Music Matters
Back in the nineties I created a lot of essays all loosely joined by A being about music B memoir related and C pertaining to how place affects creating music and how one listens. A mixed memoir called "Music Matters". Much of it I would heartily disown now , but not all - and who am I to judge now that the work is done, anyway? So I am resolved to dripping out the essays over the next few months, often without comment, sometimes with.
Geoffrey Armes
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The Conga Dream
Geoffrey Armes - 2020-08-24 12:59:21+02:00

I have been having issues with my right hand.

It was a dusty wooden storage room, recently unlocked. Summer’s end. I retrieved the Conga from the far corner where I’d left it in the Spring, and noted, barely surprised, that the head was split. It’s always a risk, leaving instruments in storage in relatively public spaces like studios or backstages, however securely supervised they seem to be. Sometimes one can rely on the Insurance to pay up, other times, well, you are on your own. In this case it would be, what, 40 Euro to repair, or I could attempt it myself. I squinted at the rim, and decided that knowing my own levels of mechanical (in)competence I’d be better off having a professional do it. A secondary but important factor was the question: had the drum warped. The summer had been ferociously hot and that room must have broiled. One could still feel the heat in the splintered pillars and dusty floor a month after the heatwave. This, and not vandalism was the source of the damage. The drum needed careful handling by a profi. Which, whom, where though?

I mused a couple of possibilities but then realised, of course, Olly. The guy I had bought it from. The guy who made his living healing and refurbishing old Congas and Djembes in his flat by Teltow. He’d do it well, with love and care, and could use the business in his one man operation. He’s a family to feed.

I got round to Olly’s yard and it was bigger than before, busier, bustling even. Professional yes, but with a new business feeling of edge. Who were these people, where was Olly? Oh he’ll be back soon, just wait. Well can I leave this Conga for him, he will know it. No no, one of our other guys can take it, but no, I wasn’t happy with that. I wanted Olly to look at it. Eventually he arrived, a little harassed, greeted me and then asked if I could wait for a few minutes.

What else could I do? I needed the Conga.

But at a certain moment, I realised, that it was okay not to have the Conga for a while, even play on the dry slappy dappy ping of the Bongo skin instead - it was all acceptable. I left the Conga, knowing I’d be back for it, it was well taken care of, and woke to play the Bongos.

And indeed, my intact Conga.


August 2019