Sunday, 19 February 2012

a letter to a voice

Dear Cat, Yusuf, whatever you prefer,

Thank you.

For an evening, you took me places I haven't visited in a long time and probably would not have found their path without the help of the timbre of your voice which, incidentally, has not changed one bit since I first began hearing it. That must've been around 16 years ago, through small black earphones connecting to a basic black Sony walkman with a wonky play button and a battery cover held in place with scotch tape.

Your self titled album was one of the first 3 albums I ever listened to (the other two being Bob Dylan's greatest hits, and Don McLean's American Pie) and they had been given, well perhaps lent is more accurate a word, to me by my father. I listened to those tapes religiously and in no time had pretty much all of the lyrics down and the melodies committed to memory.

For an evening I saw my younger self slouched in the back seat of our Daewoo, looking out at the dark sky with my cheek leaning against the car door, as my mother drove us back to Beirut from a weekend in the mountains. Nothing but landscape and stretches of road to look at, and 6 sides of tape to listen to. I remember how I used to rewind to the beginning of Matthew and Son at least twice every time I heard it.

For an evening I saw myself being dropped home by the school bus, walkman in hand, uniform shirt tails popping out the top of a pleated skirt, and sitting on the concierge's sofa with her 13 cats sprawled around listening to "The Days of the Old School Yard" as I waited for my mother to arrive from work with the house keys.

For an evening I saw myself at my first art class sessions in Beirut where I had to replicate classical looking drawings of corny scenes (like a boat on a sunset stained sea). My only consolation being "Morning has Broken". I think I even remember a specific moment where the colour of the pencil i was using was a ochre-y brown.

For an evening I saw my 16 year old self scribbling on her new guitar's cloth case with a tippex corrector pen, writing "I MY DOG" and humming it in her head as she glanced over at her Labrador licking his paws. And on that same guitar she would eventually learn to play "Wild World" and "The First Cut is the Deepest".

But most important of them all, for an evening you had my father sitting right next to me.
I could see him there, in the corner of my eye. I could feel his chest rising and falling at certain words of certain songs, and see him bopping his head, eyes closed sometimes, at other times open and smiling and smiling and shining.

I sat silently at moments absorbing every vibration, hoping that by doing that somehow my father would hear it too, perhaps I could do it on his behalf if I focused enough. I thought how he would have loved to see you there on stage, right here in Beirut. I sat silently at moments and let the tears that formed roll and fall, because ultimately they were not my tears.

For an evening my father was there again, the father I have missed for so long, the one with the music and the smiling and the out of tune voice that was not afraid to sing. The one with music tapes he had reclaimed as his own long after I upgraded to a discman, stashed in an office drawer ready to be played out and heard as he worked.

For an evening, missing my father was a sad, but beautiful, beautiful thing to do.
And as you sang "Father and Son" your voice became my father's, and I sat and listened to everything he could never say. And how he had to go.

I have to admit that I was secretly scared of going to your concert. Secretly afraid of all these things that you've helped me revisit. Scared to remember the warmth of those moments and the details in my dad's features, the sound of his voice as he sang along, the tapping of his hand to the beat on the arm of whatever chair he was sitting in.

But I was wrong to be.
And I sang along to every song I knew.
And I remembered. I saw. I cherished.

And for that I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

I can only wait for the time I give my son or my daughter a collection of music, including yours, hoping they carry it with them for me like I do for my father.

Much love from Beirut,



cardejah said...


cardejah said...

Did you send it to him?
You should!

Unknown said...

agreed with cardejah; send it!

mona said...

softly cut through the heart..
u never cease to amaze me, of how just easy it is to identify with the feelings you translate and plunge into the mood you gently set..
Love your sincerity and admire your sensitivity. <3