Gilded Serpent presents...
Memoir, Part 8
by Zaharr A. Hayatti
I was practicing nearly all day, every day, it occurred to me
at last that Bill and Kathy might like a little peace in their
home. I had met many musicians at the Colby Street house, but
only one of them seemed serious about Middle Eastern music.
was performing with “The Floating Lotus Magic Opera Company”.
They were a truly astonishing group. When you went to one of their
performances, you never knew quite what to expect. One night,
at an outdoor evening concert in Berkeley, after the “surprise
Gamelan section” and just before end of the performance,
the cast members went through the audience distributing free home-made
whole grain bread. The next time I saw Don, I told him how delicious
the bread had been. Suddenly, out of the blue, he said: “Hey,
Zaharr, would you like to do some street performing with me?”
1968, there were no dancers performing on the street yet, but
that didn't deter us one bit. We started out by passing the hat
at Sproul Plaza on the campus of the University of California,
Berkeley. He would sling a big metal doumbek over his shoulder
on a heavy sash, and would pound out a variety of rhythms. His
drum attracted lots of attention! It was the first time anyone
had heard that.
Most of the
time, I wore a white gauze blouse with big puffy sleeves and a
long dark-green woolen skirt that would flare out around me as
I twirled. I contrived a sort of what I thought was a gypsy look.
Somewhere around my body, I would wrap the black and silver Assuit.
One day it would be a hip wrap, one day a veil, another time I
might just twist it into a neck scarf. Sometimes, on very warm
days, I would roll up just the front of my blouse and pin it in
place with a huge rhinestone Eisenberg brooch my mother had bought
in the ‘40’s. After my first barefoot performance,
I decided to wear a pair of knee length black boots.
a tambourine with felt-tip pens in a sort of “Avalon Ballroom
Poster”-inspired design, and tied a handful of ribbons to
Don would beat the drum, I'd bang on the tambourine, or work on
my zills patterns, and practice my belly dance moves. These components
were mixed in with some Irish Folk-Dance steps I'd learned in
the Irish convent where I grew up. My teacher, I hesitate to say,
did not have any concept yet of stage make-up and I wore this
hideous black eyeliner painted all around my eyes.
managed to draw huge crowds. Looking back on our act from my current
perspective: thirty-five years later, I cannot imagine what possessed
people to hang around watching us for more than a few seconds.
They actually threw money in our hat! I think it was the venue;
folks were probably needing a change from the anti-war lectures
and demonstrations which were the usual fare at Sproul Plaza,
or maybe they just hung around waiting for us to actually DO something.
just liked to hang out to see my bare stomach, which, can you
believe, was rare and daring in those days?
was a big event when Don showed up one day with an Iranian
Goat horn that he hung on a strip of colored wool around his
It had two
reeds with two sawed-off goat-horn tips fastened onto the reeds.
He'd clamp the horn in his teeth and produce a very unusual sound
by blowing through one reed or the other, or both at the same
time. There was really no distinguishable melody coming out of
it that he could control, just a louder noise! As I write this,
I can only shake my head and laugh at what we must have looked
and sounded like back then. What WERE we thinking?
One day, this
Scottish bagpiper named Chris appeared at one of our breaks, and
asked us if we'd
like him to join us. He actually played melodies. What a revolutionary
concept! He also made so much noise you could hear him from blocks
away. We were thrilled at the surge in the size of our audiences,
and finally had a group of raggle-taggle gypsies-o...
It was great
to have Chris around for other reasons too. I needed body-guards
at this point. It was just the bare stomach, I know it wasn't
occasionally had marvelously articulate hecklers. It WAS the
University of California, after all.
Religionists loved to speechify at, and intimidate, our audiences.
Sometimes they did it in English. On one particularly crowded
afternoon, I heard ”Jezebel!” angrily shouted from
somewhere at the back of the crowd. People moved far away from
an obviously angry man who seemed intent on blowing my act. He
ranted on and on, telling folks they were all going straight to
hell if they cast their eyes on this public display of woman-flesh,
(the stomach again, sigh…) I think that must have been the
day Chris, our bagpiper, suggested we consider street performing
over the bridge in San Francisco.
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more from Zaharr
Memoir, Part 7 Putting it together by Zaharr A. Hayatti
I planned a little treat for you today,” she confided, “let’s
see how this works.”
"I'd Rather Stay
Home with my Kids" by Amina Goodyear (chapter
asked her how to take it off, and she told me to figure it out
when I was on stage. Then I heard - "Our "guest"
dancer, Amina, all the way from upstairs!"
of Recommended CDs, 2004 update
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