Sunday, January 16, 2011

I Don't Fall in Love on the First Date

This might be a little bit useless and borderline TMI, but I don't fall in love on the first date.

Don't get me wrong. First dates thrill me immensely. I enjoy witnessing what people think their best foot forward is, and watching what they do with it. But for someone who enjoys the challenge of unpeeling people to their core unsuspectingly, I find the second date more enthralling.

I saw Joan Soriano again perform live in Sacramento last night. It's the second show of his that I have seen and sure enough, I've officially fallen in love.

For people who don't breathe Bachata, Joan Soriano is a musician of rural Dominican Republic roots, Dominican Republic being the country of origin of the genre, Bachata. I'm not going to pretend to be an expert at bachata music because first and foremost, my perspective is that of a dancer's. So here's a taste of Joan Soriano's music that you must experience for yourself:

The night before the last show of his West Coast tour, I watched "El Duque de la Bachata", a film by Adam Taub about this man whom they dub The Duke of Bachata.

Adam Taub weaves the poignant story of the man behind the music. Candid and vivid images of real life - a young boy flying a makeshift kite, Joan's old red Toyota with its cracked side view mirror and windshield, the sun filtering through the wood walls of the kitchen, a hen and her chicks scurrying about - give you a very personal sense of the beginnings of this man Joan Soriano. The story was told so intimately that you get the feeling that you are actually sitting in on the many conversations with Joan where he's shirtless in quite a few of, compounding to that feeling of engagement. There were zero attempts at making a life that was in no way ostentatious seem glamorous. It was very raw, very real. The true essence of the people who consist his everyday life were captured beautifully. Joan's wife, Alexandra, meets you while she mops the concrete kitchen floor barefoot. Jordy, his son, greets you while playing with a rubber tire, then an imaginary guitar. Fernando, Joan's brother who is also part of the band, amuses you with his coconut tree climbing. Joan's farmer father, Cande, enamors you with his dancing and harmonica playing.

The film walks you through the success that might have been an inevitability for a man of Joan's talent. Despite his lack of education and formal training in music, when a man's music comes from a place of true depth and genuine talent, he could very well be unstoppable. There were moments in the film where you get a sense of the thrill and joy of the success - and the oftentimes obscured loneliness that comes with it. In one moment, you see Joan's exhilaration as he walks behind Edilio Paredes, a Bachata master, in the streets of Manhattan before a show (a scene reminiscent of the guys of Buena Vista Social Club who had the same wide eyed wonder at seeing the skyscrapers of NYC for the very first time). In the next moment, you see him in the brink of being an emotional puddle because he terribly misses his wife and son while he's away on tour.

When I see a story told so intimately and so honestly like this, I turn into mush inside. There couldn't have been a better prelude to a "second date" with Joan.

At the show in Sacramento, I was standing next to Benjamin de Menil, Joan's producer. I asked him if it was love at first sight with the talent of Joan. I wasn't prepared for his deadpan reply, "No. He didn't show up for the first show. It definitely wasn't love at first sight."

Before watching the documentary, I didn't have a sense of what this guy Joan was about. All I knew was that he sounded good and I went with it. It is kind of like falling for somebody because he had great teeth and smelled nice. But my theory about second dates held true - it is there that you unravel the other person's complications and get glimpses of his past. And it is there that the opportunity for a love far deeper and more real exists.

It is way too easy to fall for Joan's music. But if Adam Taub wanted whoever sees the film to fall in love with his soul, in my humble opinion, I think he succeeded.

1 comment:

  1. Joan Soriano has a heart of gold and a soul of pure rhythym and romance. His music carries me back to myself.