The song sounded like a lilting heart, a real one disgusting with blood and necessary rhythm but there was an unidentifiable lightness to it as well. The melody came in slow and agonisingly low. I couldn’t follow the rhythms, they were organic and structured like the invisible inside of yourself no one else can see.
I don't know what he was singing but everything stopped, the bells, the chatter, wind in the grass. Everything except the backlit clouds stopped a moment to hear his song. It was dark and I couldn’t even make out his silhouette. I know it sounds like I’m always sitting out in a park or a graveyard at night but if you’re a Newtown local you’ll know it’s one of the best places to be.
It was six months before I figured out who was singing in the dark that night. His name is Jack Elias but he performs under the name Quaoub. I’ve got more than one problem with this man but we’ll talk about that later. He conducts himself with a disturbing kind of grace but I don’t think that’s one of the problems. There is grace in his words, movements and most prominently in his songs.
It’s rare that I’m struck so profoundly by a song the first time I hear it. I like to listen to things on repeat until the slow soak of sound unravels inside my head and begins to make sense. This song didn’t need making sense of. This song, for all its lilt and rhythm, had the force of a hammer.
He came and lay down in the grass near where I was sitting. We talked about ritual and meaning and ancestral sorrow. This is where my first problem began. I dislike meeting people that I wish to talk with again, it leaves me feeling hollow, meaningless and dead as the buried we were resting six feet above.
Now that I know who Jack is I am shameless in my quest to hear him play as often as possible. On another night, in another park, I was planning to drunkenly demand to hear him play. Spencer, my good and sage friend, advised me against this. To my delight Jack graciously confiscated a guitar from a nearby man and played songs he hoped I might like. No demanding was necessary.
A girl, some admirer of Spencer’s, rattled a tambourine to accompany Jack and his guitar. Her failure to make any sense of his rhythm whatsoever was more endearing than annoying but it was testament to the complexities of the music. At the conclusion of his small performance Jack smiled at the tambourine girl and told her she done well. He was laughing but we all melted a little because he meant it. Jack’s easy warmth makes it easy for all of us, even me, to feel at home with our own awkwardness and inadequacies.
First published on RHUM...