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Shaking out the music

MeFat2I’ve taken on the organisation, with a friend, of an acoustic jam, once a month, in a community café. It starts in August and I absolutely can’t wait. I love singing as much as I love writing and I have a great voice.  There, I’ve said it. I have a great voice – not ‘ok’, or ‘good’, certainly not the best and definitely untrained and rough, but a great, beautiful, voice. I’ve had rooms go quiet when I sing and I’ve heard the cheers, from strangers who don’t have to give a toss, when I’ve finished.

Yet I have to shake each note out, my skin slick and slimy with the effort as if I’m sweating out an illness rather than creating a song. I have my voice inside of me and then I have this other voice, my father’s mocking, voice, that grows bigger and bigger, like a tumour, until there is barely any room to breathe.

My father used to make me sing. It was not a pleasant experience, simply for his and his friends’ casual amusement. I would be commanded to ‘sing something’ and it had nothing to do with my talent. I was a performing animal, captive, without rights or choice. My voice was cracked, raw, split with sadness, and as I sang he laughed. It was humiliation, control and it made me hot faced, eyes to the floor, sweat dripping off my forehead and closet rage coursing through my blood. Given that experience, it would be logical to hate music but I don’t. I used to sing in secret, for my own pleasure. I played my mum’s old records, Joan Baez mostly, and I would sing along, hearing this hidden voice deep inside, comforting myself through the years of violence with my own lullabies.

Singing  allows me to communicate in a way I don’t get with ordinary speaking. I like making sounds instead of words and playing with notes: twisting them, stretching them, spitting them out like bullets or letting them slip out gently. I might rein them in or let them fly, make them high or as low as I can go, thin them out or fatten them up, or hold onto to them until I think my lungs will burst. The music comes from my head and soul at the very same time.

I need to untangle all these emotions that are wired up wrong and feel the satisfaction once more of letting my voice free. My private self loves to sing. My public self feels all those eyes watching and gets caught up in old hurt. It’s a battle that rages inside myself every time I go to a music jam or get up on some tiny stage in the back room of a local pub.

But I love singing. And unlike that poor kid, I want to sing. I want to explore every bit of this part of my creativity. So here’s to shaking out the music, every last drop.




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