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“We want people to hear music as we do. To Imagine what it looks like”

Last night I went along to ‘see’ the Amadou & Mariam gig in Bethnal Green. And what an extremely unique experience. If you haven’t heard of Amadou & Mariam before – they are a blind couple – who met in the orchestra of The Institute for the Young Blind in Bamako. Married for over 25 years their show entitled ‘Eclipse’ tells the story of Amadou & Mariam’s life and work together and is staged entirely in the dark.

In December 2010 I had the good fortune to crash at a friends shared house on my return from travelling. This would be my first experience of living with somebody who was blind. Admittedly it took me three weeks to muster up the courage to ask if Ken (Ken Bodden is his full name) could see me. Confused by Ken’s ability to live life as someone might if they still had their eyesight my brain could not comprehend how it might be possible to do everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning and well..living!

To be honest… and I’m going to have to admit it – I do worry about I can say/can’t say sometimes. Living in a society where words with several meanings can be easily misconstrued – I decided that it would be easier to just let Ken introduce himself and talk about his experience with being blind:

Ken also works in North London as an experienced piano tuner. If you should like to contact him/hire him his website is www.northlondonpianotuner.co.uk or email him on ken@northlondonpianotuner.co.uk. Genuine requests only please.

So back to last night. The tickets for the gig were a surprise and very last minute and unfortunately (for me) Ken already had tickets for Friday’s gig. So.. with no one wanting to come out and play with me (yep thanks everyone…sob sob) along I went.. all alone.. to see Amadou & Mariam. Sitting in a pitch black hall with a couple of hundred other people I was surprised at how incredibly relaxed I felt ten minutes in to the show (and when I say pitch black I mean cannot see my hand pitch black).

Listening to the comforting sounds around me – I became incredibly aware of my ability to ‘switch off’ enjoy the sounds and daydream. Ok. I admit it! I can occasionally be a bad listener. When I was ushered out of the hall – I was led by a volunteer who had special goggles on. This was the part in which I felt incredibly vulnerable. But what intrigued me most of all was when I came out of the experience. Being the first night of the show the staff asked me excitedly ‘How was it? What was it like? Was it good? What happened?’. I cannot put into words how amazing this show was. In fact using the word ‘amazing’ pretty much belittles the experience. I do think that sometimes – you need to experience things yourself to fully appreciate them.

And so I will leave you on this quote..

Nature does not deceive us; it is we who deceive ourselves. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, 1762

UPDATE:

Ken went to the gig last night! This is what he thought:

Well, during the show we were kind of wondering whether it was really live;
but a couple numbers before the end, the stage and some of the floor lights
came up and there they were live as live can be on the stage. Then all of a
sudden, we were all up and rocking away. You then saw the big black curtain
on the stage and realised that the band had been performing behind it and
they would have had lights. Besides the music, I was enthralled by the
sounds travelling around the hall and the quality of the twin-quad stereo
setup! After the show, me and Michael went back in to have a peep at the
speakers, but they were taking down the set so we could not go up on the
stage…typical sounds buffs!
Ken xx

If you would like more information on Amadou and Mariam here is their website:

www.amadou-mariam.com

If you are listening to them for the first time this is my favourite track:

Hmmmm…. I’ll leave you with that.. Have a great day! Becki Bx

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