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