For some sad reason, this video cuts off about half way through the second song, so you need to watch it on YouTube instead. Basia Bulat is a Canadian singer of Polish descent. She’s adorable and plays weird instruments. What’s not to like?
The first song “The Shore” is done entirely on a pianoette–she may be the only singer to play one. The pianoette is a zither-like instrument with a strummed section and a hammered section. Her voice is low and breathy. And when, during the second verse, her backing band’s harmonies come in, it’s quite breathtaking.
The second song is done on guitar. It’s a Polish folks song–she says it was a big hit in the 60s in communist Poland. She sings it in Polish and says it was a great way to learn her Polish words and pronunciations. “W Zielonym Zoo” means “In The Green Zoo.” It’s cute how happy and smiley she is as she explains this song. It begins with just her on guitar and it’s quite a delight when Holly Coish on ukulele, Allison Stewart on viola and Ben Whiteley on bass join in.
Her brother Bobby Bulat joins her on percussion for “Heart Of My Own.” This song is louder and more dramatic and a lot of fun. The final song “In The Night” is one she normally plays on the autoharp (see, unusual instruments) but she didn’t have it so she plays a rollicking guitar version with the full band (there’s some great violin solos in it). Just before it starts she says that if it sucks, don’t use it. It doesn’t suck at all.
I really like Bulat’s music a lot and this is a great way to witness it up close. And here’s a picture of a pianoette.
[READ: January 8, 2015] “Ash Monday”
I wasn’t sure how much I would like this story (same old intro from me) because I didn’t like the main character (or one of the two main characters). Dill is a delinquent. He’s 13 and with a car (well, he has the car, he just cant drive it). And hes loves the smell of gasoline.
When his mother tells him to goes outside to light the grill (as he does most nights–his mom doesn’t cook in the house apparently), he puts gasoline in it to light it up. On this night he discovers a rat in the grill, so he takes the opportunity to dose the rat with the gasoline and set it on fire. (If you’re squeamish, there is also the death of hundreds of chinchillas although that is from natural causes).
We don’t learn much about Dill’s mother except that her husband is gone and she is looking to date someone new.
The scene cuts to the next door neighbor, Sanjuro Ishiguro (Dill calls him “Itchy-goro” and once called him a motherfucking gook). Ishiguro is a respectable businessman. He works long hours often getting to work before everyone else. And although he gets along with his workmates, he is definitely not one of them. They like to ask him about sports when they know he knows nothing about it.
Sanjuro is perturbed by Dill and his love of gasoline. Especially since this is the dry season in California and the wildfires, while not close to them, are running rampant in the state. When he sees the flaming rat run into the weeds he quickly runs out to the yard to hose of the dead creature.
Sanjuros’ wife is Setsuki. She wishes they hadn’t moved to America and she misses her home country desperately. They speak Japanese at home and she strives to make her home and garden as Japanese as possible. They have a number of Buddha’s Belly plants in the garden. Of course, the raccoons have a feast in their garden, much to her dismay (it’s a coincidence to read about raccoons in this story after reading about this in Doctorow’s story yesterday).
She wants to live where they do (a house at the end of a road at the top of a canyon) because she is afraid of Americans, all Americans. Since she sacrificed for him by leaving Japan, he has sacrificed for her by living in a neighborhood that he hates.
Obviously with a dry season and a boy who loves gasoline (and the title “Ash Wednesday”) a serious fire is inevitable. But I really loved the way it came about. Boyle really has a way with storytelling, even if I hate some of his characters.