket and another to tear a slit in it to show it's been checked and so on. Call me radical but I'd like to see something in between those 2 extremes of manpower.

We found a seat and sat down, feeling hungover. Alcohol was not a viable option for either of us so we had soft drinks and the bro ate a rice packet with great enthusiasm. I was a model of restraint and only ate 2 massive portions of battered prawns. Mmmmm...

The band kicked off and I was immediately impressed. I had been told that this was a jam session and had expected a loose thing with a load of people just messing around and having fun. This was a gathering of top class players sounding and looking great. I gather they are a known band and it was evident that they had played together a lot. I didn't recognise or know the drummer but he was an older chap with classy tasteful jazz playing and some smooth effortless fills. I'll post up a picture of him later because I'd love to know his name and get in touch.

Sadly it wasn't our kind of music. Quality stuff played by brilliant musos, just not our thing. So we decided to head over to "the Foot" to check out the Sunday afternoon jazz there. As soon as we walked in I was excited at the sight of the drum kit. It was a minimalistic kit, just bass, snare, hi hat and ride cymbal. It was being played, no driven would be a better term, or even piloted, by my new idol; Shiraaz Nooramith. I have seen Shiraaz play only once before, for a covers band at Clancys. I think it was Wildfire but I can't be certain. I 've seen his name mentioned many a time in SL music and I gather he's one of the country's best known drum kit players.

Take it from me, he's one of the best players I have seen anywhere. I was in band practice last night and I was telling the bassist about Shiraaz and how great he sounded on the simplest of kits. You could give me a 14 piece kit with all the cymbals you could find and drums everywhere and I wouldn't get as much expression out of it as this bloke got out of his. I introduced myself to him and we talked drum stuff for a bit. He told me that they were all going to CR + FC after Barefoot so me and the bro did the same to see if it was any different.

And it was. At 5 o'clock it was packed to the rafters with people having a chilled and enjoyable time. We hung, listened to Shiraaz and his band play some more then headed off to our hotel. An early evening swim was just the tonic to clear our head and we followed that with an enjoyable meal out with some good friends.

That was the first 2 days. Thoroughly enjoyable. Sitting here at my desk back in Southall it all seems like a good dream. I'll tell you more later on but, Shiraaz you're my latest drum hero.

to be continued....


Darwin said...

As a budding narcoleptic, flights don't seem to bother me much since I have been known, on ocassion, to fall asleep even before the plane took off.Train and bus rides on the other hand have managed to royally piss me off in the past.

childof25 said...

I've actually fallen asleep during takeoff a couple of times and woken up on landing...which was a nice way to do a flight...sounds like u had fun R! Nice, hope the withdrawal symptoms arent too bad...isnt that drive from the airport the best thing ever (and the drive to the airport the worst thing!)

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

darwin and c of 25 - I just hope you two aren't pilots!

N - You're right about the drive, I always feel quite sad on the way to BIA. Sounds like you enjoyed New York too.

Theena said...

Shiraaz Nooramith? I'd like to see a picture too.

Never heard of these jazz jams at all. Should go check it out.