November 6, 2012     Chris Keeling

My First Experience Performing Music Overseas


(Photo Credit: Kanazawa)

I just wanted to share the first time I was able to perform overseas, and why I can’t wait to get back.  I went to visit my brother who lives in Japan.  After being there for about a week, I felt lost and unable to communicate with the people I met.  I had to speak vicariously through my brother and his wife, both fluent in Japanese.  The experience was non-the-less amazing, but I felt a need to connect on a more intimate and personal level.  I felt as if I was outside a house looking in.  That night I would get my chance.

We went to the Sturgis Rock Café/Bar that night in Kanazawa.  The owner of Sturgis has a small stage set up in the back.  The walls are lined with musical instruments and pictures of rock stars from the past.  It is an open jam atmosphere, but only the very talented musicians get on stage with the owner, an amazing classic rock guitarist.   As a bass player, my brother urged me to get on stage with the owner.  As in most music circles, they were lacking a good bass player.  After some hesitation I conceded and got on stage.  We ended up playing classic rock songs by Cream, Janis Joplin, and Jimmy Hendrix to name a few.  Even though the owner could somewhat sing the songs in English, he couldn’t say one word to save his life.  That did not matter however.

6 hours later, the owner and myself, as well as the drummer on stage, shared something that I will never forget.  In that short amount of time, we had learned to trust each other with our respected parts.  We had learned how to understand each other.  We could communicate with our instruments and taken in what the other musicians were trying to say.  This is what music is about.  Music is about being able to communicate deep and complicated emotions that are otherwise dormant.  We were able to transcend language, politics, and age.  That experience alone was life changing.  Even though we couldn’t say one word to each other, we became lifelong friends.  I have gone back to visit my brother a few times since, and each time I go to Sturgis. As soon as the owner sees me, he just smiles and hands me a bass guitar.  And every time, I know exactly what he is saying…… time to talk.

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