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My Waking Dream Comes to Life

By Wayne 'Omar' Gilbertson

It all started in the spring of 1990, when my wife Dunyah and two of her friends needed a drummer for a show they were planning for Earth Day. So they brought home a drum to see what effect it would create for me. Pow! I was struck with drum fever from the first. All those pleadings from my mother to sit still and stop beating on things had a new meaning. I had a good beginning because when I first met Dunyah all she ever listened to was George Abdo and the Incredible String Band. So the rhythms came easily and I loved and still do love the dancing.

Since then we have done hundreds of shows and developed our own sound. In the mid-90's we held many Full Moon Gatherings and created the twelve songs on "Journey East". This CD has a special meaning for me. I was deep into tars (flat drums), the didgeridoo, chanting, finger tone drums, and pot drums. As many of you dancers and musicians know, once you open the door to your creative passion, it never stops.

We went to a famous, expensive local audiophile engineer who did a great impersonation of Captain Picard of Star Trek fame. He did a first-rate job on our musical maiden voyage "Journey East". Each musician was isolated in a booth, which was new for us. We spent many hours on the dozen songs we created at our sacred space, Full Moon Gatherings. That CD was true to our spirituality and love at the time and is dedicated to all the people who attended and made those Full Moon concerts possible.

Next came "Live At The WOW", in 1998. It was recorded live, with musical help from our dear friends Jeff Rees (of Gypsy Caravan) and violinist Willow Decker (of the Eugene symphony). The sound is first rate and done live with all the energy of an exciting show and a great sound system. You can hear the coin belts, zills, and dancing feet to 9/8 with Jeff's zurna. Plus many great flute and violin moments. It was a hot sultry night, with featured dancer Rossah (formerly from Santa Cruz, now from Las Vegas), along with Troupe Americanistan's dancers. Both tribal and cabaret dances were represented and reflected in the music.

This is a good time to mention my dream. The kind of dream where you wake up and know you are still dreaming and can become or create any situation. I was walking down a twilight path, meeting pilgrims dressed in white robes, all on a quest. Their backbones were made out of crosses. Rather than follow them on their pilgrimage, I chose to walk cross country, and soon I came to a pond. I woke up in my dream I began to fly around as if I were caught up in a whirlwind. I could hear all these exotic musical instruments playing. Surrounding me were dancing spirits I thought were from Fairyland or the Spirit world, and I was enraptured by the moment ecstacy in the music and the spinning dancers.

I realize now that the spirits in my dream are the people I play with and for today. That same feeling comes back when you hit those special moments in the present, usually playing for a dancer. I call it being in the Temple. Being in the moment, with synchronisity in the music, the dance an unfolding prayer, where you wake up and remember the wonder of it all. And suddenly there they are. All skills, all sizes, all Temple Dancers that open the door. Dancing the invocation. All one. Music and motion. All is one, burns the sun, shines the moon. All is one, beats the drum, pounds our hearts. Open the door to the beginning, where time stops. Remembering once again. Sounds sentimental, but I have experienced it many times. IF YOU PLAY MUSIC, honor all dancers. Dancers open the door.

With Americanistan, going to hundreds of shows where we have played for as many as 20 dancers a night, you learn by going through the fire. That brings me to Mosaic, the CD we made for dancers and for listening. Seventeen pieces, parts for routines, but also songs that are great to listen to on their own. Many were written for specific dancers we have known. We recorded most of these playing together in the same room. We had played the songs many times before, but then added our Americanistan signature, in-the-moment taqsims (improvisations).

I called Pro Arts Studio, having worked there before, and left a message. Eric, who I had never met before, calls back and in a heavy French accent informs me he is from Algeria and wants to do the project. As Eric is an excellent musician himself and knew the sound we were after, we agreed. We did seven songs at our first session. That, in recording studio land, is a lot. Going through the fire of playing regularly for 13 years has its advantages.

We used mostly original music because these songs were conceived and played for specific dancers and written out by Janet, our kanun player. The music was inspired by their dancing, and the moments we had with them. Our group is diverse. David "Pan" Wilson, our flute player, is from Brazil. David is very talented and has wild improv capabilities. This Sephardic Gypsy was the instigator of many ideas. "Let's play naked!" Or playing Inna Gada Davida for an opening. That was the inspiration for Davisa, the fourth song on the Mosaic CD. One time David gave Zaina, a well known dancer from Portland, Oregon, a cell phone, and in the middle of a sensuous kanun solo he rings the phone. She, being in on the joke, stopped and answered the phone saying during a shimmy on stage, "I'm kinda busy at the moment!" Then she hangs up and continues her awesome routine. David "Pan" is definitely not in the box, he's a trickster. We named him Pan for good reason! He even looks like Pan.

Janet Naylor, from New Zealand, has studied music since she was a child and can transcribe any and all ideas we create. This is a big reason we were able to write specific songs for specific dancers. She plays and teaches harp as well as kanun.

Dunyah, my wife and the director of Americanistan for the last 13 years, was a dancer for 25 years. Thus our understanding and respect for the dance. She rocks on the harmonium, not only because she was a piano prodigy, but also because she is an excellent drummer, and when she pumps the bellows-driven sound of the harmonium, she does it with a tremendous sense of rhythm and accents. She has great ears and can hear it all which makes her an excellent director.

David Helfand, the mandocello player on Mosaic, is also a first class harpist and has composed four CDs of his own He has played in England and Israel and fits in easily with our style. We got together musically with David Helfand while doing some concerts and folk dance music for peace gatherings sponsored by the local Jewish, Palestinian and Arab community. Truly a holy moment. Five hundred Mediterranean people who refuse to be enemies. Dancing folk dances and getting up and singing with us. Music, the universal language!

These brownies, these spirits, from my dream play because they have to play. Those are the best band members. Thus we created Mosaic, a combination of recording studio, moving the recording studio to a peace concert, and then getting a great final touch-up from the fabulous Wayne Leeds and his studio.

Turn on the light to what Rumi calls that "brilliant city inside your soul." Your atoms have been around since the universe was formed, so take charge. I hear they have discovered a Black Hole in space that has been humming in B flat for Billions of years. A didgeridoo of the universe. Oh yes, and for all the Temple dancers Dance, dance, dance the invocation.

"To Play With the Spirits"
By Wayne "Omar" Gilbertson

Can you hear them?
From far off, yet close at hand,
The beat, the calling,
Waiting for your return home.
Waiting where time waits.
How they love you and how you love them,
Always and forever.
A faint calling that travels
Through all the noise and distraction
Into your heart, your soul.
Others speak for them
In smiles, glances, dances,
You are not alone.
Yes, we'll wait,
We remember you
Look for them.
Guides, allies, great spirits
Guiding you home.