Austin360 will be posting dispatches from Austin singer-songwriter Gina Chavez and her band as they tour through Jordan. The full band – which includes Michael Romero, Brad Johnston, Jerry Ronquillo, Kenneth Null, and Mike Meadows – will give us insights into what it’s like for an Austin band to perform, lead workshops and collaborate with local artists in Jordan.
The third installment of the Gina Chavez Middle East Tour Diary was contributed by Michael Romero (trumpet, synth, harmony vocals). Catch up with all the tour diary entries on Cultura en Austin and Austin Music Source.
BY MICHAEL ROMERO
10. Arabic music uses quarter tones. Whereas Western music’s smallest interval between notes is a half step, Arabic (as well as other areas) music’s smallest interval between notes is a quarter step. That’s quite a few more notes and maqams (scales) to enjoy. Brad Johnston (pianist/accordionist for Gina Chavez) is at this very moment jamming some Arabic tunes on the accordion.
9. One of the musicians we’ve met, Basem Aljaber, is a phenomenal bassist. He played a groove while simultaneously drumming on his upright bass. Basem is a wise and kind man from Syria.
8. You can oftentimes do OK (at least at first) knowing little Arabic here as many folks speak English as well. I’m betting Gina Chavez will be fluent soon. She has more than three songs to learn and sing in Arabic by the end of the trip, and she’s already taken the lead to really study. The rest of us are, well, we could study harder.
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7. A chance to try Turkish coffee prepared with a huge flame and a small metal cup is worth it. Kenneth Null (Bassist for GC) will likely figure out how to start preparing it at home.
6. The juice shops here are better than any dessert – though Mike Meadows (joining GC on drums for the tour) might disagree due to his love for Jordan almonds.
5. Islam lately has a pretty negative connotation in the U.S., and the majority of people here follow Sunni Islam. This band has been lucky to play music with and befriend many amazing Jordanians including the JOrchestra members and the youth from the Haya Cultural Center.
4. Justin Bieber, you’re well known and liked around here.
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3. If you’ve traveled a lot before, you’d not be surprised to know you can find a Subway Sandwiches, 7/11 and McDonald’s here. Maybe that’s not such a positive thing, but appreciation of a quick lunch is one of the many things we have in common.
2. Jerry Ronquillo (percussionist for GC) has a mustache that is admired in every country he goes to. So far, he’s received countless compliments in the U.S., Costa Rica and Jordan.
1. Mom, we’re safe. As you taught me, safety increases in all ways and in all places when we, as humans, pause and sit with, learn from and admire each other.
Thank you, Jordan.