My normal was music. Music was in everything. It was all. It was the screech of a sax that woke me up, and an ukulele to dance too before bed. It was the constant reverberating growl of the generator that ate my words and spat them back out into the never ending thread that was dads hands. There was a stool in dads workshop that I sat on surrounded by mounds of sawdust, and sometimes we would scream words at each other. When I was tired of the silent noise I would pick up and leave, and dad would stay.
Maybe it was a year ago now when he reflected back to me, the awe over the miracle of raising us six kids with this odd invention and ultimately music. I understood it then, the sacrifice of parenting, and that is where it ends for me. There is a difference after all in understanding and experiencing.
Dads workshop has a window where his gaze landed, and once upon a time a clock above his head with a picture of my mothers face. Throughout the day dad was always around doing 'Yard Yoga', which is tirelessly self managing and working a rather large property. Constantly fighting back the ever encroaching tangles of hau bush with his machete, he was always shirtless, shoeless and sometimes just naked. Afternoon would find him in his workshop, machines on and the sound of bamboo becoming an instrument. Music that smelled of smoke and laid embers at my feet. Early evenings were a rush of hose baths in the yard, and then a long drive out of the country to the other side of the island to play gigs into the wee hours of the nights. I never questioned him waking us up for the 5:50 am car rides to the top of the road to catch the bus. I never questioned the casual $20 for an afternoon with my friends. I never questioned music.
Music is my all. It is cherished memories of warm light from gas lamps and instruments all around that promised the possibility of my creation. It is hard work done in the silence of practice with the knowing that it is not for you, or for me, but for all. Music is all.
Thank you dad for your life work and teachings. I carry your wisdom.
The Maui Xaphoon (pronounced za-foon) is a Bamboo Sax that was created and is still currently handmade by my father Brian Wittman. Right now GYPSYPOP Records is offering an amazing deal. One purchase of the Maui Xaphoon comes with a digital album of Water Song EP by my brother Mekila.
To purchase follow the GYPSYPOP link below.
And to actually experience the sound and see how the Xaphoon is made scroll down.
Excerpt from Me & My Xaphoon- Gary Friedman
"The Xaphoon Guru lives on the north face of Maui, overlooking the ocean, in a place so remote you have to travel a few miles on a bumpy dirt road just to get there. He built his two-story house himself, which has no utilitiy hookups to electricity, telephone, or running water. Rainwater captured from the roof provides what little water he needs, and a solar-charged battery runs the 5 small lightbulbs in the cabin at night. And he's raising six kids there. That's right, 6 kids with no television, no Nintendo, and no fears about drive-by shootings. Instead, they play out in the fields barefoot and enjoy the daily parade of rainbows. Wow, this is no phony image conjured up by marketing; this is the real thing!
He let me stay with his family for a few days, and I got to see how the Xaphoons are made. It's an impressive process; the physics involved just in the shape of the mouthpiece and the placement of the holes is made more complex by the fact that no two bamboo stalks are alike. He first goes and selects bamboo where it grows wild on the island. After a few months of drying out, he then carves and shapes the end of the bamboo into a natural mouthpiece. Onto this he places a reed and then blows, listening carefully to the pitch and quality of the sound. If it's not right, he knows exactly where to carve the mouthpiece to correct for any faults and increase the fullness of the sound. Then comes the astounding part. With a red-hot poking iron in his hand, he'll examine the bamboo's size, interior diameter, mouthpiece shape, squint his eye a little, and say, "Let's see....D should be right about here!" and he'll poke a hole in the bamboo with the iron. Then he'll play a note. A perfect D! One by one I watched in fascination as he poked all 9 holes into the bamboo, each being either exactly right on or being so close that slightly adjusting the shape of the hole can usually correct it. If you don't think that's impressive, I encourage you to try it. Unlike conventional instruments whose hole placement can be determined once and then mass-produced, there must be hundreds of variables to take into account when working with wild bamboo whose dimensions vary greatly. I guess after making the first twelve thousand Xaphoons during the first 10 years, the process became second nature to him."
- Photo Gary Friedman
She transfers passion through her hands and has hung it up for all to see.
We stay with Kalani's Nona at her house outside of Frauenfeld. He hasn't seen her in at least 8 years, and when they greet she cups his face in her hands. I adore her then in that moment. Nona is a tiny woman that eats little bites of meals, yet all day long climbs up and down her steep stairs. She lives alone surrounded by her art that Lela is very proud to share with me.
I love her art.
We are with it in every room. It sits with us at meals and holds my hand up the stairs. It is subtle at first, even the big paintings, but when I sit for a while, I begin to see the complexity. Layers that blanket layers, strokes that weave into my stomach. At it's core, it is raw.
I love Nona. She tells us stories after dinner of her childhood, of her marriage, and travels and children and grandchildren. We lean in and listen, I want her to know she is special. I want her to know she is heard. She tells us of loneliness and the exhaustion of being old and it makes me sad. This is the frustration of the modern age. As the world becomes smaller with technology and airplanes, it remains big and wide when it comes to families and the ways we choose to prioritize. I am not exempt.
We hug each other hard at the train station, and when I board I cry. Kalani holds me tight while I look out the window and think about my family my grandmothers. About the Oceans, and the unravelling of time and the pain that our love is. Kalani whispers to me about being old, and I think of our hands and pray for a house filled with laughter.
Winter is taking it's time down south in Switzerland. Kalani's grandma turned 80, and we woke to sun and walked down cobbled streets without jackets. I am loving the inward turning of Swedish weather, but I won't complain to a few more days of warmth. Mama Lela drives us up into the Mountains, around curvy bends that widen into views of the clearest, brightest turquoise waters I've ever seen. It's hard not to be a tourist here, not to be awestruck by the amount of pristine clean water that literally gurgles up and overflows out of stone fountains on street corners. When we arrive at Kalani's childhood home in Hasliberg all three of us are out of the car in a moment to stare at The Mountains.
The Mountains are grandfathers, sheer, strong grounding forces that whisper "it's okay it's okay it's okay" over and over. They take the world off my shoulders and leave me sleepless, waiting for light so that I may watch them again. I am used to the wide gaze of endless Ocean that gives me security in it's expanse, but these Mountains speak of safety as well, in the way they held and secured. True grounding. These were Kalani's protectors and teachers and they had imprinted him with their graceful strength and patience. Here was the root of the feeling he carries that I could never put a name too. He's a true mountain boy, my man.
In the morning we wander by foot. Through the thin windy village streets against the backdrop of the ever present cowbells. The cows have long hair here and ears that make them truly pretty. We are bathed over and over in raining red and gold leaves and by the end of the day we have blisters and lungs full of fresh air. In the evening we try cheese from the alps and just for fun I day dream about living here.
Cows heading home through the streets of Hasliberg after a long day at work
The next morning the Mountains where white capped!
Crystal from inside the Mountains.
This is what I imagine when I think of Switzerland.
A day trip to high up into neighbouring Mountains to wander around a Permaculture institute.
Rose quartz, healing water.
Ceremonies on The Edge.
Mama Lela & her boy