Sunday, January 30, 2011

"A Little Night Music" - Loreto Style!

One aspect of life here that is lacking is live entertainment. With the exception of the roaming Mariachi bands that you can usually expect to encounter when you are dining in town, the opportunities for live music are few and far between. When you factor in language, the chance to hear any live entertainment in English is rare indeed.

Occasionally, a Hotel in town will have a music evening, but it is usually in Spanish, also I have previously written here about how I have occasionally volunteered to provide recorded music at events like the Paella competition or the Animalandia silent auction – but real live “home-grown” music is another matter. One of the reasons for this is the strict visa requirements that apply to anyone working for pay here in Mexico. Reasonably enough, the purpose of these restrictions is to protect the livelihoods of citizens working here and so it is difficult for foreigners to be “legal” playing music professionally. Therefore, it is important for an ex-pat musician to maintain a scrupulously amateur status, so as not to run into any issues with the local Immigration Office.

This situation is not unique to Loreto, several years ago I got to know an American in La Paz who was an excellent guitarist and played regularly at a local bar there. Living, as he was, on a “Retired Status” visa, he was ineligible to receive payment for any kind of work, including playing in the bar, which he did purely for the pleasure it gave him and the friends and acquaintances who came to listen. However, so as to avoid any appearance of compensation he was always careful to pay cash for any food or drink he consumed during the evenings he performed – he didn’t even run a tab – so as to avoid any perception of receiving payment, even in kind, from the Bar.

As a result several Homeowners here in Loreto Bay, who are also musicians, occasionally perform informal, in-casa concerts and I was fortunate enough to be invited to one such evening recently. The hosts were my friends and neighbours Boyd and Camille and they set up the date with a trio of guitarists who live in this community and enjoy playing together. Then they spread the word among a group of their acquaintances and people started arriving at their beautiful custom home in the early evening with a bottle of wine or whatever beverage they preferred. Since it was a cool evening there was a cosy fire burning in the living room fireplace, which is an uncommon feature of their home and helped to set a perfect mood for the evening.

When the three musicians, Rich, George and Steve arrived, they settled in at one end of the living room and the dozen or so guests found their places to sit comfortably around the rest of room and so the music began. And for the next 2 hours or so, the “tunes” flowed, one familiar folk, blues, or soft rock piece after another. Just a room full of friends and neighbours enjoying good company and good music together – it was almost a flashback to (dare I say) my “hootenanny” days!

But it also was a new experience in the context of my home here in Loreto. Sharing the enjoyment of music and socializing together with a group of people who now make up my neighbourhood and community. While the musicianship was very good (these guys had obviously been practicing!) the enjoyment was more than just the music itself – it was made that much better by sharing it with a group of friends.

In a strange way I was reminded of a sort of “pioneer” experience, a community gathering to enjoy making their own entertainment together with the pleasure coming from the company as much as the music itself. I couldn’t help thinking how unlikely it would have been for me to have been a part of this sort of an evening in my previous life. Not because I didn’t have musical friends, but perhaps because of the pace of life and how busy and therefore isolated we all were in that “other” world that I have largely left behind in Canada.

Having said that, I don’t want to leave the impression that we are starved for entertainment down here, in fact, with internet, satellite radio, and international television we have access to most of the options available to anyone in North America. One of the differences is TIME. Since this is mainly a community of people who don’t have to work for a living (present company excluded) there is the time to plan and ability to attend an informal get-together like this. There is also time for the musicians to practice together and prepare the amount of material that goes into such an evening.

And finally, because we all live within a comfortable walk of each other’s homes the physical layout of the community is conducive to getting together without the complications of traffic, parking and all the other things that seem to get in the way of this sort of impromptu evening elsewhere. While the ability to walk everywhere in the development encourages people to do just that, there are some unique characteristics to our travel here within Loreto Bay, particularly at night.

Most of the homes have exterior lights which provide enough illumination to navigate safely at night – but, due to some unfinished areas within the development, there are some “black holes” that can pose a real hazard for anyone without a flashlight. Therefore, it is not uncommon at nocturnal get-togethers like this for there to be quite an assortment of personal lighting equipment. Some people favour discrete penlights, others carry high powered industrial sized lights, I’ve even seen some people with the little head lamps favoured by back packers, among others, but my preference is a nice crank powered rechargeable avoiding the need for batteries which can be difficult to find here.

But, I digress! So eventually, as the repertoire was completed and the evening came to an end, people stretched their legs and visited together as the musicians packed up their instruments and talked about how this and that song had gone. Gradually we all took our leave, heading out into the now dark evening with our flashlights bouncing along ahead of us like super-sized Baja fire flies, and I for one, humming a tune I hadn’t heard in years.

Call it simple pleasures; friends and music, gathered together with a cozy fire on a cool evening, enjoying snacks, maybe a glass of wine and easy conversation, yes, simple pleasures but that is the true pleasure of “Living Loreto”!