I am absolutely in love with the guitar, I’ve been playing for six years and I don’t go by most days without spending at least a few minutes playing. Naturally, I wanted a guitar to play while part of the project and Prof. Rohl agreed that a dig guitar would be a good investment for this and future seasons, so we went to find one in Amman and brought it back. A cheap, yet decently playable, acoustic Fender Squier. We threw it in the trunk inside of its brand new black gig bag and set off on our return to Umm el-Jimal, daringly navigating the chaotic roads of Jordan with my lackluster Google Maps skills. Acquiring this guitar would provide results I would never have expected on this trip.
I think it was the next night that I sat out on the white dusty porch in a grey plastic chair playing nothing in particular on the guitar when I met two 12-year-old Syrian cousins. Muhammad and Muhammad came and sat down cross-legged in front of me, waiting for me to sing a song. I was stumped. My mind was rushing to figure out what these boys would be familiar with. Retrospectively, that was slightly foolish. I don’t believe I played a single song for the Muhammads that they had any familiarity with. However, I do know that these two boys loved to hear music performed just for them. They also loved to get a chance to play the guitar themselves. I’d hand it over, and their faces would beam as they mindlessly strummed away at the strings and sang in a language I had no bearing on at all.
There was one song that we had learned together. I had been drag out, yet again, by the boys. Because they had become bored of everything that I had already played for them, I just started messing about with some chords. Am, C, D, Fm. Just that on a solid repeat. Four different rising chords. Whilst I was playing this, Darrell yelled out sing “Yallah Habibi!” That was funny. It means something along the lines of “let’s get going man/my love” and it’s something we heard quite a bit of out on site. I started singing those two words on repeat. The boys and I loved it, and we sang it for at least a half hour. I finally headed back inside the dig house but people told me after that night that the boys could be heard singing Yallah Habibi four hours after I went to sleep. The next day they came to the doors asking “Weagan? Geetara? Yallah Habibi?” We were playing together again, “Yallah Habibi”, and my lyrical genius and dynamic cunning made the perfect second verse to the “Yallah Habibi” song: “shway, shway, Habibi”, meaning “Slowly, Slowly man/my love.” Personally, it was the best experience to see them use buckets as drums and try to make the dynamics right for that verse. You could see the kids really trying to stay on beat and match whatever it was that I was doing. It was truly adorable. Also, it was slightly horrifying to think that my family put up with something similar to that every day when I began my own musical journey.
I never realized how much music brings people together until my experience in Jordan. I study Music at Calvin and, despite that, I have never even noticed just how much music creates communities and can bring different communities together. Music’s innate ability to create friendships has truly left me in awe. I think I’ll keep a guitar handy on my travels from now on!