Yesterday Musicians

In the early days of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in New Zealand lots of interesting characters came to the path and idle moments and Joy Days and random evenings together seemed filled with funny and entertaining trifles.

Toshala was at the peak of her accordion prowess and could dash off some madly difficult classical piece with dazzling and effortless brilliance while we held our breath in disbelief. We would clamour for encores and she would oblige with another then another.

One boy, who had reinvented the car engine and was a very talented engineer, could capture the melodies of songs by clicking his jawbone – we were mesmerised! By rotating and clicking his lower jaw in its socket he could produce a series of precise bony notes that were clear renditions of simple songs. How we applauded! Another character pasted a cigarette paper to his lower lip and with the tissue acting as a surrogate reed, he could produce a cornemuse, brassy vibrato sound and play any song we requested by blowing through pursed lips! It was funny and extraordinary and we were charmed.

A young boy who came later could play Sri Chinmoy's song Phule Phule with his toes on a guitar – we would marvel at such an eccentric skill and how this might have come about. Still someone else played songs with two teaspoons in one hand and two dessertspoons in the other, running up and down the octave with uncanny accuracy – everyone would join in, the jawbone specialist, the cigarette paper vibrato, Toshala on the accordion, and the clapping of hands, a clown orchestra.

Recently Bhuvah played an old tape of her father whistling, a recording salvaged from her long ago childhood. Neville Thurston played the piano and accompanied himself with a very skillful and unusual double warbling, almost two different simultaneous notes. It was pure Kiwiana, the little things that come out of our landscapes and rural towns and winter nights and capture some feeling of what we are like, who we are.

The whistling from Neville Thurston's past filled us with some nostalgia for the long ago, its sweet memories and hopes and promises and a wistfulness at the fact of ageing, the passage of time. His whistling came out of a distant past and carried the pathos of yesterdays' lovely hopes and today's reality, a poignant snap of their family's springtime. Here he was, half a lifetime later playing the piano and whistling for us again, everything preserved on this old tape and bringing past and present together. Why do these snapshots of long ago so touch the heart – perhaps because we exist not only in space, but also in time, and what we are is attenuated out like an elastic band across the years of our living. The past and the present are really the same, and exist together.

– Jogyata.