“If music be the food of love, play on,” says Duke Orsinio in his opening line of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. And who can argue with that! Music is a very important part of my life, as I am sure it is for many people. While I do enjoy music as a background to whatever I happen to be doing, I also spend a great deal of time listening with nothing else going on, just the music. It should come as no surprise that music has the ability to unlock all kinds of memories from one’s past which, in part, explains the abundant amount of “oldies” stations devoted to playing the “hits” of yesteryear. Just about everyone has heard a song on the radio that triggers an instant memory of an event, especially from your teenage years. While I still appreciate, and on occasion seek out music from my past, I have widened my musical tastes over the years to include music from many different genres and eras.
Sometimes the memory invoked from hearing a song is much more personal and goes much deeper. For example, in 1992 I was driving on my way to work at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C. and, as I often did, I stopped to pick up a student hitchhiker. I was, of course, listening to music on my commute, and in the C.D. player at that moment was a new album (Logozo) by Angelique Kidjo. I had heard her for the first time a few weeks before and immediately rushed out to purchase the album. Kidjo hails from Benin, on Africa’s Atlantic Coast (adjacent to Nigeria), and although she sings in many different languages, including English and French, the particular song that was playing when I stopped was in an African language and a particular dialect from the town she was from. When the gentleman got into the front seat the speakers filled the car with Kidjo’s voice, he promptly began to cry! At first, I thought I had said something to offend him, but he quickly composed himself and asked me who was singing? I told him, and then he proceeded to tell me that he was an exchange student from Africa, and he hadn’t heard his own language and dialect spoken in quite some time, and since she was relatively new on the music scene at the time, he had not heard of her!
The song was barely over when we reached the point for him to get out of the car, but I asked him if he was in a rush (as I wasn’t) and when he said no, we sat in the car and listened to the entire C.D. When it was over, I popped it out of the player, put it into the case and gave it to him. I just felt like it was the right thing to do. That was 30 years ago, and I still listen to Ms. Kidjo on a regular basis. Better than that, I had the opportunity to see her live in Los Angeles when she performed at the Ace Hotel Theater in 2018. Musical memories, you can’t beat them!
Los Angeles 2022