It was rush hour and the trains were delayed. A virtual sea of people waited on the platform, but an oasis had formed around Trinidadian steel drummer Michael Gabriel and his partner Roland. With riders peering over both of his shoulders, Michael nimbly tapped the surfaces inside his fifty-gallon silver pan. Roland, who wore a large Rastafarian cap, sat on a milk crate and with a single drumstick he thumped the bottom of a white plastic construction bucket that jutted out between his legs.
I stood next to a white-haired woman in a crisp pink raincoat. "When I was expectin' my daughter," she commented to me in a melodic accent, "the musicians in my town were practicing through the night for Carnival. They were playing calypso like this and, when my daughter came out, she had the music in her blood!"
I asked her what she thought of subway music.
"It makes the waiting easier," she said. "Sometimes I don't realize I'm waiting an hour for the train!
"We need it. What do they say? Music soothes the savage breast? It's soothing. It's relaxing. I think of sandpaper on wood. Smoothes the rough edges. We need music. It's like water. Like waves on a sea. Music is a blessing.
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Publication information: Book title: Underground Harmonies:Music and Politics in the Subways of New York. Contributors: Susie J. Tanenbaum - Author. Publisher: Cornell University Press. Place of publication: Ithaca, NY. Publication year: 1995. Page number: 11.
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