It was Saturday night in Melaka. The little old Portuguese fort city was booming with Chinese tourists, both young and old. They were pouring in off the streets, even down the little side street, to the Voyage Traveller’s Lounge. This bohemian, dimly lit room with high ceilings had provided me with a coffee for the past two days, but this night was my last night in Melaka. I didn’t really want to leave. I liked Malaysia. The people are friendly, the country is easy to move in, and I have seen a lot of unique places.
I was sitting in a dark corner, drinking lemonade, listing to this early 20’s Chinese girl sing and play acoustic guitar. The vibe here was unspoiled. The room was full of Chinese youth and one old French guy in a beret and tank top. This girl sang ballads in Mandarin, and then did a cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist.” Seeing all of these young people reminded me that I have been feeling really old lately. Every time I look in the mirror, I see my hairline recede a little. My thinking lines on my forehead appear more often. However, this acoustic set took me back to my adolescent days.
Many nights I can remember sitting in my car listening to music. Whether it be in a parking lot or my driveway, it didn’t matter. I think back to my musical palette when I was 17. Music was everything then. It was like my oxygen. It conducted all of my emotions and thoughts. I wasn’t listening to music. I was killing myself trying to experience the dreams that each 4 minutes inspired. I would have given anything to have Bono’s 80’s vocal talents. I would sink back into my driver seat, in pure relaxation, when Stevie would sing “Dreams.” I desired the freedom to drive when I would hear “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman. I was livin’ for the city and being followed by a moon shadow while planning to cross the ocean for a heart of gold. The only thing I knew to be true in the world was the honesty in Bonnie Raitt’s voice when she sang “I can’t make you love me.”
Patti Smyth said, “Because the night belong to lovers.” I was in love with music. Every lyric would cut like a knife, until I was drowning in my own passionate emotions. I could start my day in one mood and have an entirely different outlook on life after listening to 10,000 Maniac’s Blind Man’s Zoo album. I would have taken a bullet for music at 17. It gave me purpose. It was the reason I wanted to grow up. I would dream of the day when I was… well 24. I wanted to see the world. I wanted to have loved like the songs.
I never would have thought that I would be sitting in a cafe in Melaka, 13,000 miles away, listening to a Chinese girl sing sweet songs to me. Windows open, warm coastal air, faded hanging lights swinging just slightly. I sat in a broken down wicker lazy chair and just listened for hours. I didn’t understand the words she was singing, but oh how sweet they were. I felt the music. I felt her voice rise and fall and the emotions stir within me, like ocean waves. I knew too well the desperation in her voice as she sang sad songs. I let my imagination go when she switched back to English and sang Blondie’s “Dreaming.” I paved a road in gold and fell in love with music all over.
When did I stop truly listening to the music? I don’t think I ever did, really. All this time, I never stopped dreaming. However, somewhere down the road, I grew up and the music changed. It provides me with different things today, like ambience, and encouragement. When I would listen to my favorites, I would dream of being 24. I imagined all the things I’d be capable of at 24. I wanted to be old. Now I can smile knowing that I’ve made that dreaming 17 year old proud. But as I gather what I’ve learned between now and then, my thirst for more music has sent me traveling… go figure. I still love all those songs of my youth (actually they’re mostly from my parent’s youth.) But I love so many more songs now too. I never lost my love of music, I just lost those old songs.
Now days, I find myself listening to lesser knowns bands. I’ve grown to appreciate jazz, electronica, and the misunderstood. What I want out of music now isn’t for it to make me an emotionally stable person. I think I’ve got a few finger grip on that for now. I want something that keeps me stimulated, still dreaming. When I was planning this trip, my blog work was set to “At Home” by Crystal Fighters. When I pictured what China would be like, it was a “Razzle Dazzle Rose” thanks to Camera Obscura. Tokyo is best described by M83’s “Saturday = Youth” album. I know that in years to come when I hear Camera Obscura, The Radio Dept., or Bon Iver, I’ll think of my days on the road through Asia.
But sitting in that little cafe, in a crowd of strangers, I was reminded of my youthful dreaming. Just as my mom get’s a smile on her face every time she hears “These Eyes” by the Guess Who. Just as my aunt can’t help but sing along whenever Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” plays. I remembered what it was like to be so hopeful of what life had to offer at 17. Music was my outlet. Youth to me is described by those passionate songs of a boy still experiencing puppy love, still learning about life, and still yearning to travel. I will always have those songs to remind me of being 17, when I thought the worst thing that could happen to me was that I would be in a strange place, by myself, and jobless… oh how time changes us, yet we are never really changed.
I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul
Where I’ll end up? Well, I think only God really knows
I’ve sat upon the setting sun, But never never never never
I never wanted water once, never, never
I listen to my words, but they fall far below
I let my music take me where my heart wants to go
I’ve swam upon the devil’s lake, but never never never never
I’ll never make the same mistake, no never never
Cat Stevens, The Wind