Monday, January 20, 2003

Review of Winter al-Hafla, Part 1

I say part 1 because I hope to post pictures from the event very soon. It was wonderful. I had a great time, and it is getting good reviews from everyone else. It is one of the best SCA events that you can go to in my opinion. The fact that the venue was moved did not make that much of a difference in the quality of the event. Much of the usual crowd was able to attend this year, and proved that we can transform any hall into an Ottoman/Persian feast for the senses. Here's how it goes: the host provides the space and food, the guests provide entertainment. Attendees brought their own carpets, cushions, and hangings to decorate the hall. There was a "meze" table or "day board" of snacks supplied throughout the day, and then a huge feast of two courses (first a stuffed chicken, and then a stuffed leg of lamb) and a dessert table were provided in the evening. The feast was held in a "Persian" fashion, whereby guests were seated at several long rows of low tables upon cushions on the floor. I liked this because it encouraged more chumminess with your neighbor, but it forced the merchants to pack up and leave early. Speaking of which, there were several merchants selling everything from middle-eastern inspired garb to drums. I couldn't get away without purchasing some henna supplies: some oils and kimia henna from this vendor.

Music, Sweet Music...

But the biggest part of this event for me was the music. It was one of the rare opportunities for me to play with some of my favorite musicians and learn from them. This time, I had the rare privilege of playing with Paul Ash, aka "the hurdy-gurdy guy." I remember the first time I saw him playing at Pennsic. He came to one of the parties at our camp and played his unusual cello-sized hurdy gurdy. I never saw or heard anything like it before and I was captivated by the sound. I bought his CD and it quickly became a favorite. It was the highlight of my day to be able to sit down next to him and play along with him. We (the entire ensemble, which included percussion, an oud, a flute, a clarinet, and myself on violin) played one of the songs from his album to a packed dance floor. It was also my privilege to play alongside Sadika, who together with her friend Mimi Spencer, were very important influences. Mimi has published several books and recordings, without which we probably wouldn't be where we are, musicwise, today.

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