WHAT I LOVE ABOUT MUSIC

  1. To begin with, I agree with Elvis Costello that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. However, I disagree that it's a really stupid thing to want to do. However, he's not wrong that the words can only ever point at what music does, is, means to us, its transcendence.
  2. A story to illustrate what I love about music:
  3. Yesterday was my first day volunteering at the refugee camp known as The Jungle in Calais, France. I'm here with a group called Care4Calais. We're distributing clothes and supplies from a shipping container in the middle of the camp, as well as teaching English and doing general building and cleanup.
  4. The weather was miserable: it was windy, cold, and that really annoying misty-raining, so it was coming at everyone from all sides. Everyone was soaked.
  5. The men - it's all men in this part of the camp - were queuing in this, most without anything waterproof on, many without proper shoes, waiting for their chance to grab a few shirts or hoodies and a pack of toiletries. The line was never less than 30-40 deep for 4 hours in this weather.
  6. We talk to the guys as they get towards the top of the line, toward the collection point, asking how they are, where they're from. They're not always up for the chats, but when they are, they sometimes ask where we're from too.
  7. At one point, a few men started guessing where a volunteer named Gabi was from. Nobody got it right: she's from Mexico. You don't encounter a lot of Mexicans in this part of the world. But one guy in line lit up, mimed playing guitar, and said "Mariachi!"
  8. Another volunteer, Felix, asked, "What are famous Mexican songs?" Gabi said, "La Bamba!" I volunteered "La Cucaracha!" Felix asked how that goes, and I started singing it. Gabi joined in. The guys in line recognised it and joined in too. One guy did a funny little dance and jokingly dance-cut to the front of the line. We sent him back, laughing.
  9. We asked the next guy in line where he was from. "Sudan." What's a Sudanese song? He started clapping and singing, teaching us the chorus, which means "don't worry," the words for which I shamefully cannot remember, because apparently I can retain only one word of Arabic at a time, & right now that word is kabir. His pals behind him joined in too.
  10. Behind them, an Afghani man. When they step up to the container, we ask him to sing an Afghani song and he does, quietly, shyly, but it's beautiful. He says he's not a singer but he can articulate the flourishes in the melody perfectly, with ease.
  11. For a few moments, everyone who comes up in the line shares a tiny bit of their music with us and each other. And when they do, despite the rain and the cold and the queue, everyone in earshot has light in their eyes.
  12. And that's why I love music.