A sendoff from Elyria, Ohio
By Shigeyo Henriquez
The weather was incredibly warm the last few weeks of the tour. When they arrived in Chicago on February 16, it was still winter. We were wrapped in winter coats, scarves, and boots. By the end of the tour in Elyria, Ohio, we needed short sleeves and lightweight clothes.
Shopping and shopping was the story of the ensemble. They came back with bags and bags of new clothes, new electronics, and gifts to bring back to China. After shopping, the women put on brightly colored dresses and new shoes, and the men wore new shirts. They looked sharp in their new outfits!
This was the fifth week of the tour, and yes, we were all getting a bit tired—but no one showed it at workshops. The first workshop in Elyria was at the Murray Ridge Center for students with disabilities. As always everyone loved Tarim’s music and beautiful dance. You could see it on their smiling faces. Some of the students in wheelchairs joined the dance at the end of workshop.
On the evening of Tuesday, March 20, we gathered at the Beth K. Stocker Art Gallery with ethnomusicologists and local musicians. David Badagnani, director of the Cleveland Chinese Music Ensemble, organized the gathering. He was so thrilled to be able to see and touch the Uygur instruments. On top of that, jamming with Uygur musicians was like his dream come true! It was an unforgettable experience for the local musicians as well as Tarim.
We all felt something special at the last concert at the Stocker Arts Center, maybe because it was the final one. During five weeks of touring the Midwest, we must have met thousands of people and children. And then it all came to an end.
I truly enjoy traveling with musicians from all parts of world and visiting small communities in the Midwest. How else would I ever know Uygur people or the hospitality and warmth of small communities?
After five weeks on the road, I got to know the individual members very well. They are fun, goofy, appreciative, love to shop, have good sense of humor, and show their emotions from time to time just like everyone else. So often I wished that I could speak their language to understand the details. I used Google Translate on my iPhone, which helped tremendously—I spoke in English, and it translated and spoke in Chinese. For some of the members who were not comfortable with Mandarin, we used gestures and pen and paper to draw. Somehow we got the point across to each other.
Tarim’s music is unique, and I found it very different from traditional Chinese music. The instruments are quite different—Ghijek, Tambur, Rawap, Dap. I had never heard these names before the tour. They are quite small, yet the sounds that come out of these instruments are surprisingly full.
The most amazing performance is their dance. Two beautiful girls in bright, red silk dresses dance to the music, using their fingers and eyes to delicately express the emotion of the music. During one of the performances, they have six porcelain cups balanced on their heads. Then they twirl and spin, their dresses float, and the cups keep spinning. Toward the end they remove each cup one at a time while still spinning, move to the center of the stage, and then pour water from the last cup to the others. The audience takes a deep breath and releases a sigh of “Wow!” Who knew there was water in the cup while the dancers were twirling and spinning?
I watched the dance hundreds of times during the tour, but every time I couldn’t help myself saying, “Wow!” It was truly amazing and magnificent. And the dancers never broke a cup.
Now Tarim has gone back to China to their families and friends, and I miss them.