A couple of weeks ago we went to Austin to attend a concert. The group playing at the Long Center, during the great Austin SXSW, was called Pink Martini. Now, you may know them, and you may not, but in our family they constitute a near cult following. Ten or so years ago we heard their first album on national public radio, and , I for one, was instantly addicted! They mix all kinds of songs and music in wonderful humorous ways, and the members of the small but powerful group are all excellent if not unbelievably talented musicians. I giggle when I hear a jazz type song begin to transition into a mariachi beat then subtle strains of the klezmer sound of a Jewish wedding. Folk type songs suddenly become almost operatic as orchestration reminiscent of Verdi swells in the background, dropping back into an almost be-bop simple tune. The lead singer, China Forbes, sings comfortably in English, Spanish, Italian, and many other European languages while one of the percussionists and vocalists comes forward to sing rock songs in Japanese, learned from an old Japanese immigrant uncle. It’s fun, it’s inspiring and it’s inclusive instead of exclusive. I guess my favorite part of the concert was when China announced that her next song was going to be in Turkish Armenian, and asked if there were any Armenians in the audience. Three people came up and shared the stage as she sang. Then she sang an Arabic song, while Arabic people, probably University students came up. The crowd got even larger as she launched into French, and the French came up. Then she asked if there were any Texans in the audience and the stage was flooded! We all felt like we were part of each other, in a world where different cultures are coming to be seen as enemies, China Forbes and Pink Martini reminded us ever so gently and with great humor and great music that like the John Denver song says “rejoicing in our differences, there’s no one just like me. But as different as we are, we are still the same!”
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