Saturday, April 3, 2010

Don't Start Me Talkin'

Manama, Bahrain

Each day, I say that I'll remember this day forever. But my fear is that my mental memory card is going to fill up!! There are so many incredible people, sights and experiences each and every hour.

I haven’t had a chance yet to tell you about Thursday’s activities. In the morning, Robbie was very late meeting us in the lobby to leave for our first school engagement. Billy Banks, an incredibly great guy from Jazz at Lincoln Center who is traveling with us, finally called Robbie on the house phone to find out what the hold up was. Billy’s face fell when Robbie let Billy know that he was too sick to leave his room and perform for the day. Billy has managed many tours for Wynton Marsalis, and being the professional that he is, he immediately went into problem solving mode and started talking to Joey about devising a Plan B for the day. I took the phone and inquired of Robbie “How you doing, man?” His reply was “April Fools!” That set the tone for the day and kept us all on our toes for subsequent pranks.

Harmonica players at the Gifted Students Center
Our performance and workshop at the Gifted Students Center was highlighted by some Bahraini girls singing songs in Arabic, using the scale with semitones. It made the hair on my arms stand up…truly beautiful and amazing! Our big student jam session included lots of guitars, 3 female harmonica players, keyboard and percussion. The musical theme was Muddy Waters’ “I’m A Man” and one of the girls even improvised words in Arabic.

The Bahrain showcase event was Thursday evening at the Cultural Hall. Little Joe upset the joint…once again. After the show, we met US Ambassador Adam Ereli, as well as a nice woman from Fayetteville, Arkansas who now lives and teaches in Bahrain. It was wonderful to be able to perform our music on the big stage for such a diverse audience.

Friday is the Sabbath, so it was a rest day for us with no gigs scheduled. The Bahraini American Cultural Exchanges Society offered to take us on a tour of the region, which Robbie, Billy and I accepted. We were hosted by Dr. Ali, Ali, and Khalid and had an incredible day. Dr. Ali is a teacher at one of the schools we visited, Ali is a coordinator of the Bahraini American Cultural Exchanges Society, and Khalid is an investment banker. We had just finished having a late breakfast when we were picked up in a touring van for our day's excurion.  The first stop was for lunch at the Coral Beach Club, a beautiful restaurant right on the water. The buffet was delicious, filled with so many culinary delights, that we all just had to eat again. We almost overdid it.

After lunch, we toured Qal’at al-Bahrain, one of Bahrain’s ancient forts and museums. The fort was built on an ancient site, with human artifacts dating back to 2300 BC. Seeing it was one of those “stepping back in time” experiences that gives me greater understanding into all those who have come before me and how I am only on this planet for a short amount of time, relative to our historical record. It’s hard to put into words. Much to our delight, we visited a camel ranch (if that’s what they’re called in the Middle East), owned by the King’s uncle. The camels in Bahrain have only one hump and this herd consisted of the finest racing camels. It may sound strange, but their faces were expressive and beautiful. Next door was a lush date palm grove and gardens. What a treat!

Another high point was visiting the Jaffer AlShoughel pottery, where we saw potters throwing pots and kilns being fired.  Like music, the art of pottery is global. I wish my brother-in-law Peter could have seen his fellow potters in Bahrain. The tour also included a visit to ancient burial mounds in A’ali, which took up countless acres. The burial mounds are protected by the government. Did you know that there are more than 100,000 burial mounds on this island?

Upon our return to Manama, Dr. Ali took us to Bab al-Bahrain, which means “Gateway to Bahrain.” The main tourist office is housed there, and we were able to pick up the all important postcards, fridge magnets and soccer jerseys at this stop.

My experiences in Bahrain have been phenomenal. Our Embassy liaison, David Edginton, was so very helpful to us and so willing to make our visit to this small country a memorable one. Every Bahraini that I met has been genuinely warm and friendly. The people here exude a gentle confidence and grace that I aspire to. I’m so fortunate to have been able to share my music with them and to have witnessed some Bahraini hospitality. What an incredible island.

Tomorrow, we’re heading across the causeway on our Saudi Arabian adventure. Wow!


  1. Wow, indeed, Matey Boy! This is SO cool. Hope you're taking TONS of pics. If you get a chance (and I know this is a long shot given how busy you are and how packed your schedule is) maybe we could get on Skype while you're out there. Love to see some of the places you're visiting. Keep the posts a-comin' - they're great. So looking forward to your posts from Saudi. Camel ranch? Did you get the hump? Bada bing!

  2. Hey Bernie, Thanks for the shout out on the pottery! Looks like a great place. I would have loved to see it. Its great seeing all your photos and hearing about your adventures. We just got back last night from our trip to T-town and Austin. 2700 miles of driving in the Prius!!!