tour and new album!
6 new songs and almost 40 minutes of music available ONLY at the shows.november 17th ---Philadelphia, PA
psalters year in review
For years we have promised and hoped to be in regular contact with our fellow psalters and friends worldwide. So many people in so many ways have allowed us to do the work of a psalter all these years. Your prayers, support, love, and passion is why we can engage in all this mischief. Yet rarely do we ever tell you all WHAT we have been doing with your help. Starting with this year in review we intend to dramatically change that. We want to keep you up to date on what has been happening, what we are thinking, and what we are doing in the future....all with the hope of giving you more opportunity to be involved in the work of psalters as we keep on walking. So here is the map of our exodus through the last year and a half. It begins in the Negev....
In later 2008, Captain Napkins and Count Tabu traveled to Israel and Palestine. The primary reason was to take part in the World Christian Gathering of Indigenous Peoples (http://www.wcgipnz.org/home.html) , the seventh of its kind learning and celebrating how many peoples around the world are worshiping our Savior through their traditional cultures. You can see video we took of demonstrations some of the tribes performed of their different worship styles.
The other half of the trip included crossing many Israeli military checkpoints to go into the West Bank, seeing first hand both military aggression and various forms of resistance. We can better imagine how if Mary and Joseph made their trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem today, they would have to cross through more than 20 of these checkpoints. We spent time with ordinary Palestinian kids, in community art centers, and with peace workers with the Mennonite Central Committee (http://mcc.org). At one point we were dropped off by a taxi near the entrance to the refugee camp we were staying at only to see cars flooring it in reverse away from where we were heading. We were let out in the middle of the street as police and Israeli soldiers were shooting rubber bullets and percussion grenades at teens throwing rocks with a skill and speed that made it clear they don’t play much baseball. There was the uncomfortable feeling of watching a bully harass the little kid, or a mother beat her children, or a husband beating his wife. –That was the feeling throughout our time in Israel to be honest, and i think a good way to sum up the current climate in an otherwise extremely complex and ancient ethno-political struggle.
Palestinians, and, more often, outsiders acting
in the name of Palestine, have committed horrible acts of violence on
Jews. It must also be remembered that
millions of arabs and others around the world possess a hatred that does not
differentiate from Zionist politics and the humanity of Jewish people. But the reality on the ground at this current
moment is the govt. of Israel is acting like a bully to an entire population of
people. That is what we saw all along
the 30 ft cement walls erected throughout the Holy land and that is what we saw
and captured as we got dropped off at a refugee camp. You can see some video we shot of that moment
starting at the 2:45 mark. The Holy Land is indeed full of holes, hurt, injustice, and yet a sense
After this trip we began more formally setting up our base of operations in Philadelphia. Our core group has been morphing and developing, and the newest rendition is not only part of the same local church (http://circleofhope.net) but lives within a few blocks of each other in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. As the congregation was renovating the building we met in, we proposed to build into the plans a space to begin a huge endeavor-the Croatan Training Center (http://gonetocroatan.org). We are all learners, and are also various teachers. Under Count Tabu’s leadership and direction we're seeing the dream slowly come into reality. Our teacher base expanded relationally to others who have learned and taught in other countries. We have a variety of classes going: three levels of West African Drumming, West African Dance, and Brazilian Samba drumming. It is also our primary practice facility, sharing with samba outfit Philly Bloco (http://myspace.com/phillybloco) as well as the central location for recording. The space itself is yet to be completed as far as sound proofing, so we're having to make even more considerations for our residential neighbors and church activities. We have used our west african drum and dance classes to lead assemblies and presentations at elementary schools and centers throughout the region. Some of these schools in Philly don’t even have the resources to provide textbooks to their students for basic classes, let alone the funding to provide any sort of arts program.....so the kids really love it when we come. We have also performed for several different AIDS benefits, global sex trafficking awareness events, shelters for victims of abuse, and programs offering inner city youth access to God’s great outdoors. One of our favorite moments came just this last month when we performed for K -3rd graders at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. They had made shakers in anticipation of our arrival and were dancing and shaking as soon as we started. It was an amazing site to watch the kids faces light up as they put their hands on the skin of the Dounoon (African bass drum) as we played the rhythm. Not that they needed to. Though the students couldn’t hear, they could feel the vibrations of the drums as we played....and they certainly could see and join in with the dancers. It was quite a celebration for everyone in the room! (you can view pics and video of this event and others here, and at the Croatan website here)
Last Spring we began to undergo a first for psalters: we accepted an invite to compose and perform music for a new play directed by Lear Debessonet, "Quixote." The vision was to take the 16th Century Spanish story of the impossible dreamer and let 30 members of an inner city church (many of them chronically homeless) work with renown puppet makers, professional actors, dancers, and us currently not so homeless psalters. All were integrated together into the dancing, singing, drumming and acting. Ten of us psalters lined the balcony hanging over the audience and actors below. Upwards of half the play was filled with our tunes urging Quixote onwards....and we even had a few lines here and there. The play ran for several weeks, with the soup kitchen where the play was held serving dinner to the performers and audience alike. I can’t find any footage of the actual performances, but there is a great photo mash-up video of our rehearsals that gives an idea of the experience. Watch it here.
The play received a lot of press, and we in particular got some good feedback. The Philadelphia Weekly even voted us the 2008-09 winner for best original music score in the entire Philly/New Jersey area going up against dozens of big production plays and countless other local playhouse pieces! Psalters is now officially “award winning”!! woohoo! (view press quotes here)
Last October we co-hosted a “Gathering Around the Unhewn Stone”. The conference focused on Biblical themes of Sabbath/hunter-gatherer economics, rewilding and resistance. Ched Myers led us on a re-reading of our biblical origin stories in an attempt to shed light and give hope to our current economic and environmental crisis. There were also panel discussions and presentations on topics such as primal parenting, practical rewilding, and a report from a women’s anarcho-primitivism and Christianity conference held in the spring. Other speakers included Jenn Leblanc, Andrea Ferich, Andy Lewis(who also helped organize the event), Lily Mendoza, Joel and Charity Cimarron, and a host of others. There was also some good music. About 300 folks stayed with us for the weekend and played their part. Audio of the seminars are posted on our site here.
In June the political turmoil in Iran galvanized a resistance movement desperate to wrest some basic human rights from the clutches of a crude, deeply violent regime. Within hours worldwide protest organized by expatriates joined in solidarity with the struggles of their brothers and sisters back home. We joined in with the demonstrations here in philly. Then later we met up with Sepideh (the beautiful persian vocalist heard throughout our last album) and some 500 others at U.N. headquarters in New York. We hope to continue engagement in this ongoing tragedy. Strong resistance now can avoid war later. Supporting those taking a stand now is important...no matter how small the act. We plan to include our own version of one of the rallying songs of the movement in Iran on our upcoming album.
Speaking of which after 4 years and many delays...we are finally in the process of recording a new album! Ten songs are ready for tracking ...at to which end they are engaged. An additional 5 or 6 songs bear different stages of composition that may yet find their way toward preservation. By and by, one way or several, blood will spill in print the 5th of November, Lord willing. In the interim a drop or two dropped in demo form could make itself known sooner to wet the pallet for the parched.
The drought will continue for us this festival season in regards to the road, though we will play locally until the album is complete. During that time we plan to head out for a couple weeks making a general B-line for Waco, Texas on November 22nd and then back with shows splattered and strewn across the vicinity of that route, mostly in the immediate days preceding.
So that covers a lot of the news for now. My hope is to provide regular updates from this point on. It is a shame that so many of you have put so much into supporting this work over the years...yet rarely get to find out all of what that “work” is that you supported! So we’ll be staying in touch....and hitting the roads of dirt and stone in one way or another.
for our First Love, our Hope, our Pillar of Fire....and through His Mercy
i really appreciate all the feedback on this. It was a tough decision
but PAPA will be postponed til next June. On the positive side a great
deal of work done now can simply be applied to next year giving us a
head start and much less excuse to push it back yet again!
There are several other events happening this year for folks who want to get together in a PAPA like fashion.
Our dear friend and artistic genius pal (you know him as Mr. Jon Felton) is organizing a small outdoor festival in southwestern PA called Common Ground July 9th-11th.
Jesus Radicals is hosting their annual conference this year in Portland Oregon August 6-8th..ish.
i'll fill you in on more details on this stuff and other things going on this year.
And us psalters might have a few tricks up our sleeves for summertime fun aswell....so watch out!
we are considering wether to have PAPA this year or not. Our goal was to have it every two years...which would mean it is due....but we got a late start. we have done some preliminary work to get a handle on the feasability, and have determined that it still is something that can be done this year. Most likely it would take place in western Illinois July 28th-August 1st on a campground with a lake and a lot of land. Other possible sites are in Ohio, Maryland, Michigan, and Georgia (sorry western folk!) The question remains, however, wether people think PAPA needs to happen. The basic vision has always been to have a central gathering for all people who care about living more justly under God (Papa), and are experimenting, failing, succeeding, learning, living --how to do that. It is a time of encouragement, trading ideas, gifts, and even trying out together some of the ideas we talk about. Do people feel a need for this to happen this year?....or can we wait til 2011? Please give feedback if you have any at all....but do it quick....we must make a final decision by March 1st! write me: email@example.com
2/24/10mp3's of the "Gathering around the Unhewn Stone" are being posted here .
Don't forget to register for the "gathering" which will take place Oct. 16th-18th. About 100 folks already have. Updates have been made throughout this site including the "press", "projects", "contact", and "tour" sections. Still no updates for the "about" section. Someone pointed out to me the irony that our link for "history" says "coming soon".
We are co-hosting a conference called "Gathering Around The Unhewn Stone" from October 16th-18th. Ched
Myers will be leading most of the lectures but a number of others will
too...and they are all great. Ched is awesome. Psalters
will be playing a full set as a full band, as will Theillalogicalspoon,
Lesser Beggars, Aimee Wilson...and we will all join forces to lead
worship and liturgical activities throughout the weekend. Think
of this a little bit like a mini-PAPA fest, but perhaps with deeper and
more radical explorations into the Biblical critique of civilization,
and instead of camping you will all sleep on the floor in our building
here in Philly(you're gonna love it!...no honestly i think you will).
For more information and to register just click
Our training center, the Croatan Studio, continues to expand with new classes and bigger ideas. In particular we have added Brazilian batucada(samba) drum classes. The teacher, Mike Stevens, just got back from Brazil and he is amazing. I am taking the class myself. It is really unbelievably fun....so if you are interested and live in or near Philly come on out. West African percussion and dance classes are also available. Check out our website here.
the play has gone well and has been selling out. The last performance was probably the most fun...as it was a special viewing for homeless scattered around the city at various shelters, half-way houses, and regular visitors at the soup kitchen the play is performed at. It's a neat place for a play cuz it is directly across the street staring back at the Kimmel center (a new $400 million dollar performing arts venue). Anyway the audience that night was very animated...hootin and hollerin at some of their homeless friends who had lines in the play....or were dancers....or who are performing as psalters with us up in the balcony. Come see the play if you can. There are still tickets available for the first week of June. All info on ordering tickets/times/directions etc. are in the Tour section of our myspace.
Cornerstone, Europe, Quixote, Croatan
From May 21st to June 7th we will be performing the musical score for a new stage production called, "Quixote". Front page articles in the Philadelphia City Paper and the Philadelphia Inquirer describe the play in more detail. Honestly, they aren't very good articles in my opinion...but it is fun to be in the paper! We have cancelled our Europe tour and also cancelled most of our U.S. tour, including Cornerstone. More about that and the Croatan Training Center etc. in the coming days.
November 5th 2008: b-sides cafe at Messiah College in Grantham, PA. show starts at 10pm. cost is free.
This will be a unique show for us with a unique lineup of folks. Come see us. It's been awhile. Probably the only full band show til spring as we are currently busy writing.
Our time in Israel and Palestine was very good, very fruitful. We'll post some video and tell some stories soon i hope.
The JFP tour was amazing.
A wonderful director from New York, Lear DeBessonet, has asked us to provide the music and perform for an all new play based on Cervantes' classic novel, "Don Quixote". Learn more about the play and her work here:
more thorough news soon let's hope
-Captain Basil Kru NapKins
we are on tour now. Just got done with Ichthus in Kentucky. We are now at our own fest (PAPA) building
the stage, setting everything up with all the other communities.
Registration reached 1000 (our capacity this year) over a month ago so
unfortunately if you didn't register you can't camp on the grounds. I
think you can still come during the day though. Go to papafestival.org
for info on that. Then we begin the "Jesus for President" book tour
and i am pretty excited about it. Count Tabu and i play about 12 or 15
short songs during the presentation by Shane and Chris. I posted one
example on our myspace. It is our version of the "Magnificat"
which is the song Mary sang when she was told she was pregnant with
Jesus. We updated the tour schedule with exact locations and times and
other details. Come say hi...but don't make fun of the bus! (we will
be repainting it as soon as the JFP tour is over)
We are hoping to earn enough from tour to pay for travel expenses for me and Count Tabu to make it to Israel and Palestine. Every year we like to try and spend some time learning from a refugee population. In the past we have spent time with bedouins in Iraq, homeless youth in Philadelphia, and kurdish villagers in southeastern Turkey.
In Jerusalem we hope to spend a week at the "World Christian Gathering on Indigenous Peoples"
Then we hope to spend the rest of our time at the Deisha refugee camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem.
We are still trying to discern if we should go and a big factor in that discernment is if we can afford it financially. Right now we don't think we will earn enough from tour to go. Also we will play some small shows and street performances there...but we don't expect to earn much or even charge at all in the first place. So if some of you out there are loaded and think very strongly that this is a trip we should do then i guess give us a bunch of money! Otherwise we won't be going.
Not going to Israel and Palestine in the next few months might be just fine...but we are drawn to it at the moment...and the opportunity is there...and we think God would like us there...but we aren't sure...so we thought including you all in the discernment process would be a good idea.
okay back to work....see you soon
tour and future...and past for the presenti would like to fill you all in on a lot and with detail and depth....but well among other things i have some music to learn how to play in these next few days.
we're going back to our roots....the road.
come see us in the states, the
netherlands, and scandanavia
go to our tour section for the details
We're back from Turkey and Kurdistan with much to tell.
There is obviously not enough thanks and gratitude that can be expressed to the countless friends who got us there through prayer and support. Sorry it took so long to update you on our experiences. Consider this a lengthy first update. More stories will hopefully be posted over the next few weeks. Some more pictures will be posted too...maybe some audio. We focused a lot on video footage and had many hours of it. Unfortunately our bus was broken into in philly and all the tapes were taken, some personal things, and the video camera. I hope he watches it....there is some pretty good stuff on those tapes.
A lot of ground was covered. Close to 5000 miles of mountains, desert, salt lakes, forests, Mediterranean coastline, ancient ruins, and the ruins of incessant modern construction.
Going in we had our vague goals of befriending some kurds, learning their music, culture, and way of life a bit...maybe connect with the ancient church....and hear the struggles of both communities. All of this happened for us and more.
But I came away with an overall learning experience I was not looking for.
Turkey is a microcosm of modernization.
The country is undergoing massive public works projects. The economy is expanding at a rapid rate, GDP is blooming, exports booming. Integration into the European Union is being pursued aggressively...as can be seen by the prevalence of primo posh cars, clothing, and cafes. The trendiness of western Turkey in some ways is only matched stateside amidst the confines of Manhattan. However, Turkey has not fully realized its intended goal just yet. Transformation to the homogenized chaos of capitalism is still a ways off. It is not truly "modern". It is "emergent". Like the self-ascribed post-modern churches there is a veneer that suggests the upper crust of capitalistic culture. But the undergarments reveal the awkward industrial clumsiness worn by those still in their adolescence. Istanbul and Willow Creek have much in common.
And, like the many mini mega churches feverishly digging out the roots of Christ as they try to match the seeker sensitive conquests of Willow Creek or Lakeside, the Turkish government is passionately bulldozing the way for mini Istanbuls and Ankarras across the backs of ancient villages.
Personally I don't like it.
This transformation of Turkey is very reckless, brazen, cruel, and conspicuous. It seems to me Turkey is going through what America as a whole endured from the 1880's through perhaps the 1950's ...only in Turkey it appears like it is happening all at once.
Yet at the time we visited anyway they weren't done yet.
In the southeastern terrain that reminds of Utah there is a twisting knotted river called the Tigris. Along the banks are many villages that seamlessly mesh with the river's edge to the extent they appear as old as the Tigris itself....as if the river shaped and formed them as it did the round pebbles and canyon walls. Dug into many of these canyon walls are cave houses....thousands of them.....in some places so pervasive the canyon looks like honeycomb. Out of one or two of these holes some wire hangs out to conduct the pirated electricity. One cave home I saw had a TurkTV dish bolted into the side of the cliff.
We stayed in a village called Kesmekopru II. The 50 or so families were all sheep herders and farmers. Ransom spent the day in the mountains tending a herd of about 500 sheep and goats. They killed a young ram for us one night. As was the case everywhere in Turkey, much feasting and chai drinking ensued.
Americans had never visited this village before, and they had no idea who we were. We just showed up and invited ourselves. Yet they were quick to treat us like friends and not just guests. We taught the kids some psalters songs. No offense to all of you but they were the best audience we ever had! We played some soccer and got schooled by kids half our age. The hospitality throughout Turkey was amazing and is something they take pride in; but particularly in this village their kindness seemed extra welcoming and brotherly.
At any moment this village that has been there for thousands of years will be destroyed. It could happen tomorrow or a few years from now. One day the Jandarme (military police) will show up unannounced and our friends will be forced to leave their ancient homes immediately. Proud village leaders in their 50's who have made a life of protecting and guiding and providing for hundreds of his kin, like his father, and grandfathers before, will suddenly be sent to the city streets with nothing...unable to read and write. Unable to care for his family and friends. He'll have to watch helplessly as the women and kids shine shoes, beg, and are forced into making decisions between their moral values and standards, or having food and shelter.
Throughout Turkey there are the hollows of ancient churches interspersed among the mosques, museums, bazaars, hotels. Many of these were also churches at one time. It was difficult being witnessed to by several muslims as i stood in my hotel and began looking more closely at the walls and ceiling. Standing there enduring the tired phrase "Jesus is a great prophet" being offered into my ears yet again by my muslim friends as a misplaced olive branch i looked and heard greater truth with my eyes. The carvings in the architecture translated the story of this place for me.
My hotel was once an Armenian monastery. It was emptied sometime ago along with much of this city as part of what is known everywhere outside Turkey as the Armenian Holocaust. Hitler got some of his methods and methodology from what took place here, and a few in the city where we were staying unfortunately still had a pride in their past. The city, traditionally known as Urfa, was renamed Sanliurfa (glorious urfa) to comemmorate the particularly efficient success this city had in exterminating the Armenians.
In its 8000 year history Sanliurfa has seen more wars than rumors. There is evidence in the streets and buildings of seemingly every major empire to use the silkroad. The city walls look a lot like the layers of sediment and bedrock exposed by the cutting of rivers or highways, the difference being that in this instance the layers were rocks stacked by slaves of different systems and powers of different eras all preparing the settlement for war and conquest. The Ottoman, Seljuk, Hittite, Roman, Byzantine, Assyrian empires have all had their rocks and mortar on the massive walls.
I found in Sanliurfa particularly a writhing tension between the desire for unity and brotherly love among all; and the painful history, perversion, hatred, and greed that consumed this place with suffering time and time again. This tension was palpable in the hotel one night....a Turkish Night -as the festivity is named for the tourist bureaus. A huge 7 or 10 or i don't know how many course meal was seasoned with dancing and singing and laughing and endless gracious gestures between hosts and guests. On this night the guests, mostly Iranian and Syrian businessmen and women and us Americans, lounged facing eachother on floor cushions. The musicians played at one end and sometimes danced in the narrow isle in between when the food wasn't in the way. At one point all the Americans, Syrians, Turks and Iranians danced together and goofed around. It was a good time. It was a night where everyone wanted to be friends and welcome eachother regardless of any differences. Then, as we all were saying our goodbyes, "peace be with you"'s, "and also with you"'s, the lone Iraqi woman present that night came up to us. A Kurdish lawyer from the oil rich city of Kirkuk, she spoke to us with a quivering voice and tears almost held back. She said, "You must go back to your country and tell them...you must tell them all you have brought us is blood and tears...all you have brought is blood and tears." Then she quickly walked away. Suddenly the pain of thousands of years contained within the city walls, the suffering that trembled through the piled stones of myriad ages, the hurt absorbed and stacked, contained in cold carved rock, plaster...once again it seeped through....like blood through white rags.
To the southeast near the Syrian and Iraq borders lie the ancient town of Midyat. We were told this is where many Christians still live but when we got there all the churches were boarded up. Just east of there we found the oldest monastery in the world, Mar Gabriel. Founded in 397a.d. it housed a large library and some 2000 monks as recently as the 1960's. Now there are 3 monks and a handful of others left to care for the several large buildings. We met with the Bishop to see if there was a way we could build a relationship with the church here in America and perhaps in some way help. Bishop Samuel Aktash, with a full beard and robes that made him look a bit like an older Count Taboo without dreads, was a kind and resolute man but with the countenance of the heavy burdened and worn down. For most of our questions, including our offers to help, he kind of just shrugged and said, "hmm" or "i don't know"....his answers and manner conveyed more of a solemn perseverance that seemed to fall short of actual Hope. They speak Aramaic (the language of Jesus) yet are banned from teaching the language to anyone. They are "permitted" to be Christian, but are not allowed to share it. At one point he told us, "you have heard the great stories of the martyrs. Here we are not killed anymore, but we are not allowed to live. We as a people are being made a museum like this monastery. We are living martyrs."
Throughout the southeast we were followed by the Jandarme (military police) and they harassed most of the people we came in contact with, eventually forcing us to leave the entire region. Everywhere U.S. made planes, tanks, helicopters screamed and growled at the Kurdish villagers. The furthest east we got was Siirt. This city was the hometown of our kurdish interpreter, Mustafa. A carpet shop owner from the mediterranean coastal city of Izmir, the most modern city in Turkey, Mustafa hadn't been to Siirt in over ten years and he was excited to return. He had heard that life was much better than when he left. For the first time Kurdish could be legally spoken, and pressure from the European Union had suppressed the practice by the Turkish army of systematically bombing or bulldozing villages at will.
Before we even had a chance to stop anywhere the Jandarme led us away from the city to a mountain vista, with no people anywhere. They told Mustafa, "we will be the guides today" and proceeded to take us to worthless museums and government sponsored Kilim carpet makers surrounded by more guards and army personnel.
After a few hours they suddenly told us we were free to go. A little surprised and relieved, Mustafa took us to his favorite lamb chop sandwich shop. It was a lot like being taken to the best cheesesteak place in philly, but not the place the tourists are taken to. The place the locals go. We all sat down in the back, Mustafa got a moment to catch up with a few old friends, and we began to exhale a little. But within a few minutes some guys with cameras posing as newspaper reporters showed up harassing Mustafa and surrounding us. The Jandarme were back and it was time to go. We headed to our van and found the street full of plain clothes officers watching our every move. Our interpreters were getting very anxious to leave the region and head back east. The Jandarme weren't the only people watching us. Everyone was.
We were getting anxious too. We had hoped to go to Sirnak and maybe spend a few more days in Kurdistan. Now it seems we were being forced too early out of the culture and people we had come to be with, to learn from, to walk beside. Months of prayer and work, thousands of miles traveled for a handful of moments. Anymore opportunities seemed at an end. So, while we were all gatheing up to head out I snuck off down an alley a bit, hoping to escape the Jandarme long enough to have one more brief connection with the people. I was immediately surrounded by maybe 50 kurdish men and boys, several standing within a couple inches of my face.
They asked me where i was from. They asked me what my favorite Turkish soccer team was. They asked what i thought of Bush. Then they asked with one word what everyone there really wanted to know. Kurdistan? Kurdistan? As several asked with a low voice everyone else squeezed in closer, as if that were possible. I knew what they were asking, and it was the question we wanted to answer. We are not exactly for Kurdistan or the struggle of the P.K.K. (a Kurdish militia group), and the interpreters with us in fact were very much against both. But looking in to their eyes i could tell that they were asking much more than wether or not i supported their political struggle for a nation of their own. They were asking, "do people outside of Turkey know about all of the suffering we have gone through?" "Do they care?" "Do they stand with us?" "Do they fight for our freedom, our way of life, our right to be Kurdish?"
My heart leaped and sank, my soul wrought, my face wrinkled and eyes darted. Everything in me wanted to shout out, "yes! we are with you! How can we help? We know how you have suffered, it is why we are here!"
But authorities were everywhere, very likely a few of the 50 crowded around were Jandarme, and if i said what i had come to say in that moment, i could have endangered the lives of those associated with us, let alone the people in front of me asking the question. Silence rolled in. Silence so thick if it were fog you couldn't see. Just seconds before the bazaar where we stood at mid day rush was as loud as ever, perhaps more than normal with all the talk about the americans walking about. Now the whole street seemed to stop, crowded around me, leaning in to hear my answer. It was like one of those moments in life when time seems to stop. One of those rare moments when you are at a turning point and fully aware of it. What do i do? For what seemed like forever, probably 5 seconds, i didn't move, speak.....just looked at each of them with a blank stare as i prayed. Finally my gaze fixed on the person i had been talking to most, a young man of about 20 wearing more dirt on his face and worn clothes than Muslims (they are clean freaks) usually allow. I said nothing. Just smiled as articulately as i could trying to say with my expression what i couldn't with words. He nodded as if to say he understood. I hope so.
A moment later the fog lifted, the silence broken by Joshua our guide who had tracked me down. The Jandarme had spooked him plenty and his thoughts were with his wife and kid as he pushed us to leave. As i got on the van i heard from Ransom he had a similar experience as he was invited into a cafe by some locals, only to be pulled away from the conversation before he had a chance to really start one. We left Kurdistan that day heavy with opportunities lost and Jandarme on our ass.
When we thought they were no longer following us we stopped for a moment to have some chai with Mustafa's uncle, only to find Jandarme already there harassing his family. Angry and frustrated, Mustafa left his homeland with a new understanding of what his people are still going through.
Turkey wasn't just sadness and lost opportunities however. We visited cave churches and an underground city built 20 stories down that dated from the 7th century and earlier. The christians used them to escape persecution from muslim invaders and others. It was an amazing and haunting experience walking through the caves. I subconsciously started chanting Sepideh's version of Agnus Dei and it seemed like the caves came to life and sung them back. I know it's called "echo" but i am telling you the echo felt deeper and ancient, as if the liturgical hymn reminded the stone what had taken place there centuries ago. I couldn't stop singing it, except a few times to sing the Trisagion. The caves compelled me to sing almost the entire time we were there.
One experience that captured and heightened the mystery of God for me was our time spent in Konya. We went there for the Mevlana festival. Mevlana means "guide", and it is the title of the 13th Century poet/mystic Jelaleddin Rumi. He was also the founder of the Mevlevi order of Sufis or the "whirling dervishes". Sufism has fascinated me since I originally learned of it and Rumi's poetry has been a companion and balm for my soul for years. In his writings and devotional practices are the very heartbeat of anything in Islam that is about peace. He has entire divans about Jesus and it seemed that here in these Sufi communities was the best potential for interfaith dialogue. The Mevlevi order uses drumming, traditional folk music, dancing, chant, meditation, and highly symbolic clothing as devotional practices and artistic reminders of our true spiritual state. Very much the same ideas that are rooted in psalters experiments, with different theological and cultural focus of course. The Sema, their main ceremony, which means "the remembrance", represents a mystical journey of man's spiritual ascent through mind and love to the Perfect. Turning or whirling towards the truth, he grows through love, deserts his ego, finds the truth and arrives in union with the Perfect. Then he is to return from this spiritual journey as a man who has reached maturity and is closer to the perfection, so as to love and be of service to creation. And then do it again and again in the next rotation around. The dervishes head-dress represents the tombstone of his ego (dying to self), the outer black cloak, the ego itself, which is flung off as they whirl to reveal a white skirt that symbolizes his birth to spiritual truth. They spin from right to left with one hand open and upward to receive from God, the other open and down to bless the Earth. Alot of very beautiful and intense mystical spirituality that would take a lifetime or more to grasp. There are Sufi orders all over the world with different devotional practices and focuses and many of them were in attendance. We met master musicians from Iran and were able to hear their songs and jam together in "Flying Mehmet's" beautiful carpet and kilim shop, we witnessed a performance of a father and daughter led sufi band from Azerbaijan, there were groups from Bosnia, South Korea, Russia, Syria, and of course the Sema by the Turkish sufis. I even got to meet the 22nd great-grandaughter of Rumi herself. She is currently one of the organizers of the Festival and works with the Mevlevis in Konya. She invited me to sit next to her in the best seat of honor at the Sema. She was very excited and gracious to me and it seemed that it was primarily because we were the only americans. Tens of thousands of people from all over the world at one of Islams most celebrated heroes remembrance celebration, and we were the only americans. (or so it seemed to me.) There was a peaceful, calm, yet pressing urgency coming from our conversations that felt to constantly have the underriding question of ---"do you see?, do you understand? All muslims do not want to conquer. I don't believe that all Christians want to conquer, even though that is mostly what we have seen. Let us throw away our stereotypes and our fear and our hatred and see truth and beauty in each other. Please. Sit in this seat of honor and go back to america with an idea of peace." That happened for me that night. I felt very close to the Holy Spirit after witnessing their ritual, so close that even the massively polluted night smog seemed more like a mystical haze brought down on the city from the focusing of so many spirits.
I remembered Rumi said: "Friend, our closeness is this--anywhere you put your foot, feel me in the firmness under you. How is it with this love that I see your world but not you?' The Qur'an says--'we are all returning.' I agree. This night helped me to become determined on conciously returning to my real home. Not everyone is. It is 4 am. We leave the tavern and walk the town aimlessly. A policeman stops us and asks--'why are you out wandering the streets in the middle of the night?' 'sir', we reply, 'if we knew the answer to that question, we would have been home hours ago."
One of our main goals in traveling to Turkey was to learn about refugee culture and i definitely learned a lot about that; in some cases in unexpected ways. About an hour south of Konya in central Turkey we spent a week in the small mountain village of Esenler. This was a poor farming village. One or two families had a car, but the rest either had donkeys, or in some cases ak-aks (small tractors that looked like a cross between old modified ATV's and something out of Mad Max). We split into ones and twos and were paired up with different families throughout the village. I was sent alone to an old couple at the edge of the village. Medeneh was a strong, heavily wrinkled, hunched over woman with a constant beaming smile on her face. Ibrahim was a stocky, little guy whose nickname means "never speaks". My host didn't talk much, and neither spoke any english. They were hoping to be hosting a woman who spoke Turkish and were visibly disappointed to get a man who could say hello and not much else. They wanted a woman who could help Medeneh, since the culture generally doesn't allow men to help in the kitchen, and Ibrahim wouldn't let me build the well with him (i found out later it was because he thought i would fall in!). It is impolite basically to do anything less than pig out when you are offered food...but i couldn't even do that well enough because my stomach was still recovering from some bad water out east. Ibrahim soon gave up trying to talk to me and would turn on the TV to the news. Every night i had to watch the propaganda with him about a Turkish soldier who was killed by Kurdish "terrorists" in Sirnak on the day we had planned to go there...the day we SHOULD have been there. The Turkish media used this incident, the facts and circumstances of which were grossly misreported, as an opportunity to further rally hatred towards the Kurdish people and culture that much of modern Turkey never sees in person. Ibrahim was buying every word and was open about his disgust with the Kurds. One night the media even had the theme music from "Braveheart" playing in the background as video of hundreds of family members were flown in to Istanbul to publicly weep over the flag draped casket.
I felt worthless, helpless, and extremely out of place. What was the point? When we were gathered together Count Taboo, dubbed Ali Baba by the locals, helped me see the light. He said, "the cultural awkwardness and helplessness we feel in a small way helps us understand what a refugee experiences all the time." He was right, and the rest of the week i stopped feeling trapped and started learning to recieve all that God was teaching me. It was an amazing week in that village learning from amazing people.
Despite the racism and political/religious problems all of Turkey was rich with culture, good people, and a lot to say. We were profoundly blessed to experience much of it. Near the end of our trip, as i stood in the theatre of Ephesus where Paul started a riot for compromising the profits of businessmen, i tried to summarize in my mind what Turkey as a whole had to say to all of us in the church, and one theme stood out among the rest. Like the rest of the world, Turkey is sacrificing its God given wealth of beautifully diverse culture, family oriented simplicity, and awe inspiring frontier for a nationalistic system of homogenized, mass produced, greed oriented chaos delivered on mountain leveling, river daming roads and power grids ....flooding out and paving over any village, culture, religious or ethnic group that impedes the polluted progress. The refugees get in the way, the ancient church gets in the way, the ancient rivers of scripture are stopped. Turkey is an emerging first world country. Should the emergent church follow the same path?
His Grace and Guidance be received,
-Captain Napkins and Count Taboo
We leave for Turkey tommorrow!! Thank you so much to all of you beautiful people who have been praying for us and offering your support, advice, and love. This trip is only possible because of you and we are so grateful to our King and to you that we will be able to go. We will be overseas until Christmas and then taking some time to reflect and compose towards this experience and we hope to be traveling again to share with you no later than may. Let us follow the pillar of Fire through the wilderness and look to Him for our Hope in the new year. Grace and Revolution be with you.
If all you wanderers haven't heard yet, we are planning a month long trip to Turkey this November. We will be working and living with Kurdish Refugees, hearing their stories and learning from their way of life. We will also have some opportunities to meet and learn from local musicians and spiritual leaders, as well as visit those ancient cities we read about like Cappodoccia, Ephesus, and Istanbul.---We are looking for venues or ideas to fund-raise for our fall tour, which will last from early Sept. to early Nov. If you would like to host a fund-raising event for us please call as soon as possible(734-945-3225). Also, we have opened up a ten-day portion of the trip to all of you who want to have this experience as well. It is only $1900, and if you are interested in this, contact: www.adventrek.org --As always, thank you to all of you beautiful people who are living your faith, see you down the road.
The new album is here!! Through many dangers untold, it has been completed and will be available at all our summer tour dates as well as through the site.
It is entitled: "The Divine Liturgy of the Wretched Exiles"- Your new unabridged hymnal for revolution songs to incite exodus. Also, thanks to everyone who made PAPA Fest come true--you all are beautiful. Check the signposts as we have some new staging points on the tour schedule. While we have breath, may it not be in vain!
Train de vie!
THANK YOU to all of you amazing folks who blessed us on our first travels west and of course all of our old friends as well. We are back in the hills trying to finish up the new album to have it ready for this summer-as well as the details for PAPA FEST 2006 check out www.papafestival.com
Also we are hoping to be able to visit the middle-east this coming fall. We are in the process of arranging a trip to primarily Turkey which has a large concentration of UN refugee camps. We would be engaging with primarily Kurdish people, but also folks from Iran and Iraq. We also would be able to engage with worship leaders, musicians and spiritual leaders in Turkey and possibly Iran and Afghanistan as well. Please pray for this and if you are interested in helping us fund raise for this by either monetary donations, booking a fund raising concert or any other ideas please contact us:
Summer tour dates will be posted soon-so watch the sign posts.
Until we can rally round His Fire and beg to feel again
Grace and Revolution be with you.
We are deep in the hills. The birth pangs of a new liturgy are lasting longer than expected. Yet soon shall the grease flow, soon shall the black land shark again burst forth out of the wilderness to barrel down your city streets. Time to paint your face. tell the children to gather round the fire. the western wind is finally blowing, check the signposts, we will be with you soon. Polish your swords and be ready to yell.
Meet you at the cross-roads you wretched vagabonds.
Information translated thru: Tabu NoirLeon
Well we're just about finished with this
tour and thank you all for the wonderful interactions, food, and
sharing your homes. In the next few weeks we will be spending our time
building out the new bus (including painting it black) Although this
new bus is missing a nose, we wish to make the outside more armor like.
If you wish to help with the building,
or the painting, (or have any armor)
or if you would like to open your home to psalters mob for
recording purposes give us a call.
Also the photo page is now up and running, you can find them on our media page.
(infomation translated through Jonny Vibrato)
Ok, here's the story:
We've finished up this portion of the recording for the new album and we're headed out on our three week tour tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn. The new bus is prepped and ready for it's maiden voyage (sort of) and we'll be playing just about every night in a different town, so anyone who wants to catch us should get a chance to do so. All of the show dates have been confirmed and added to the tour page, so feel free to check it out and see when we'll be playing in your area.
We've also added some new mp3's to the media page; three brand new songs that will probably end up on the final version of the album to be released early next year.
That's all the news for now, but we'll be updating periodically throughout the tour and updating our myspace page as well.
Don't forget about the PAPA Festival!
Welcome to psalters' new online home. We're still working out some bugs, but all will be well soon. We've added some new content to the site, so feel free to poke around and see what we got laying around. Napkins has suggested that I introduce myself, but as I am not so good with introductions and whatnot I'll just say that my name is Pneuma, I'm from Texas, and I hunt zombies and build websites. I'm also heading up the electronics department of the psalters arsenal of sound. With that out of the way, let us press on to more important business...
We have a new bus! We've added another ship to our fleet, which we have yet to christen with a name. If you have any ideas for what the new ship should be called, feel free to drop us a line. We're open to pretty much anything...with the exception of titles that include the names of food items...but other than that, go nuts with it. Thanks to all who prayed for us on this and also to those who supported with their donations, we honestly can't thank you enough. God has blessed us with an incredible family, and we wish we could thank everyone personally.
Our new tour schedule is up in the 'Tour' section. Check it out to see if we're coming to your town or perhaps one close to you. This one's going to be a short tour, just under a month. After the tour we'll be residing in Missouri for a bit while we work on the new bus and organize our winter tour which should be getting started in January/February. If anyone feels compelled to come out and help us with the new bus, drop us a line! We'd love to have some help, especially if you have any experience in contruction or carpentry, as well as tools, seeing as how we'll be short on them. Between the eight of us, we probably couldn't build a birdhouse, so any help that we can get is definitely appreciated.
The new album, 'Liturgy' (working title), is pretty much done being written and is being recorded as we speak...or as I type and you read...or maybe just as you read...I'm not sure how that should be worded, but in any case it's being recorded right now. It should be done and ready to release not long after the holiday season, we're shooting for February.
What else...I think that's it for now, but check back soon since I've probably forgotten something and it will come to me at 4 in the morning.
Ok, I knew I would forget something. PAPAFest'06 is being organized and planned, more info on that is coming soon. I think that's all for now...but, as we've seen, there will probably be things that I've forgotten.
Keep it real.
As some of you may know Our ship, the brave Black Bus #7, is full of mechanical "cannon holes" so to speak, and now we are in the market for a new bus, so we've created the psalters corporate SUPER BUS fund 2005.
We're in Georgia working on composing a new album and praying about the next step for the project.
We have added Commodore Aerial Pneuma, an electronics specialist/zombie hunting pirate to the team.
.Our ship, the brave Black Bus #7, is full
of mechanical "cannon holes" so to speak, so we are also in the market
for a new one. If you have any leads on how we might economically
acquire a new bus, or would like to donate towards the cause, please
contact us.(firstname.lastname@example.org) Anything helps.
Also, we are going to be doing a winter tour, so if you interested in having psalters in your town, e-mail us at email@example.comIn more pleasant news, we are celebrating our first year on the road, and we want to thank you all for being a part of it. We got to play a service at our home church , Circle of Hope in Philly, a year to the day from the day we first became homeless troubadors. Thanks to our "others" and spirit warriors there for being family to us. We've met a lot of inspiring people on our journey and hope we've been an encouragement to you as well.
Thanks to Deb and Charlie for bailing us out in a bind, again.
His kingdom come...
We are in Duluth MN camping out in a grocery store parking lot waiting for our bus to get fixed, and so it seems that unless you have an injector for a 7.3l navistar diesel and can install it in our bus in the next 20 minutes or so we won't be able to make it to reba house sunday or monday. The show at the library is still a go though. We have added a stop in philly and perhaps a couple more will arrive so stop by from time to time.
P.S. we are now on myspace music.
our new tour of duty is posted. Click on the shows link below. On may 28th in ohio we are doing a live recording. Friends from Ballydowse, the Simple Way, Circle of Hope, Sepideh, Mihran, and others will be there. It is a full participation event. You will be expected to partake. You can come to the rehearsal the night before.