“So how’s your friend Nintendo?” (mischievous chuckle)
“Her name is Sitenda, Dad!”
This is a conversation I have every so often with my father.
Sitenda is a singer/songwriter friend of mine here in Cambridge, whom I met quite serendipitously at a birthday party. Within the week, we were jamming together and bouncing song ideas off each other, dealing with important issues of our day such as bus drivers that just will not stop to let you get on, and also poverty and selfishness (for those concerned about issues other than frustration with the public transport system.)
So it happened that we had some of Sitenda’s compositions ready when a very last-minute gig at the Man on the Moon pub was booked. A few days and five aching fingers later (I have now developed real guitar-play callouses, of which I am very proud) we had a set of ten songs ready to perform to our cheering, eager audience of… about ten people. Still, they were cheering, and that’s not something to be sniffed at. We started off a little shaky, with Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’, but soon eased into it. Sitenda’s incredible vocal range and my blues guitarring and harmonies soon won our audience over, and our own amusement at little mistakes and musical quirks put people at ease. By the time we got to the last song, Sitenda’s very own ‘Rise Up (Africa)’ the audience was moving to the music and cheering for an encore.
I am told the very obvious fun Sitenda and I have on stage infects our audience with the same high spirits, that we’re not so much ‘performers’ as ‘fun-leaders’. I wonder how people would react if you put that on a business card: “Occupation – Fun Leader.” The description certainly fits Sitenda, who is completely at ease and at home on stage, enjoys the music so evidently you can’t help but join her, and talks to her audience as though they were old friends.
The other singer that night was an acoustic-folk artist called Natalie Szulc. Her stage personality was instantly likeable and accessible, her lyrics endearingly honest and impressively well-crafted, and her songs sweetly melodious. I was mightily encouraged to meet a solo indie artist who had the guts to go up on stage in a pub, armed with nothing but a semi-acoustic guitar.
So today’s blogpost was a break from the ‘Influences’ series I began last week, to pay tribute to these two lovely ladies and muse on the underrated joys of playing for a small audience.
P.S. – Discovery of the week: cherries are an excellent alternative to whatever finger-foods one might order in a pub. If they have been given to you that afternoon from your Granny- and Grandpa-in-law with love sprinkled on top, so much the better.