I took up playing the ukulele when I was 10 years old, sick in bed with a chicken pox that would never leave, it seemed, for when old sores healed new ones replaced them. The itching and the silence in my room were deafening, so the ukulele helped me get through my illness. Its tinkle was like a benevolent angel by my bed. An uncle, who lived with us at the time, taught me to play each evening, and I started with “three-chord songs”: Wooden Heart, Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer. Yes, it was Christmas time too – bummer!
I have always played the guitar (I graduated from the ukulele sometime in my early teens) and did not want to let the music die. So I roped in others to join me. Bread, Butter and Jam, was my first band (me and two other guys). We did “curfew parties” when people were confined to their houses during the ’71 insurrection. In exchange for good vibes and happy memories that we evoked for our audiences through our music during that sad period, we asked only for food (a beer was also welcome, although we were underage) and a place to stay over the night until it was safe to go out on the road in the morning. When the band members increased, we added Marmalade, Bacon and Eggs to our moniker, and when our name became unpronounceable without salivating, we shortened it to Breakfast. But the music ended when some of the guys immigrated to Australia from the old country after the insurrection ended– people were always immigrating from the old country due to some internal conflict or other, that’s how I landed up in Canada.
Oh, but I did not let the music die. Other bands followed in Canada: Monks R Us (shortened to The Monks just in case we faced a lawsuit from another R Us outfit popular with children), Memories of Sri Lanka (shortened to Paradise – after all, the old country was a paradise before it became a hell), Playtime, Shade (versions 1, 2 and 3). But they all, except for the last, ended and there were horribly loud silences in between.
That is why I hang onto the music and hope that the guys in the band (there must always be a band) will do the same. Otherwise, strains from those old folk songs we sang, the Don McLean and Simon & Garfunkel pieces, juxtapose and whisper in my ear, “I saw Satan laughing with delight, the day the music died…Hello darkness, my old friend…”. And there would be no way to fill that “sound of silence.”