Saturday, August 11, 2012

It's easy to criticise when you're standing on the sidelines...

My blog post earlier today refers. What a day!

So I was busy singing at Hyde Park, when a tenant asked me to turn down the "noise." I politely declined, saying that I would do so when instructed by Tumi from centre management. Tumi then opted to move me to the other end of the lower level mall. Whilst I was busy re-setting up, which was of course a huge waste of time, I get called over to the table of what appeared to be a sweet elderly couple who asked if the music was going to be good, and also implored that it not be too loud.

Considering their needs, I turned the sound way down. To no avail! I sang two original songs and then launched into Elton John and Diana Ross, after which I went and asked the sweet old dears if the music was okay. BAD IDEA! The granny bitched and moaned about how her husband didn't enjoy his cappuccino and how she couldn't enjoy her ice cream because the music was so loud. A real pair of old farts! Anyway, she bitched in my ear, so I called Tumi. Granny then told Tumi that they had come all the way from Pretoria to eat a nice meal, which had been ruined by loud, "ugly" music. Well, I lost it! I told Granny dearest that the music was hardly ugly (I didn't spend 10 years training my voice because it was fun - it was damn hard work), and that I took offence at her rudeness. Well, she laid back into me and told me that I was ugly. Of course that just got my back up even more, so I got stuck into her again and asked her who died and made her the Queen of England, and that there was no need for her to be such a nasty piece of work.

Eventually Grandpa and Tumi calmed us both down. Gramps took her away, and Tumi suggested that I stand down for the day and pick it up again tomorrow. I said, "Sorry Tumi, but I won't stand for that crap. She needed to be put in her place." She said not to worry, apologised profusely, and asked if I was okay, which I don't think I was. Now I know, based on my blog earlier today that this is part of the game, but I was totally unprepared for Granny's little temper tantrum. As I took my equipment to pack it away, Jurg asked me how it went. I told him the story. This was his response. "They booed Pavarotti off the stage. Don't doubt yourself." Wow, what awesome advice was that!

I also spoke to Kim, one of the tenants. She also gave me some great advice, which I really needed to hear: "If they don't like it, it's their problem, not yours. You are doing the very best that you can, and you love it, so just keep on doing it. I don't see her getting up to sing." Yeah, Kim reminded me of a friend of mine, Roger Dickinson, who said that people used to stand on the side of the soccer field, all liquored up, and tell him he was useless at soccer. It's easy to stand on the sidelines and criticise.

But I am not gonna give up. I may be bloodied, but I am unbowed. And I really need to grow a bigger set of balls. So tomorrow, unless Tumi comes and tells me to shut up, or by an act of God I am struck down, or a tenant takes an AK47 and shoots me, I am just gonna sing. But some won't like it. This is when I become crass and say, tough shit. That's part of the game. Did I learn nothing from the blog post I wrote this morning?

And so now allow me to become even more crass for just a moment: FUCK YOU, UNIVERSE! If you think I'm gonna quit because some old bitch is a miserable pickled old prune and does not appreciate my art, then you have got another thing coming. Arrogant? Maybe. But I think at least the universe appreciates the honesty. Hey, let me remind myself: as John Demartini says, if you're not being crucified, then you're not living on purpose. I can deal with that. Music is my telos, I don't fucking care how hard it is. This is what I was born to make my greatest contribution to the world in.

Time to get back out there, and live to fight another day.

criticism & praise

Urban legend has it that if Madonna gets 10 critiques, with 9 being positive and 1 being negative, she tends to forget about the 9 good ones and fixates on the bad one. Maybe this is just the sensitive nature of the artist, or maybe she just wants to get it right and prove her critics wrong.

Either way, I can relate! I am doing a stint at Hyde Park Corner, a very snooty shopping centre in Johannesburg, every Saturday and Sunday in the month of August (like Madge, it's also my birthday this month). I started last weekend, and I must say it's damn hard work! This is the not-so-fun side of the music biz. Glamour, what glamour?

Because it's in a shopping centre it's an acoustic nightmare. I find it very difficult to hear myself over the PA system, but some of the tenants have been complaining that it's either too soft or too loud. It has been rather unsettling, but I have tried to march forward, despite my aural insecurities, and deliver the best damn job that I can.

In some cases it has worked. Last week on Saturday I had a gentleman walk up to me and say, "You have a beautiful voice. Very nice to listen to." Another gentleman called me as I walked past him sitting at a restaurant and said, "I just want to tell you, you have the most extraordinary voice." Of course these are the wonderful compliments a singer wants to hear. I thanked them both and said that I appreciated the feedback, because it was hard to know what people actually hear - and of course what they think.

The one gent said that he had owned an interior design shop in the centre for 30 years, and that I should take his advice and bring a gun with, because he thought it was a shame that people just walked past and did not even acknowledge me as a singer. A lady on Sunday walked past me and said practically the same thing - that she and her family had been listening, and they appreciated it, and that even though there was no audience to speak of (I am doing background filler music, though thankfully some of it is original), that it was still great. Of course I thanked her and said that we singers really need to hear that sort of encouragement.

And then, of course, there is the other side. A few years ago I delivered what I thought was a great Christmas programme at Greenstone, another large shopping centre on the other side of Johannesburg. When I phoned the marketing manager in January to ask her if she wanted to hire me again for Valentine's Day, she said that the tenants didn't like my singing. Ouch! I certainly have my critics, and it's hard. A music publisher that I submitted some original music to for a possible publishing deal once said to me, "Rob, some of your stuff isn't bad, but please get someone else to sing it!" I guess I just have to make peace with the fact that not everyone is going to be a fan of my music and my voice. That's the brutally harsh reality of the music industry, and if I want to be in it, I need to live with that. Hey, if somebody is willing to pay £1,000 to see Barbra Streisand perform and then heckle her, why should I expect anything different?

So yeah, I have had my detractors at Hyde Park. One tenant, who said she was very glad to hear that I was singing and was looking forward to hearing me the next day, was one of the first to complain to centre management about how I just was not cutting it. Another woman came down from the optometrist on the next level up, and asked me to please turn down the music as she could not hear patients over the phone. A few days later a friend of mine went up there to speak to her, and she did not know who he was. He fished for info, and she eventually said, "Well, I can honestly say that he does not have the voice of an angel!" C'est la vie.

My singing teacher always used to relay the story of Pavarotti, who as a youngster went with his father and uncle to go and listen to some opera. Apparently his father couldn't stop booing, and his uncle couldn't stop lauding the singer. Young Pav then decided that 50% of people will like you, and 50% of people will hate you. My teacher always then said that it would be the same for me, so I should just get on with the job. I take comfort in the fact that my music will resonate with some, even if it doesn't with others. Is that not the way of the world?

John Demartini always says that if you're not being crucified and opposed for what you stand for, then you're not on purpose - you are not making a difference in the world. I believe it was Einstein who said that people with a vision and a purpose will always be violently opposed by those who are against them. I think John Demartini is a visionary who has helped me live my telos, which is music. Some people think he is the anti-Christ.

As Robert Palmer sings, it takes every kind of people to make the world go round. Ain't that the truth! As for me, I am just gonna keep on singing, whether they love me or hate me, and I hope that I will touch the lives of many with my music. I desire to serve people with it.

Well, let me be off. I have to go sing now at Hyde Park. There is nothing else I'd rather be doing right now.