COVID has been a total pain all over the world and it seems like it’s never going to end. But, there have also been some good things. Here in Panama I’ve seen friends and neighbors band together to help each other through, and people were creative and resourceful to get by. Everyone needs to eat so there was an explosion of produce stands and people making food at home to sell.
Many people suffered loss of income and I was especially worried about our musician friends. We are friends with a family of excellent musicians, Adhi (singer), Lucho (guitar) and Arya (bass). I’ve always been amazed by Arya’s talent and skills, but he’s quiet and introverted so we only said a few words to each other on a few occasions. But, along came COVID and there went all his gigs and work, so to get by he started making tamales.
I bought lots of food from many people. Tamales? Oh yes! They are a lot of work to make and I love them. I had Arya’s delicious tamales for lunch for weeks and weeks, and then his equally delicious empanadas. He delivered them with his friend Mabel, and he and I talked a little more every time. When he didn’t deliver, Adhi’s husband Juan came by so we also became friends (he’s a drummer, chef, and tour guide).
Fast forward a year or more, to when life started to return to something resembling normal, and musicians were able to play again. Our first times out to hear live music were Adhi and her musical partner Dario, and then the Hashtag band with Lucho, Arya, Adhi, and other friends. It was heaven! It was wonderful to be out, to hear live music, to see our friends, to feel like we were coming back to life. Soon our band started playing again too and they would come to hear us when they could, and we continued to come out for other musicians when we could.
Our friendships have deepened in the months since we’ve all been playing again. Arya has learned English and he’s getting better and better. And, come to find out that Lucho also speaks a lot of English so he and Joel have been able to talk about guitar things. Arya also spent his time at home working on singing, and now he’s really really good. Lucho has started singing backup so with Adhi, who always has been amazing, so now they have three singers in the band. And the band in general keeps getting better and better, so it’s all really cool to see.
Then, through a series of crazy coincidences and being in the right place at the right time, I was able to buy and refurbish a fretless Fender bass. The previous owner also gave me the fretless neck that was on it when he bought it, so I gave that to Arya. Since Arya also has a Fender, it worked out for him. With his skills and artistry, he’s definitely one who should have a fretless! They are more challenging to play but they have a unique tone and feel, more like a voice or an upright bass and if you are really skilled you can do things you can’t do on a fretted bass.
This really nice friendship with a family of great musicians got off the ground with the weekly tamale deliveries. Who would have thought?