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They make the roof boogie

Judith Fein

December 31, 2001

I do not know how this happens. We say we are going to have a New Year’s eve with music. Nothing is planned. Nothing is arranged. We say we are starting at 8 pm and we tell people to bring food. It’s all done by word-of-mouth. Then we just trust.

So, tonight was New Year’s eve. About 200 people showed up—teens, older folks, kids in their twenties, Americans, people who were born in Argentina, Peru, Israel, France, Germany, Jordan, Denmark, Palestine.... people from all over the world.

It is amazing how the right people always materialize. Not only that, but the right people bring music.

When I arrived, there was a Balkan music group who had brought a sound system, and they played and sang while people ate. Then they did a Muslim chant, and Fehti led a Sufi zikr. Somehow, more than a hundred people stood in the middle of the room, breathing, intoning, opening their hearts to Allah.

Next a group of Nigerian drummers took the improvised stage. People were dancing until they panted for water. The guys from Oshobo, in southwestern Nigeria, come from generations of drummers. They bring in the spirits of the ancestors, their drumheads vibrate with African power, and they make the roof boogie.

One woman, Pat, who walks with a cane, got up to dance and tossed her cane away.

After the drummers, Youssef sang the strange, winding, atonal song of the dolphins as everyone stood with their eyes closed, bending and swaying to the eerie sounds. Then he sang two gypsy songs which he had written as a boy and never performed. We were transported to Granada, to gypsy camps. He was followed by Consuelo, who was born in Peru, singing of love and peace with her famous guitar.

And that wasn’t all. Simma sang mystical Hebrew Chasidic melodies called nigunim. She asked people to join along. Gabriele and Sauti sang two German songs in the round.

Aaron, a modern dancer, asked people to put their hands on the parts of their body that most needed healing, and then he improvised a breathtaking 10-minute dance. His tall, lanky body can twist and bend and stretch to impossible lengths.

The food—where did the food come from? The 2 foot-in-diameter cake. The curries, chickens, salmon, Paul’s huge root vegetable dish, beans and garbanzos and salads and and and and and.

How does this keep materializing?

It has become normal for Christians and Jews and Muslims and Sikhs, for black people and white people and brown people to be together. Tonight, they just partied.

At 11:30, we did the impossible. At least, it seemed that way.

We all stood in a group, silently. Without talking, we each made physical contact with another person and moved, as a group, to the north, to bring healing to the north. And when we reached the north, we began to sing — improvising — voices blending — it was like the song of angels.

Then we made contact with two people, and moved to the east, singing melodies that arose out of the air. Then three contacts with people, and moving to the south. Four contacts and moving to the west, singing, humming, chanting, intoning. I wish we had taped the spontaneous song of open hearts.

At 5 minutes to midnight, we raced to the middle of the room, where there was a huge pot. We got stacks of $10,000 dollar bills “From Hell” that we found in a Chinese store.

We grabbed lighters, and lit the dollars on fire, calling out what we wanted to get rid of before midnight. People yelled out: solitude, anger, violence, being artificial, poverty, pain, being closed, and on and on and on.

At one minute to midnight we began the countdown: 60, 59, 58, 57...... 4, 3, 2, 1. At the stroke of 2002, we hugged and wished each other happy new year. Tribes Coffee House smelled from smoke, from chocolate cake, from lipstick and love and sweat. It was... ahhhh...... beautiful.

A group of people started to sing...and thus we ended another wisdom circle, wishing peace and happiness and freedom from illness and fear and violence to all.

I was really exhausted from emcee-ing and organizing, my voice was gone, and for a moment, I sat with Bill, who is so helpful in producing these Wisdom Circles, and wondered why in the world I am doing this.

Bill’s girlfriend Carol had the answer. “It has become normal for Christians and Jews and Muslims and Sikhs, for black people and white people and brown people to be together. Tonight, they just partied.”

“If you eat with someone and dance with someone and do ceremony with someone,“ said Bill, “you don’t want to pick up a gun and shoot him.”


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