Welcome again to Shuffle Synchronicities by me, Dave Cowen.
An unusual mix of music & memoir.
Every day I Shuffle my Spotify Liked Songs playlist (42,168 and counting), then write how the song Synchronizes with my life and maybe yours ;)
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"The Homeless Wanderer" by Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou
~Born in 1923, Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou grew up up in one of Ethiopia’s most privileged families. She and her sister were the first girls to be sent abroad for their education, where she first encountered western classical music, took up piano and violin lessons and turned out to be a special talent.
In the 1930s, she returned to Ethiopia: portraits from this period show a gorgeous young woman with a wry smile and a bold fashion sense. She went to high-society parties and sang for Haile Selassie. She had a car and raced a horse and trap around the city. She was a feminist: the first woman to work for the Ethiopian civil service, the first to sing in an Ethiopian Orthodox church, the first to work as a translator for the Orthodox Patriarch in Jerusalem. “Even as a teenager I was always asking, ‘What is the difference between boys and girls?’” she told the Guardian. “We are equal!”
That life was brutally disrupted when Benito Mussolini, with an eye on a potential colony, invaded Ethiopia in 1936 and three members of Emahoy’s family were killed. She was evacuated to Europe, but she was unfazed in her determination to become a musician and eventually found her way to Cairo to study with esteemed Polish violinist Alexander Kontorowicz. After her time in Cairo, 23-year-old Emahoy set her sights on London and was offered a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music.
But for reasons that she couldn’t or wouldn’t disclose, she was refused permission to go. The writer Kate Molleson speculated that it wasn’t a bureaucratic glitch but something closer to the lyrics of a Robert Burns that she sang and translated for Guèbrou:
Lovers meet, lovers part, lovers feel brokenhearted.
To which Guèbrou gripped the writer’s arm and fixed her with one of her deep stares. “We can’t always choose what life brings,” she said. “But we can choose how to respond.”
Molleson concludes that we will probably never know.
The disappointment made her give up the classical piano and turn to God.
“It was His willing,” is all she would say when I asked what had prevented her from pursuing her studies. “We can choose how to respond.”~
And according to Andy Beta of insheepsclothinghifi.com:
~She then became an ordained nun, casting off the comfort, lifestyle, and privilege her upbringing had afforded her to be barefoot in the mountains of Ethiopia.
Despite the demands of her devout new lifestyle, Guèbrou dedicated even more time to her music, practicing up to 9 hours a day. By the early 60’s, she had moved from the Guishen Maryam monastery to Gondar in the west.
There she studied the music of St. Yared, the 6th century saint of the Ethiopian-Eritrean Orthodox Church and composer of the liturgical music of the church whose Mahlet remains studied and is still performed today. Struck by the group of young, homeless students studying the liturgy at the church, Guèbrou remembers on her website: “Although I did not have money to give them, I was determined to use my music to help these and other young people to get an education.”
With assistance from her old friend Emperor Selaissie, she recorded five of her own compositions and released them in 1967 on a German label. Her sister assisted on another recording in the early ‘70s, this one directing all proceeds to helping an orphanage for children of soldiers.
It’s these handful of recordings that comprise Guèbrou’s legend as “The Honky Tonk Nun.” But who imagines the sound of “honky tonk” when hearing her play? While Guèbrou’s recordings comprise the 21st volume of the Ethiopiques series, positing her alongside titans of Ethio-jazz like Mulatu Astatke, Alèmayèhu Eshèté, and Gétatchèw Mèkurya, she insists she’s not a jazz artist. Depending on your own listening history, you might hear something familiar and resonant in her piano works. Maybe it evokes those Ethiopian artists or the deep foundation of St. Yared and Ethiopian liturgical music. Western classical fans might hear Chopin, Schubert or Debussy. Jazz listeners may glean traces of Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, or the likes of Oscar Peterson and Fats Waller. One can feel the blues, ragtime, gospel in her playing, or the township piano of Abdullah Ibrahim in her voicings, in her flowing, highly lyrical runs. And yet it doesn’t seem to come from late 19th century/ early 20th century African-American music so much as from what might predate that, the Pangaea of those subsequent forms. For Andy, her tone feels like a preternaturally calm yet mysterious body of water, unfathomably deep, “The Song of the Sea” itself.
The Emahoy Music Foundation to this day remains dedicated to providing music scholarships to children in Ethiopia and Israel.
And Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou is still alive at 98 in a cramped room at the Ethiopian Orthodox church in Jerusalem, playing for hours a day on a piano tucked into her room.~
So what was the synchronicity today?
Well, last night was my date with the therapist woman from the James Blake concert on Saturday that I wrote about here.
We met at Griffith Park to play tennis.
Then had plans for her to come over for dinner at my place in Los Feliz.
She had been there on Saturday for a bit, and knew generally where it was, but we agreed I should send her the exact address just to be sure.
As I walked her to her car, I typed in an address and texted it to her.
Then drove home and began assembling the cheese and crackers, olives, grapes, and figs, for the appetizers.
I kept the door slightly ajar.
And she still didn’t arrive.
So I proceeded to put together the salad and take out the steak and the asparagus for the main meal.
Then I received a text message from her:
Apparently, I had accidentally typed in my old address, which also happens to be where my ex-wife still currently lives…LOL
I wrote back:
I didn’t receive a response.
But then she arrived a few minutes later.
My ex-wife’s apartment/our old one only being a few blocks away from my current one.
The date didn’t go too badly after that.
She found it more funny and amusing than embarrassing or troubling.
We had a nice conversation over the course of the meal.
Then moved to the couch after she made a thyme-lemonade-soda.
We both wondered aloud if our making out on Saturday was just a one-time fun thing.
But then we made out again.
The thing is though:
And, I can only speak for myself, the vibe didn’t feel as passionate as Saturday.
I asked the spirits this morning for a song to reflect upon last night.
And as you can see, “The Homeless Wanderer” feels quite apropos, no?
A wink-wink from God or the spirits or the Universe or whatever you call the mystery.
That I don’t quite know still where my home is.
I think of this Rumi quote:
The Soul is a stranger trying to find a Home somewhere that is not a where.
and this one:
Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn't matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you've broken your vow
a thousand times.
Come, yet again, come.
And I reflect on a book that I’m reading about Astrology on North and South Nodes by Jan Spiller called Astrology for the Soul.
The idea of Nodes is that the South Node is your past incarnations, while the North Node is what you are here to incarnate into this time.
I have a North Node in Gemini and a South Node in Sagittarius, so according to Spiller:
Which sounds a lot like maybe Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, not to perhaps mention Rumi, and mayhap me?
LOL, trying out some new adverbs to express my constant ambiguity and ambivalence.
What do we think of:
may·hap| ˈmāhap | adverb archaic perhaps; possibly.
Anyway, here are some more quotes from the book on Astrology nodes:
If you’ve been following along with the Substack, you will have seen that this is almost exactly what led to the breakdown in my marriage.
I chose ‘my Truth’ and being able to ‘interact mentally’ with anyone in any way I wanted ‘that must not be limited’ over the marriage, mayhap.
Over disavowing my Truth and accepting restrictions for how I could interact mentally with others in the world.
So, yeah, I guess I am a ‘Homeless Wanderer’…
However, I feel the ‘internal harmony’ most everywhere I go now.
Whereas that was becoming more and more absent at my old ‘home’.
So what to do about the therapist woman I sent there by accident?
But I did read this in Spiller’s book about Gemini North nodes too:
Or to quote this very confused but perhaps somehow apropos meme
a The Killers song about romantic relationships breaking down
and Christian religious tradition and ‘Truth’…
Okay, that’s the two hundred and fifty-sixth Shuffle Synchronicities.