Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Monday Night Jam at the Nilaja, Near the Bastille

September 13, 2011

Last night I decided it was finally time to step out of my habit of attending the two usual Paris open mics – the Tennessee Bar and the Galway – in order to try a jam session I had been hearing about, at the Nilaja restaurant, which specializes in African food. Actually, I intended to check out the Nilaja jam and then go to the Galway, but that soon proved impossible as I got sucked up by the atmosphere and other things at the jam.

I had heard about the jam through Facebook where I recently discovered a Paris jam session and open mic information page run by Doréa SisDee, a singer who runs an organization for musicians called La Factory Afropéenne. It’s a collective of musicians and Doréa organizes jams, plays in them, does all sorts of different events for musicians around Paris. Doréa had discovered my Thumbnail Guide to open mics in Paris on this blog and had been really praiseful and encouraging and enthusiastic.

So it was no surprise that she was the same in person as online. What WAS a surprise was when I arrived in the middle of one of her songs and the stage was beside the entry to the restaurant and as I closed the door the door handle fell to the floor with a loud metallic ring. She stopped, I picked up the door handle and apologized for doing that as a replacement for a triangle…. She then recognized me, asked my name, and then introduced me to everyone, the whole audience of 20 or so people who were there at that moment. She was effusive in her praise for my world travel to jams and open mics and my blog.

I was thankful, but suddenly felt enormous pressure about playing in the jam – more so when I realized that it was a real classic jam session kind of thing where musicians all go up together and play jamming music while someone sings. I am still at the very early stages of my development in that area, as I usually just play my own memorized material rather than improvise with a group. Of course, that is fabulous exercise and essential for any musician. But I was scared as hell, and felt very inadequate, given that I felt the audience rightfully had great expectations of the world traveller.

Having said that, the jam was very warm, wonderful, laid-back, and there were some interesting musicians – very interesting ones. My personal favorites were Isiah Shaka, Doréa and Marianne BP, who more than anything recited a text she wrote – and reminded me of Patti Smith, and of course, the genial Hervé Samb, who organizes these jams every Monday night.

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