Monday 18 May 2020

Arambol diaries - The gigs

La Sambusa Latina was to perform in one of the beach shacks of Arambol that evening. Antonio, one of the brothers of 'the twins', had joined Tom, Vani and Seba on the balcony of the house. The Argentinian brothers sported similar moustache and hairstyle, confusing people by their similar looks. They took advantage of this and enjoyed pulling pranks on unsuspecting people. I met their other half, Leonardo at the bakery the next day  While I smiled at him thinking it was Antonio, the unsure smile on his face gave him away. On first meet, it was practically impossible to tell them apart.

My previous posts from Arambol

Arambol diaries - Vani

Arambol diaries - La Sambusa Latina

Arambol diaries - The hippie life

In preparation of the gig

The group geared up for the practice session. Between the strumming on the ukulele and the guitar, cigars were rolled and handed out. The distinct whiff of cannabis filled the air. 

Tom meticulously prepared the program for the evening, listing down the songs. The group discussed the sequence of programmes for the evening and their every transition. Slots were planned for the circus acts to break into the music at intermittent intervals. I was astonished to see how much effort went into the planning of an evening. Every performance is a project in itself, to be planned in every detail for its successful execution. 

As the music picked up pace, Seba brought out the tea. It wasn't the most traditional cup of tea, rather a concoction of mushrooms. It is common knowledge that psychedelic drugs are highly prevalent in this society, more popular with the artists and performers as they seemingly boosts their creativity. Through the days of living with the group and attending their performances, drugs, from the humble weed to LSDs, were discussed and used freely. 

Disappointment strikes

The performance at the beach shack in Arambol was due to start in the evening. It was to be Tom, Vani and Antonio. Seba had prior commitments. 

The publicity of these events are carried out mainly by the hosts, while the performers spread the word within their community. The performance is agreed for a fixed cost with the shacks and anything that is collected in the hat at the end, adds to the kitty of the performers. Hence, more the merrier. Apart from the money, limited food and drinks for the evening is provided to the group as well. However, not everything always goes to plan. That's what happened on this particular evening.

When we reached the beach shack, we were met by a very apologetic manager. For some unknown reason, they had failed to carry out the publicity for the evening. The shack was right on the beach at a prime location. However a dearth of tourists to Arambol for the past two of years was resulting in empty seats in the shacks. Despite the discouraging news, the show had to go on. It was a tedious job to set up the stage with the light and sound equipment knowing not many people will turn up, but hoping some would. 

The music started to an empty gallery. Eventually two girls arrived, and that was all for the evening. The trio still kept up the tempo for the whole time. I had heard Tom perform before, but this was the first time I was seeing Vani on stage. She was a fabulous clarinet player, truly capturing the soul of Latino music. Antonio even put up a couple of circus acts much to the delight of the staff and the visitors. Later, as he came for the collections, I dropped in some money in the hat.  

We had a late dinner. The food provided by the shack was not on their menu. It was what the staff ate. I was not part of the group, but a friend, hence I had to pay and order from the menu. The food was gloriously overpriced, but I did not have a choice at that late hour. 

The collections from the evening wasn't much, but it still made them a happy bunch. High on spirits, on the way back they bought ice-creams from the local store just as it was closing for the night. In their limited means, indulging in food is the last thing on their list and a dessert, as they called the ice cream, is a treat to be reserved for nights when they earn. Normally they chose to have two meals a day, a late breakfast and an early dinner and that too at the cheapest local places. They looked forward to these performance nights, especially if the place is known for their food. 

The program a couple of nights later was booked at one of these places.

Finally a real gig, true to the spirits

Vani was very excited as she told me about their next performance. It was a new joint in Mandrem, the adjacent beach south of Arambol. Her first reaction was, they make fabulous pizzas! Her excitement for the food was showing. Suddenly I felt sad for her. She also told me to prepare for a completely different experience from the evening before. She expected it to be a busy night, full with guests and fun. It would be incredibly entertaining and lively. 

I reached a little late, delayed by a fabulous sunset on the beach. It was already dark, took me a while to find the place. It was indeed what Vani had told me. The open space under a thatched roof was bustling with people. The stage was already set, and full with performers. Quite a few travelling musicians had joined in for the evening. They were dressed all in their La Sambusa Latina gear of black and white stripes and were ready to rock.


As the music began, members of the guest came forward to show their skills. It was a largely hippie group, all friends or acquaintances. There was exotic fire dancing, of course without the fire for safety reasons, juggling, salsa, hula-hoops, all in the tune of the foot tapping Latino music. The night was reverberating. Needless to say the air was heavy with the smell of weed and am sure drugs was flowing as freely as the beer. 

It was in striking contrast to the previous show I had been to. This time, the hosts had done well with their publicity and the effect was showing. 

Even La Sambusa as a much bigger group tonight had the energy flowing for hours. 'The twins' were fooling around with their circus acts and Seba had joined in too for the evening. The performance went on for hours, well into the midnight. Exhausted yet still drenched in music, everyone settled down. Over pizzas and beer, they chatted and laughed. Some practised their skills. People were meeting old friends and making new acquaintances. The more experienced in this life were looking out for the newcomers. The travelling community was growing. This is how it thrives. 

I sat there observing. I was definitely an outsider here. I was aware that I am unable to let go so many things in my life, which I needed to do to be able to truly embrace the hippie life. However, this did not bother me. I was just happy to be there. As I sat there, Seba came over asking how I was doing. He even tried to teach me a couple of juggling tricks, but I remained as clumsy as ever, 

The collections from the night was fairly decent as I followed a happy couple on the moonlit beach back to Arambol. 

At 2am, the beach was empty. The full moon had painted the sands, sea and the waves in silver. It was a beautiful night and after the excitement of the evening, a sudden loneliness gripped me. The evening was truly one for friends and community, a strong bond which holds the spirit of these travellers together. They thrive on company and friendship. It was a happy evening and I felt the energy of the community in my veins. In the huge empty space that I was walking back now, the feeling of melancholy had never been more reinforced.

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