Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why the elephant?

I’ve been a big fan of Rupa and the April Fishes for years, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago- right before Halloween- that I finally got to seem them perform live. For the release of their new CD, Este Mundo, the band played a short set at Amoeba Records in San Francisco’s famed Haight Ashbury neighborhood.
Rupa and the April Fishes were everything I thought they would be and then some. Rupa was beautiful, soulful, and performed with such passion that she seemed larger than life. Quite the feat for a woman who’s barely bigger than her guitar- and I mean that in a positive way!
Rupa has a great band to back her up, too. Instruments ranged from accordion to trumpet, and the musicians had the audience captivated and dancing between the aisles. A mix of gypsy, jazz, cumbia, and other musical elements, the songs were inspired by music from several countries. Rupa herself sings in French, English, and Spanish- and I may be forgetting a language or two.
During her set, Rupa told the audience that if we could explain why the new CD had an elephant on the cover, we would get a free copy. I didn’t know about the elephant. I tried to guess. Was it because Rupa spent part of her childhood in India? Nope. Luckily, my friend Mei was with me and treated me to a copy of the CD as an early birthday present. Now that’s what friend’s are for!
At least I know the story behind the April fishes. When a French king changed the pagan calendar to the Roman calendar, some people still wanted to celebrate the new year in April, and they would give out fishes to celebrate. Or so the story goes. The story is metaphorical. It’s about not wanting to accept a reality that’s handed to you, about not giving into the higher order. Rupa and the April Fishes definitely convey that message in their music, which is nothing short of worldly and not even close to being mainstream.
I love performing to songs by Rupa and the April Fishes for that very reason. When I dance to their music, my body feels pulled in several directions at once, and it yet retains a fluidity that ties everything together.
I talked to Rupa before her set and asked her if she would be interested in doing a belly dance/Rupa and the April Fishes show. Wouldn’t that be grand? Belly dancers performing live to Rupa and the April Fishes. Rupa said she was interested. I have yet to hear back from her, but seeing as how the band is currently on an international tour, I don’t mind waiting for an email. Besides, while I’m waiting, maybe I can finally figure out the story behind that elephant.

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