Listening to vocal music calms me and inspires me more than almost anything I can do. So no wonder I married a singer/songwriter. For a few years it was thrilling hearing him perform, listening to him practice. We created a musical together, his music wed to my words. Unfortunately, our marriage had too many discordant notes to last. Now I have to do what everyone else does—listen to a recording or attend a live concert to listen to music. I am particular not only about the singer and the songs I like to hear, but the venue, which can make or break the experience for me. There have been few options in the US that seem worth the effort and the money to get me out. Concert halls are too stuffy, restaurants overwhelmed by loud conversations, and the clank of dishware, and I am about as at home in bars as I am in a math class, which is to say not at all. Picky, picky, picky.
But in San Miguel de Allende I feel a bit like Goldielocks—-I have found just the right fit—relaxed intimate courtyards for listening to Latin music with outstanding solists and their hot bands while enjoying something to eat in the most perfect weather. At Paprika, there are only seats for about twenty diners, many of whom look like old hippies from Greenwich Village, circa1960’s. The men show up in berets, grey beards, sleeveless vests, and the women wear long flowing skirts with boxy blouses or pants. But everyone who shows up is friendly, even the regulars, who smile and introduce themselves to newcomers. After awhile, some people, mostly single women, get up and dance. No one seems to care about steps or styles or looks self-conscious, just moving to the music. Yesterday we went back for a 2:00 performance to hear Katy Chan, a singer from Chile who sings in Spanish, but threw in a rendition of “Cheek to Cheek” for the North Americanos in the audience. I fairly floated my way home when the show ended.
Music wasn’t over when we got home. Our devices are set to Mexican music channels and Latin music played while Jack and I sat down to have an evening snack that counted for dinner and reviewed our favorite moments of the day, as we try to do at the end of every day. Afterward, we climbed the steps up to the rooftop. It was still light out but beginning to cool off as it does here in the evenings. Some pleasant tune drifted over to us from a neighbor’s house, a song whose tune we’d never heard before, but enjoyed. The music from rooftops or doorways is never too loud or intrusive to bother us, unlike the music from the bars and restaurants we used to live near in Rockville I hear it’s much louder in el Centro with so much action happening there. But on our rooftop, in our barrio, we settle down to listen to the sounds around us. Church bells ring in the distance, a rooster crows his last refrain, a dog barks plantively. We catch strains of laugher, and are startled by the sudden staccato of booms from “bombas”, firecracker sounds that commemorate any random holiday, an excuse to celebrate. But it all usually wraps up by 10:00. There is a symphony of neighborhood sounds, and in every neighborhood around the city here it is the same, life creating its own joyous music.