Sunday, 5 February 2012

"We have the music but we need the money!"

Self reflection in Hong Kong

"We have the music, but we need the money". That's the introduction a friend of mine posted on one of his blog and it applies to me as well - all so well.
I saw Gilles and his assistant Julien for lunch. He invited me to one of those posh Italian restaurants where the better the food looks, the smaller the portion. We talked a lot about Siu Yung and his upcoming exhibitions. I also reminded Gilles how we did meet: at a French chanson festival, somewhere in a Burgundy little town. I was then still working with French songstress Michèle Atlani, some fifteen years ago. That festival was one of the modest events held during summers to promote French chanson as well as tourism in French lesser known provinces. Chanson wasn't quite my cup of tea but I had to make a living. Accompanist, composer, musical director, psychologist, driver and punching ball I was to the singer. Gilles at that time was trying to launch a talent agency which was to only last for a couple of years before he switched to something more interesting - and more lucrative. So there we were, surrounded by old (nearly extinct) luminaries of the endangered 'French chanson', warbling their tunes to a crowd of connoisseurs (and friends they would drag along). remember in particular an evening about fishermen's songs. Since fishermen had to sail for long months, they needed to keep their spirits high so the song they would sing had to accompany their daily chores and in no case be short ones... Alas, we were not sailing on a stormy sea, and when they all started belting these excruciatingly endless odes to the sea, I could nearly see myself pulling the ropes. That's how I met Gilles, trying to keep his composure, but bored to death. Of course, he had forgotten about it!
It was also Gilles who introduced me to an artist named Nironi. He invited me once for dinner at his place. As I walked in, I was struck by a work of art the he displayed at the opposite side of the entrance. I fell in love with it immediately.
"Is he Japanese?" I asked him. There was a stillness, simplicity and serenity which were reminiscent of the Japanese spirit.
"No, you'll laugh but he's from Corsica!!!"
Serenity and Japanese zen are the last things one could say about the people from Corsica. A friend of mine knew a man who bought an old house for as a summer residence. He wanted to do some renovation and hired his own architect. Alas, as a non-native, he didn't know that there was an unsaid rule in the village according to which any refurbishment had to be done by the locals. They came to him to discuss about it (or warn him?). When he politely refused they left and replied in their local way: the next day his house was bombed.
I did laugh. Then Gilles told me about this new gallery in the Marais whose owner had a very interesting policy regarding the works he represented: he set up a rental service, because he believed that it took time for a buyer to warm up to and live with a painting. So each painting could be rented for a three months period, after which, the buyer could choose another work, or keep and pay it in quarterly instalments. The first thing I did the next day was to run to that gallery. I asked the owner to show me other works by Nironi. I actually wanted something which looked like the one Gilles had. Unfortunately, none of the pieces I saw were close in style to the one I saw at Gilles'.
"I actually am looking for a piece which would be similar to the one monsieur Bonnevialle bought..."
"Ahhh... I see! I may have something that would might like, but I don't have the piece here. Can you come in a couple of days?"
I was so excited. I couldn't wait for those two days to pass, just like an impatient lover. When finally I went back to the gallery, the owner greeted me with a broad smile. 
"I have what you're looking for!"
He directed my eyes to the opposite wall and there I saw it!
But then the price?
When I heard the number, my heart sank. The owner saw that and smiled.
"There is a way. You can pay in instalments. The amount you want."
"But it would take me for ever to pay for it!!!"
I didn't even try to calculate. I accepted. I had no clue how I would manage it; I hardly earned enough with my work, and there was now the prospect of eating plain rice and fish sauce for the months to come. 
The owner delivered the painting a few days later and picked the best spot. I was then sharing a small two room flat with Jan in Montmartre.
"I have what you need", he said, showing me a long and big nail. The painting was quite heavy. After he left, I sat in front of the painting for hours, contemplating it. I felt like I just got married. Contrary to my love relationships, the ones with the painting I buy do last.

Nironi's painting in my Parisian flat

 So I summoned all my courage to talk about the play. Gilles seemed interested, although he kept on teasing me. 
"I don't know what you're talking about, but I'm interested", he bursted. "Who are the actresses?" 
I named Bévinda as the French actress. 
"Oh Bévinda? What does she do now? I know about her, but I haven't been following her career..." Still singing, still writing, still touring, I told him. I also mentioned our project together as Fukaeri.
"When is the album out?"
"There are eight songs right now. I have to write of couple more, then do the arrangement and orchestration. Find time to go to Paris and record the vocals... But I hope it will be finished this year... It will be in English, French, Portuguese and Chinese!"
"You sing in Chinese?" Gilles looked genuinely surprised.
"Well, as long as you don't ask me to do a rap, then I'm fine!"
We laughed full-heartedly. "It's perfect, then. If it's completed in time, Bévinda and you can also give a concert in Hong Kong for that album!" Then Gilles explained to me that for a reason he didn't understand, Hong Kongers were very passionate about fado. "And she can give a concert of her own too. Send me a CD of her music and make a presentation of the play for me... so I can understand what it's about!"
It all seemed too easy to be true.
Now I have less than one year to pen that play. How? When? What? Not the first time I have been facing these questions. But one thing I know: just do it!

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