Music fills the streets. On the right corner is a man with an accordion and a missing tooth. On the bank of the Thames stands a girl playing a keyboard and harmonizing with the sounds of the lapping waves. On the descent into the underground is a band beating drums and singing upbeat tunes. The parks are singing a handful of songs at the same time; the boom boxes and acoustic guitars mix to make a collage of sound. I’ve never heard a place so alive with sound. Birds and planes and trains and water. Every little town and corner has a beat of its own.
One of my favorite moments, one of those picture perfect times when you look around and breathe and think, “I’m here, I’m in London,” happened last night. I was walking on the bank of the Thames. The tide was low, rocks and sand and bones and tires were showing their true colors, shining in the strange sunlight. The water sounded peaceful and a dozen or so tourists and hometowners made it out to watch the sun set as boats chugged carefully through the waves. A man was standing on the side of it all, his electric guitar plugged into a small amp, churning out the sound. The music was peaceful, a few loose strands of a note plucked and then left to fade into oblivion. He kept at this rhythm for minutes, allowing the careful strums to rock us all to a shared harmony. If I closed my eyes, I would have pictured a white sand beach. Turquoise waves crashing as surfers took the last ride of the day. But my eyes remained open, not wishing to miss the scene. I looked around, taking in the dirty water as it crashed on the ankles of river walkers, the travelers and bikers as the came up from the underworld, the historic and damp tunnel that allows one to walk under the Thames, under liquid history. I watched as ships glided past the O2 arena,and on down to bigger and older buildings. This is the London I have grown to love. One of peaceful moments, a river with its own rhythm, and people of every shape, size, color, nationality mixing together to make a type of soundtrack for the city.
London is music for me, not only does it make me sing (I find myself humming under my breath when I’m very content) but it makes me believe that there is music in the most unexpected places. I’ve never been to a park where revelers freely play music and dance and listen. I’ve never seen so many people carrying their musical instruments strapped to their backs, like a child being led to the next destination. And I’ve never been around a group of people that seems to love music as much as Londoners do. They have a pride for their homegrown talent but embrace every type of music that is imported in.
A group of us traveled to a jazz and blues bar a week ago. It was off the Angel tube stop and is called Round Midnight. Jazz and blues is not my thing, I know nothing of the genre though I do appreciate it. It surprised me how authentic the music was. When I think of London’s culture and musical history, jazz and blues does not come into mind. But, they embraced it. The club had such a fun atmosphere, there was dancing and shouting and a collected feeling of excitement. Each song reminded me of New Orleans but the feeling was so London. I knew I was there, I could feel it in my body as I danced around with my friends. London has pushed me to face new experiences, ones that I would have never had in the states. I’ve not only opened my eyes to things that I have been missing but I’m appreciating all that the world has to offer.
England has always been a country of music for me. Some of my favorite artists grew up and gained inspiration here. Mumford & Sons played to a 50,000-person crowd the first weekend I was in London, at Queen Elizabeth’s Olympic Park. Noah & The Whale studied in the countryside, Johnny Flynn was once found performing Shakespeare works at The Globe Theatre, Laura Marling performed at the Secret Cinema upon my arrival. The musicians of London are so entwined with the city that a love for one brings respect and admiration for the other.
**Stay tuned for my Greenwich Playlist! I’m looking forward to sharing all of the songs that encapsulated my time in England. And there are a lot of gems on there (subjectively, of course!)