Paris 2: Tamar-Kali’s Psychochamber Ensemble, and…

I have wept in a new way.

Tonight I got to see Tamar-Kali and her Psychochamber Ensemble. I don’t know if words can capture this experience, but that never stops me. it’s already a beautiful thing to see a stage full of women, almost all black women.

i spent the hours before in a hammam full of naked french women exfoliating and massaging each other, and was already in the space of loving the sacred spaces women create, the sensual communications women need.

the first sounds of these women tuning their string instruments (2 violins, a viola, a cello and 2 bass) started a tremor through me.

when Tamar sang it cracked me open. i didn’t notice i had tears all over my face til my friend found them. the sound of her fierce black operatic rock voice against and with the strings, with her two stunning background singers, was an emotional gift. knowing she composed every sound, seeing the control as she unabashedly aimed for perfection, I wanted to give her a MacArthur genius award. the work is spare, whole, holy.

I got to see one of Nina Simone’s last shows, at the beacon theater in NYC, as a non-graduation gift (I had just failed French, the irony of which never escapes me, especially not when I’m indulging my inner Francophile in Paris). I actually got to spend an afternoon with one of the women who gave me that gift years ago, walking the center Pompidou and being amazed at how life has gotten us to Paris.

I was reminded of the show because Tamar-Kali’s presence on-stage gives me so much Nina: she is not afraid to be vulnerable, to be precise, to be completely dramatic and beautiful and crude and elegant and complex and demanding, of the audience and her singers and her musicians and most of all, herself.

I feel deeply inspired, and moved. this came at the perfect time in my trip, when I was needing a good cry, and needing to be reminded that I can feel so much, and that I can create from that place, the trail is being blazed by so many powerful women.

at the end of the night we found ourselves waiting for a cab with one of the festival producers, and it came out that she helps people in the last moments of their life, a sort of doula for the last day, the time of death. I was so excited to hear this, and shared about my budding work as a birth doula, and we ended up speaking of the love work needed at the beginning and end of the human cycle.

I feel like everywhere I turn I am being faced with this calling, to be a doula, to attend to people’s most tangible life and death moments. I am on sabbatical and it’s been part of at least one conversation a day, the calling isn’t taking a break.

she also reminded us that in Paris, the people live in the suburbs, sort of inverse of most u.s. cities, a good reminder of the bougie nature of this leg of my trip. the rest of the journey is mostly in homes, with people, and I am glad about that.

I have thoroughly loved Paris, every single second of it, it’s woven into me. and I am ready for the next place, which is utterly new – Barcelona!