At an open stage 30 years ago I heard a woman called Anhai (pronounced an-eye) she played an acoustic guitar strumming a rhythmic loop more or less and her guitar stings were tuned like spaghetti. When she sung everyone changed what they were doing like when you realize there’s an ambulance behind you. Pull over, this is an emergency. If your into music, kind of emergency you hope to experience.
Everybody wondered what was the language, was shouts, was screams and yelps, long notes, angry dog sounds and high hawker cooing. More than one person certain she had indigenous origins. I asked if she needed a producer, she said yes but had no funds. Said I would do it for free but free things can’t do right away, jobs that pay take precedent. I predicted it might take a year for us to finish. That was disappointing for her she said no thanks.
I got to know her better each week when she returned to play and further stun the audience. We would chat a little more. She had a horse, she had a family, place in North York, played in a band in the 60s. I asked her one time about the open tuning of her guitar, the strings that were so wobbly. I knew a few open tunings I admired from Bruce Cockburn’s work. I asked her what her open tuning was. She sometimes had a disarming little old lady voice
(long pause) I said “You keep tuning to nature ok, great”.
Then one night she made a reference to her lyrics. I didn’t know what she meant, thought she was singing sculpted sound similar to avant grade artists like Meredith Monk.
“Your Lyrics?” I asked “What language are they in?”
“It’s English Bob.” She said.
I was confused. I asked her if she could bring some next time and she did in very nice handwriting. This added a whole other dimension to my enjoyment.
Cut to 20 years later, we met again, some big life changes happened, she was living on the street, we applied for a grant and a few months later got it. Finally had the money to hire people and studios and get to work. There were some obstacles, very hard to arrange meeting with her, she regularly disappeared, sometimes for years. But I managed to capture her in a living room with a digital recorder somewhere she was house sitting for 2 nights. I organized some favourite musicians to study each nuance and colour it accordingly. I had plans to help her release it and arranged for a photo shoot with a student friend. I fronted the money because I knew she had the grant money to reimburse me but by the time it was done, she was nowhere to be found.
Two years went by before she reappeared and she had some details about how the money was lost, another story. So for time being it was my loss and the recording sat on the shelf. A year and a half later a friend with funds asked if I had anything happening he might contribute to. Can anyone hear such an offer and have an answer different than yes of course I do. So we mixed it professionally, mastered it as well, she returned to Toronto from somewhere in the East coast (?) heard the finished work was excited and then vanished to somewhere unknown again it sits on the shelf, last seen in 2013. Don’t know anything more.
“heartsong (skyprayer or magic song)”
we are here — yeah, yeah, yeah!
we are there — yeah, yeah, yeah!
we are here — yeah, yeah, yeah!
everywhere! yeah, yeah, yeah!
bop-bop-um-bop–bop um bop ba-da-ba -bow-ba-da-bop–
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah ,yeah….
(transcribed by m.e.grey)