Summer is ending, and I feel closure approaching just around the corner, almost at my fingertips.
As it happens, I have more song “demos” than there are months remaining in 2019. So I’ve got to speed up the “release” of these songs; I’ve got to speed closure up. =)
WATER……, and next month’s song, NIGHT, are a pair, in that they were both inspired by a particularly unforgettable weekend trip I took from Dubai, with a few old and very dear friends, to a tiny port city known as Khassab, on the rocky peninsula of Musandam.
WATER…… and NIGHT are also the songs I am most fond of in this entire album, because they fuse landscape, music and writer-liness into a kind of eccentric, idiosyncratic and self-indulgent whole.
Yes, they’re TOTALLY self-indulgent. As is the entire album, THE FACTS OF LIFE.
But I don’t care.
* * *
In any case, here’s some background…
Musandam is a strange, rocky enclave of Oman that sits at the very northern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, jutting deep into the Straits of Hormuz (and dividing the Persian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman as a consequence), and separated from the rest of mainland Oman by the United Arab Emirates.
Musandam has a stark, surreal beauty to it, making for a rather hallucinatory trip we took that sweltering hot summer – when the temperature soared up to the mid-40s (Celsius).
There we were, bobbing atop crystal-clear waters in a fisherman’s boat we had rented for the day. Around us were the steep, craggy, magnificent, bone-dry cliffs of Musandam’s fjords. Yes, there are fjords there – the remains of an ancient ice age, no doubt.
As we sped our away further into the fjord, suddenly, a pod of dolphins emerged from the water, and playfully swam aside us for a while. It was the first time I had ever come in such close contact to these cetaceans – one came up close enough for me to touch it.
We made a couple of stops that day: first along a deserted, white sandy beach on which thousands of cormorants had gathered, sunning their wings. Hooting with glee, we jumped out of our boat and tore along the beach towards the flock, laughing and cheering and waving our arms like teenagers on crack, shooing the thousands of cormorants and standing with mouths gaping open as they took to the sky en masse.
I had never seen anything quite so dramatic in my life.
Afterwards, we lay sun-tanning on the beach, with nobody else on that huge white expanse except ourselves. The water was so clear that I could see little fish swimming around my thighs and my toes. In those days, Musandam had not yet been “discovered” by tourists, and we encountered no one else that entire afternoon.
Later on, we sped on further into the fjord and found a deserted island where a ruined former-British signaling tower stood.
There, we disembarked for a spot of snorkeling. Which proved to be rather depressing as all around and below us in the water, the coral reef had died. An entire ecosystem appeared to have collapsed for reasons that were not obvious. Creeping above the tableau of death and decay were thousands of sea urchins, their spindly black carapaces making for a rather sinister view through the goggles.
We spent all afternoon in the fjords, and then returned to our hotel in Khassab slightly sunburnt, feeling satiated.
But the water proved to be irresistible. It drew us back later that evening, close to midnight, for yet another unforgettable aquatic experience, which I will recount when I “release” NIGHT next month.
* * *
WATER…… references that magical day in Musandam, which took place more than 10 years ago. My how time flies.
The narrative of the song is essentially one of heartbreak, as our protagonist finds out that his beloved loves another. What begins as an idyllic afternoon bobbing up and down on the water then ends with the realisation that a relationship has ended.
The mood of the song mirrors the narrative, shifting quickly from ethereal, lilting and summer-y into disquieting, sinister and suffused-with-disappointment. It is only one of three ballads I wrote for the album. It has a dream-like quality, but the dream is a sad one. Love has died and won’t be resuscitated.
The song also references The Odyssey. The landscape in Musandam was what I could only describe as “epic and mythical”. It reminded me of parts of the Homeric legends, in particular, the tale of Odysseus and the sirens, those dangerous half woman-half birds seeking to lure seamen to their death.
Unlike Odysseus, our main protagonist isn’t tied to a mast, and so when the sirens begin their song, some midway into the number, he is as good as lost.
Enchanted by their voices , he slips quietly into the water, away from his beloved, and swims steadfastly towards the shore, seeking release.
The island he swims to is inhabited by the Lotos-eaters… and he finally find release, or rather, oblivion.
Again, best enjoyed with earphones.
On the boat that day, we sat by each other / Your hand was barely touching mine. / And I asked you then, but you stared at the water / “Was it all a waste of time?” /
Then we took our tops off and lay in the sun / “So I heard you love him now, is it true?” / And we passed these screaming cormorants / I thought the water was so blue.
You said, “Nothing’s ever simple. / We must all move on. / Even when we’re happy / It never really lasts for long. / Nothing’s ever simple. / Soon we’ll all be gone.” / And all I wanted most to hear was “I love you, and I’m sorry.”
Then we saw the dolphins in the water / And one came up to touch my hand. / And I thought, how easy life is together. / And how hard it is to be content.
So we reached the island with crumbling ruins / And we docked the boat beside the island. / We got out our gear and dove in the water / And the water was so crystal-clear. / But the reef was covered with sea urchins. / The reef was dead!
You said, “Nothing’s ever simple. / We must all move on. / Even if we’re happy / It never really lasts for long. / Nothing’s ever simple. / Soon it’ll all be gone.” / And all I wanted most to hear was “I love you…”
“Nothing’s ever simple / We must all move on / Even when we’re happy / It never really lasts for long. / Nothing’s ever simple. / We must all be strong.” / And all I wanted most to hear was “I love you…”
On the boat that day, we say by each other. / My hand was barely touching yours. / But you didn’t see as I slipped in the water. / And swam away to shore…
I swam away to shore…
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