It rained heavily that night and Willy looked at the tiled roof to find any tell-tale signs of a leak. He held the ‘chimney’ close to the roof and saw there were a few broken tiles. But he was convinced he could spend the night peacefully as the leaks were not life threatening. He peeped over his children who were fast asleep. Amid blasts of thunder he overheard his ailing mother coughing forever from the other room. And then with the weariness of a overworked bull, he got down to what he was doing.
He opened the wooden trunk and took out the trumpet for the third time that day. He rubbed it with a cotton cloth and held it close to the light. It was a golden colored German trumpet with keys worn out beyond recognition. But it had not lost its golden tinge and its horn still looked brand new. It was the only valuable property left by his father when he died. He could hold it for hours together and caress its fine parts. More than the smoothness of the instrument, it carried memories. Tons of it, as Willy prepared the trumpet for what he was going to do the next day. His eyes turned misty as he went down memory lane, almost ten years ago.
His elder brother Salu had just announced the wedding of his daughter Violet. Salu lived just four fields away from Willy’s house and led a hand to mouth existence. Willy at least had a job as a caretaker of the local Brahmin’s areca nut farm. Salu relied on the ancestral paddy fields for a year round income. His family of six members toiled round the clock, come rain or sunshine. Understandably Salu wasn’t the person who could afford a daughter’s wedding. So everyone had a duty to pool in and it was at this time that a spark of imagination ignited Willy’s mind. For long he had been toying with the idea of forming a Brass band. His late father Balthazar Mesthri was a well known violinist who doubled up as a trumpeter at a famous brass band in the city. Willy was the only child who had inherited his father’s flair for music. He knew his scales and chords and to some extent could read sheet music too. Even though this talent wouldn’t yield much in the maze of fields and jungle where he lived, Willy’s quest for forming a band was however insatiable.
His first stop was at Benna’s house. Benna was a participant at Br.Joel’s music workshop which was held in the church the previous year. Although the workshop was meant to introduce church music to the rural catholics, Br.Joel’s intention was to keep the drunkards occupied for sometime and lure them away from their habit. Benna could play the Piccolo and when Willy told him about his idea, Benna was too happy to lend a helping hand. It took them sometime to rope-in the rest of the band members, all of them participants of the same workshop. Even though they were literally illiterate, they knew what a 3 sharp and 4 sharp scale was but Willy had to digest the fact that the last time they touched an instrument was at least a year back.
For the instruments, Willy had only one way. He went to Br.Joel and asked him if he could buy the instruments lying in the church sacristy. The instruments were eating dust for the last one year and taking money from Willy wouldn’t be a good idea, Br.Joel thought. So he told Willy to take the instruments and return them once he was able to buy his own. Willy was now a happy man. In no time he had assembled a brass band, even though his cast was not very impressive. There were only 6 people. Willy would play the trumpet, Benna the Piccolo, Eddiyab who was the miron in the church would play the horn, Gilbert would play the drum. And for the less skilled task of playing the snare and the cymbals, Willy had inducted his sons ? Larry and Wilson. Together, they wasted no time getting on to their first jam-up. Violet’s wedding was just 2 months away and they had to play for the roce.
They started enthusiastically. But as days passed Willy realized the job was not as easy as he had thought. Benna had to re-learn all his sheet music skills and Gilbert’s sense of timing was not very good. By the time they had perfected ‘Isle of Capri’ in C Major, enough time had elapsed that only 2 more weeks were left for the wedding. Willy started regretting his decision to form a band in such a haste. He certainly didn’t want to become the laughing stock of the town at Violet’s roce. But hiring a professional band was also out of their reach. Suddenly Willy was a very worried man.
…Even though this talent wouldn’t yield much in the maze of fields and jungle where he lived, Willy’s quest for forming a band was however insatiable….
Wasn’t it for Br.Joel’s timely intervention, Willy’s dream band would have ended up as just a dream. Br.Joel dropped in like angel Gabriel one day and saw how miserable the situation was. He immediately sat down and pointed out each musician’s mistake. And then with the patience of a school teacher, he tutored them several songs. It was as if a magic wand had been woven around them, the struggling musicians were now playing with confidence. The melodies were coming out beautifully and the percussions were a pleasure to hear.
Salu’s house was adorned with palm leaves and the smell of betel leaves and smashed areca nut provided the right mood for Violet’s roce ceremony. The whole village had gathered in the ‘Matov’ even before the sky had turned dark. Willy was sweating as he played the first note on his trumpet. They played ‘The Isle of Capri’. And then ‘Blue moon, Lisboa and so on. Every time, their music appeared to captivate their audience. The village had never heard such beautiful music before. And more over it was their own ‘boys’ who were playing the music that made everyone proud and spellbound. After the dinner was over, the boys played some jumpy Konkani polka songs, and the whole village was on its feet dancing like never before. Men, women and even the frail became young that day. The tired and the oppressed forgot their daily burdens for a moment. It was only when the rooster crowed that Willy realized it had dawned.
Willy’s success did not stop there. There were words of encouragement from everyone. The whole village was rallying around them. He started getting bookings for one roce here, one wedding there in the neighborhood. He dreamt of buying new equipment and stitching new uniform for the boys. He planned to leave his job as care taker and employ himself full time in the band, earning decently in the process. Now every time he held the trumpet in his hand, he remembered what his father had once said ? “Son, you may not find it very valuable, but if you put your heart and work hard, you can reap gold”. True to what he said, the brass instrument lying in the junk all the while was turning gold.
But Willy was feeling uneasy. All the functions he played so far were low key and around the village. He needed a kick in the back, a shot in the arm. He wanted ‘Willy’s Brass band’ to be known around the diocese. He needed a ‘break’ !
He didn’t have to wait long. As the break he was waiting for came his way, just after church on Sunday.
(Concluding part follows…)
Author: Remy DSouza- Kuwait