“My parents grew up on opposite sides of the globe, coming from different circumstances and world-views. Despite their life’s hardships and trials, music was salvation even in the most remote of places.”
“My mother recounts growing up in the 60s and 70s in the Cayman Islands where the rest of the world seemed like a distant dream and records were a rare treasure, brought home by the men at sea and visitors from far away. She danced to the sounds of Harry Belafonte, The Beach Boys, and Bob Marley.
Meanwhile, my father was a teenager in war-torn Lebanon, saving up for his first record player. He couldn’t afford to purchase the whole thing at once, so he bought it in pieces. First came an Akai turntable which sat there for nearly a month while he and his brother saved up for the amplifier and speakers. Abba, The Bee Gees, and Baccara were among his best-loved records, as well as Boney M.’s hit single “Rasputin” which he adored, partly because it was banned in Russia. He and his brother would play their favorite tracks over and over again until my grandmother yelled at them to change the song.
At home, in a small mountain village overlooking Beirut, my father sought peace and refuge between fighting at the front line. It’s painful to imagine him at fifteen, a child soldier caught in the midst of a civil war. But during periods of ceasefire he would return home and join his friends at a house party. With a disco ball setting the scene, kids would bring bags of their favorite records to play. Once the Walkman came out they could bring the disco with them to the frontline. While my father waited behind sandbags with the other boys, he listened to mix-tapes of Tom Jones, The Bee Gees, Charles Aznavour, Chris de Burgh, and Fairuz. “When you put the Walkman in your ears you went to another world…” he says with a smile.
When I listen to his stories I am reminded of the immense power music has to lift the soul from suffering. I imagine those young boys bobbing their heads to “Stayin’ Alive” on their Walkmans as they envisioned themselves elsewhere; perhaps at a disco party.
My parents met at university in Texas, and afterwards they moved back to the Cayman Islands where I was raised. Although it had changed dramatically from when my mother was young, it was still “the Island that time forgot” in so many ways. I played on the beach and immersed myself in music. Throughout high school, I dreamed of travel and music was my ticket through which I discovered the world. I remember finding a few dusty records my parents had but never had a way to play them.
Instead, I spent hours playing classical piano and listening through my CDs and cassette tapes. When I graduated, my wanderlust and desire to learn took me far from home and I haven’t stopped moving since. I spent the first couple years studying theatre in New York City, and then I went on to Cardiff University in Wales where I got my Bachelor of Arts degree in Music. After traveling and living on “the old continent” I moved to San Diego, California where the adventure continues.
The years I spent abroad gave me an enormous appreciation for my parents and the peaceful childhood I had in Cayman. Those old records, which perplexed me as a child, now hold an entirely different meaning. It’s easy to take for granted the music on an endless play-list, which mindlessly plays in the background as I go through my day to day. But I’m grateful to have rediscovered an art to listening.
The ceremony of playing a record now is a beautiful thing. When I gather with friends to place the needle on the vinyl, I remember my mother and my father and their music. As the record spins in the fast pace-motion of today’s technology, we slow down and lose ourselves in the music and the great escape.”