“Do you have a light?” Tuesday 12th June, 2012
Sometimes it is the unexpected moments, which shine the brightest in our memories. Times where, through some mysterious set of circumstances you end up somewhere, doing something you never could have planned. Whether you label it fate, coincidence, or something else entirely, when you take the time to reflect, you realise how life essentially comes down to a series of small decisions. Like a game of ‘connect the dots’ on an incomprehensibly large scale, we draw our life lines as we go. Along the way our lines intersect with the lines of others and sometimes, something amazing happens. This was one of those times.
It was early on a Tuesday evening and my mood was flat. I had accomplished little during the day and managed to watch several hours of the day disappear into oblivion as I vacantly clicked around on the Internet. It was time to get out of the house and clear my head. I had arranged to meet an Israeli friend Yoav, at Goerlitzer Park for a little chill time and after Wiebke arrived home, we hopped on our bikes and rode the 20min journey in the evening sun.
With the wind in our hair, our bikes rattled over the cobblestone streets as we pulled up just short of the park. As we walked towards the entrance, I was approached by a guy and minutes later I was being lead on an unexpected ‘free walking tour’ of the back streets of Kreuzberg by my new Palestinian mate Ali. We spoke in broken German and walked cautiously together as the sun shone through the trees blanketing the street, like some kind of urban rainforest. I smiled and nodded the best I could, struggling my way to understand him through his thick accent and indecipherable slang before we eventually parted ways. Doesn’t score highly on my list of recommended tours, but speak to me in person and I can tell you more. After meeting up with W and Y and a quick visit to the Späti for some beers, we were soon chilling in the park enjoying the final rays of the day.
I have already written a description of this park in a previous blog, which you can read here if you would like more background. This time we planted ourselves on the extensive grassy area, looking up at the concrete faux amphitheatre rather than sitting upon it. As always, the park was full of characters. From the fat girl inappropriately straddling her man, to the double denim black guy in a cowboy hat, ‘Goerly’ was offering its usual assortment of visual entertainment for the avid people watcher.
Completing the cast of characters for today’s visit were the musos, who played nearby, as the skilful chops of the guitarist, were drowned out by the enthusiastic singing of a woman dressed in an earthy green shirt. Soon enough she ventured our way and asked for a light.
Yoav picked it immediately. With hardly a sentence uttered, he picked she was Israeli and they then launched into a conversation filled with “uchk’s” and “achk’s” which I could only assume is Hebrew. The more I heard the music drifting over from the guitar the more I wanted to get involved, but as an MC, I felt as if I may be imposing on what seemed like a ‘folk’ jam. So it was with some trepidation I suggested we relocate to sit with them so I could jam. The trepidation didn’t last however. Before long I was beatboxing and then rhyming and soon enough, having a really fucking great time. The circle expanded as more people arrived and it hit home that some of the people here were a little, well, unhinged. Our new green shirted friend continued singing and despite having a reasonable voice, the look in her eyes and the content of her lyrics made me a little uncomfortable. It may have been the “I want to fuccccckkk youuuuu” she yelled out repeatedly as she stared at me, or it could’ve been the partially crazed look in her eyes as she sucked back half a joint in one breath, but something about her creeped me out. I felt as if I was almost too straight laced for this circle but in the brief moments when the music actually stopped and I chatted with the guitarist, I realised that he was not only a really amazing guitarist, but also a really cool guy. We jammed and freestyled for hours as people came and went. As the sun disappeared completely and a light drizzle begun, the crossroads presented themselves.
Having already had a great time, I was pretty much ready to call it a day, until the guitarist mentioned that him and some others, namely a saxaphonist, trumpet player and clarinettist were planning to go and busk on a bridge nearby and I should join them. This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I bid Yoav and Wiebke farewell went to bring my bike back to the circle and when I returned, was happy to learn that the crazy ones had left. I walked with the guys and soon discovered that they absolutely lived music. They were all obsessed with music, it oozed through their skin. Their passion was unparalleled and felt as if that was all they could ever do. It was that strong. I felt humbled to be playing amongst such talent.
We got some beer and made our way to Oberbaumbruecke, a cool old bridge between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, where we set up the gear and started to play to the passers by as I gazed out over the Spree with the Fernseherturm in the background. I rapped, beatboxed and played a small drum as the other guys absolutely tore it up on their instruments. We began to gather quite a reasonable crowd and the feeling of seeing all these random people stop their journey across the bridge to chill and listen to the music, was quite amazing. Some danced, others nodded their heads and others stayed for nearly the entire time we played. We had no songs, no discussion, no direction. It was purely improvised, spontaneous music, created right then and there, on a bridge in Berlin with 5 people who barely knew each other. It was music for the moment and, in that moment nothing else mattered, for me anyway. It was a different matter for the Polizei who came to put a stop to the proceedings 2.5hrs into our jam.
How a series of chance instances lead me to my first busking experience with a bunch of randoms I will probably never meet again, is truly special. I cherished my 2.50 Euro earnings and enjoyed every last drop of the beers I bought with them. As I said farewell to my new friends, a guy pulled up on his bike with deep techno blaring from a large speaker he was pulling in a trailer behind his bike. The party wasn’t ending, it was just getting started, and when the Polizei stop that, they will just move it somewhere else. As I rode away from the music and pondered on the proceedings, I couldn’t help but think how much I love Berlin.