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Fiddlin’ Around – April 2015

By Nancy Buchan

There’s just nothin’ like being somewhere remote and far away from human pollution and influences – and gazing up at a beautiful, clear night sky. After traveling all over and living in a variety of locations, I realize I’ve always managed to put myself in places where I could see the nighttime stars. Occasional boat experiences were mostly fun for me because of the vast scope of the heavens surrounding us. It was easy to feel like we were all part of them. When I lived at 9,000 feet in Colorado, I would get home from a gig at like 2 or 3 am, grab a sleeping bag and pillow, traipse up the hill to my favorite boulder to curl up on and ponder the stars. They were so close. They seemed so important and ancient. Meteor showers that were so in-my-face they were almost alarming. Northern lights that moved and pulsated and that you felt no one else could possibly be witnessing. I’ve never been good at remembering the names of the celestial bodies up there, but it really doesn’t matter. One night recently I sat on a comfy piece of driftwood next to the mighty Pacific – again humbled and awed by the stars – and started singing ‘star songs’ to myself. Every civilization and culture and geographical area has produced songs about stars, whether they were simple musical rhymes to help sailors navigate, or explanations of people’s religious beliefs, or pop ditties about starshine and stardust….

Starry nights

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Elders

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

By Nancy Buchan

Throughout time we have learned our survival skills and our histories and how to make art and music from the older folks around us. The village elders. The tribal chiefs, the master craftsmen, the seasoned veterans. The verbal accounts from our forefathers that give us perspective. The musical traditions that have brought us together or have defined us regionally. Musicians have always been guided by the players or writers who came before – we learn from them that it is not the ability to play a flurry of complicated stuff that is important, but it’s the wisdom to play the right stuff. The skills that enable us to play with other musicians doesn’t just happen either, so most musicians end up being teachers to the less experienced players, whether it’s intentional or not. Unless you are reading notated music, like in an orchestra setting, it is necessary to invent your own parts to blend with and compliment the other musicians. It takes time to learn this. And a good dose of humility.

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Fiddlin’ Around – February 2015

Kim's paintingBy Nancy Buchan

We all know folks who fall into the category of ‘over achievers’. Those annoying people who can balance their checkbook, change the oil in their car, bathe the dog, jog a mile, mend a pair of pants, weed their garden, remember their aunt’s birthday and call her on time, fix a gourmet breakfast for four and do yoga – all before I’ve managed to make a decent cup of coffee and stop growling. I absolutely hate comparing myself to these folks who are able to pay such attention to the millions of issues and details we face every day, and I could never live with any of them….and how do they do it all anyway? Well, mostly they have better discipline, better organizational skills, better focus and they are ‘self-starters’ who have probably been that way all their lives. It’s not that they are driven to succeed exactly – but they are driven to be organized and to do things instead of lying in a hammock reading science fiction or sitting on a log contemplating the sunset. Now, don’t get me wrong – hammock time and thoughtful contemplation have their own importance – hence the saying “Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.” But on a practical level even I have to admit that things go better if I make a list before going to the store, or if I’m stopped by the cops and I actually have an up to date marchama or haven’t let my passport expire…

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Vows & Promises

pinky swearBy Nancy Buchan

Here we are at the beginning of a new year, (2015 in case you really partied hard on New Year’s Eve), optimistic and full of well-meant resolutions. Or vows. Or promises. “I promise to be a kinder person.  I promise to quit smoking and to lose weight. I promise not to eat a bag of chips with dip and call it a two course meal. I promise Oprah not to text and drive. I promise not to wear anything with horizontal stripes. I promise to conquer the Spanish language – practice scales – work for world peace…..” Now I might manage to keep the resolution about the stripes, but like the majority of us, by the second week of January I will have broken most of these resolutions….

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LIES, DECEIT, BETRAYAL AND CHEATING!

HankWilliamsBy Nancy Buchan

There are probably more songs written about love gone bad because of those issues than there are sweet songs about perfect relationships and everlasting fidelity. Mainly ‘cause the messy stuff is way more interesting! Every style of music has their entries into this category, and frankly there are so many songs about cheating on your partners that it’s kind of embarrassing. We’ve all been told lies, whether it’s a kind, white lie – “No, honey, those pants don’t make your butt look big…” – or the whoppers that involve serious treachery and which change everything and usually doom a relationship.

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Jungle Beats

Jungle Book

Jungle Book

By Nancy Buchan

To my amazement and delight I find myself living right next to a real jungle. Not in the dense thick of it, but it is nearby and there’s plenty of proof that the animals and insects and birds and plants share its edges with us town dwellers. There’s always a symphony of noises coming out of this primal area – sometimes I don’t even get out of my hammock to see what kind of critters are having issues in my yard, or what type snake just slithered into the bushes. Like most of us, before I moved here my jungle knowledge was derived from books, paintings, photos, cartoons and songs….

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The Magical Wonder of Trees

Magical wonderof treesBy Nancy Buchan

If you’ve ever made a little bed at the base of an old and gnarly tree, and laid there daydreaming or napping under its comforting and ageless embrace, then you’ve had a glimpse of the profound importance of the humble tree. Trees are sanctuaries, and when we know how to listen to them and speak to them we can learn mighty truths. They give us shade, and shelter, and beauty, and food and medicinal things. They provide homes to birds and insects and other critters. Little kids love to climb them, poets write about them, and they give insight into the geologic and climatic history of the land. They are cranky old Mother Nature’s finest contribution to the planet, and so of course we cut them down to make paper and furniture and dyes and boats and cellos and drumsticks, or we burn them to keep warm or to play music by a bonfire on the beach, or just to indulge in our fascination with fire.

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Noble Patria (Noble Homeland)

Costa Rica flagBy Nancy Buchan

For the Ticos and for those of us lucky enough to live in or be visiting this beautiful country, watching the World Cup soccer games last month was a proud and exciting thing. The Costa Rican Sele team played great, and made it clear to all that it was no fluke that they had gotten farther in the elimination process than ever before in their history. They played with discipline and skill and team spirit and HEART! It was big fun to be part of the ecstatic and giddy partiers celebrating their dreams. One of the best things about the whole soccer mania time was how cool the Ticos were about their eventual loss to the Netherlands. No one whined about losing, or blamed the referees or made unnecessary excuses – folks here were gracious and proud of their athletes and their country. Even for the folks who thought they didn’t like soccer, it was infectious fun to be part of!

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Music & Politics

Ozzy Osborne

Ozzy Osborne

By Nancy Buchan

That bat-biting old rocker, Ozzie Osborne, once said “I think entertainers should stay entertainers and politicians should stay liars.” He’s probably right, but the temptation to use the fame and influence you might have as a musician in the political realm does suck some people in. Rarely do politicians become musicians, but sometimes musicians can’t resist putting their personal agenda onto a national or regional political stage. Musicians have the microphones and the words and the opportunities to take a message to the masses. Musicians can be our conscience and a thorn in the side of politicians – or at least can be an alternative source of information. Every government on the planet knows this, and they all make efforts to manipulate and use artists to their own advantage – or, failing that, they shoot the damn singers or muzzle them or bust ‘em for half a joint…

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Wedding Music

wedding ringsBy Nancy Buchan

Wedding season here is kind of fizzling out, but I think it was a good one for the local event planners and for us musicians who enjoy playing weddings. It’s amazing how many folks come to this beautiful area for their nuptials – but then, who wouldn’t like to escape the northern cold and get hitched barefoot on a beach on a sunny day? Destination weddings are a big industry – a more adventurous experience for the participants, and even with airfare they are probably far cheaper than the same kind of event in the states. Geesh, they probably save a fortune in flowers and fruit alone. Many Costa Rican hotels cater specifically to wedding groups, and there are a bunch of professional wedding planners here who will take care of all the pesky details and customize the day to whatever the client wants. After all, it’s their date with destiny . . . their public and optimistic declaration of love and coupleness. Their ‘too late to turn back now, let’s bite the bullet’ moment.

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Ukulele

ukuleleBy Nancy Buchan

In the fine tradition of traveling minstrels, a lot of interesting looking folks with musical instruments have been passing through our little town of Dominical, locally known as Dysfunction Junction. Some of them linger for a while, playing at a bonfire on the beach, or blissed out dancing at the Envision Festival or boogying at Best Fest, or sharing an original song with the fascinated locals at the bus stop. Most guitar manufacturers now routinely offer backpacker instruments for the musical traveler who doesn’t want to be laden down, but they are often pricey and frankly are not really close to being able to cope with the jungle stuff here that assaults wood and glue and metal. So, the coolest choice of instrument must surely be the humble yet powerful ukulele. I’ve seen lots of them lately – they are small and lightweight, inexpensive yet pretty darned durable, and they have this infectious happy quality that just makes people smile. And the nylon strings don’t hurt your fingers!

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This is Spinal Tap

This is Spinal TapBy Nancy Buchan

The most true-to-life and hilarious movie ever made about musicians is called This is Spinal Tap. If you have never seen it, get on your computer and order it, or run right out and buy a copy – it should be required viewing for all family and girlfriends or boyfriends of rock musicians.  Largely improvised, it was presented as a ‘rockumentary’, but was actually a parody of rock documentaries, directed by Rob Reiner in 1984. It chronicled the travels and successes and excesses of an English heavy metal band called Spinal Tap, and satirizes their wild personal behavior and musical pretentions. It is also the basis for many musician ‘inside’ jokes and quotes – have you ever heard guitar players talking about turning their amp up to 11, or a band singing “Big Bottoms – My Baby’s Got ‘Em”? Metallica made a black album in homage to Tap’s “Smell the Glove” black cover, Steve Tyler thought it was too true to be funny, and U2 guitarist The Edge said he didn’t laugh at it, he wept, because it summed up what a brainless swamp big-label rock music had become. Amazingly, it was deemed “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant” by the US Library of Congress and is preserved in the National Film Registry. The sad thing is, I’ve heard musicians (after watching the movie) ask where they can catch the band…hello, it was made in Hollywood – it’s a movie – there was no real band called Spinal Tap until after the movie came out and the actors (who could actually play their instruments) did some special appearances. One of the running gags in the movie is that their drummers keep dying in mysterious and odd circumstances – one drummer from spontaneous human combustion that left a globule on the drum seat, another in a bizarre gardening accident…. It’s a very funny movie.  

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Death & Music

Second Line ParadeBy Nancy Buchan

There’s a whole mess of annoying crap that happens to us as we get older.  First it’s the vision thing.  You can’t see worth a darn, then when you do get the appropriate glasses, you’re always putting them down somewhere where you can’t find them. I can’t read music without them, or change a string, or even tell how cute that guy is in the middle of the audience who keeps winking at me. Or maybe he’s just got eye problems like me, thanks so much for the reality check. Most musicians suffer from a bit a hearing loss if they’ve been standing next to the drummer for years or play electric guitar with the amp turned up to 10. Usually the loss is at either end of the auditory spectrum – the highs and lows of pitch. When I was younger I loved being right next to the drummer, especially if he was a slamming rock all-over-the-place kind of player. “Bring it on” was my motto then – now it’s “huh? Say again, I can’t hear you…”

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Local Music Fests

Envision Fest

Envision Festival

By Nancy Buchan

Best wishes to all for a fun-filled and prosperous 2014! Now I may be too broke to pay attention, but I can help with the fun part! There are three music festivals coming up in January and February in our area that are guaranteed to be fun! In the December issue of this fine magazine I wrote about The Jungle Jam music event in Jaco that happens Jan. 16th – 19th. Read my article about the festival and go to their website to listen to the bands that will be performing there – like this beautiful country, the line-up is very diverse.  There is a jam band theme, but this year has some interesting new acts and it is in a beautiful setting at the Doce Lunas Resort. 

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We Be Jammin’!

Bob MarleyBy Nancy Buchan

The great Jamaican musician Bob Marley wrote a song back in the late 70’s about jamming. It was a celebration of sorts – an enthusiastic anthem for the Rastafari movement and an effort to take music outside of the socially deprived areas of Jamaica to an international audience and help foster regional peacefulness. He says the word jammin’ about 35 times in the song, but here are some of the other lyrics – “I wanna jam it wid you and I hope you like jammin’ too… Ain’t no rules, ain’t no vow, we can do it anyhow, I and I will see you through. ‘Cos every day we pay the price with a little sacrifice…”

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