Exile From Myself
As published in the Japanese magazine BEEAST
“If you want to be happy, be” – Tolstoy
I’m presently in Morocco, only 2 days in what is scheduled for me to be an 8-week residency in the utterly inspiring city of Tangier. I’m having a glass of red wine on the upper roof terrace of the Dar Nour, a magnificent guest house I right now live in, a place I already call home. In the middle of the kasbah of Tangier, I face the warm North African sun that generously offers a last display of its bright and vivid lights before slowly setting in a poetic fading evening motion. The wind gently caresses the welcoming surface of my face, fresh breeze from the sea, reflecting the pure blue of the sky, mirror of world, that steadily dances only a few steps from where I stand. The perfect scenery reveals the attractive charms of Spain, inviting me over and over through the sounds of the ocean… Too beautiful to deny, too delicate to refuse, too desirable to withhold.
I fell in love with Spain too many times to refute its charms and attractions on my skin, on my heart and on my soul. It holds a story that might have only existed in my mind, but Spain nonetheless holds a part of me I would never try to reclaim, even if time would want to take it away from me. Sometimes, memories are worth fighting for, are worth keeping alive, if only for another day, for another furtive look between the present seconds, slipping away, like snowflakes captured by kids chasing them with their mouth open are melting. Youthful treasures we tend to disremember as we grow always a little more worried everyday, as we mature always a little more forgetful, feeding the nostalgia of flavors we rebuke. Melancholia has no remedy. It’s living, truly living, that heals our cynical spirit from the fatalism of what we have left behind, that we like to report as lost or stolen, as if it made easier to bear the fact that we traded everything for a little truth we now need to cover with way bigger lies. Youth is a state of mind that defines our way of life… I guess.
Tangier is presently incredibly quiet for such a vibrant city, if not for the sound of children playing and laughing. I’m fascinated by its secrets… Here, silence is like a shawl covering the red lips of young women who offer mysteries to those willing to look in their glowing eyes, enigmatic masterpieces. In fact, it is difficult to believe that underneath this collection of tiny streets covered by an assemblage of countless buildings reside more stories than sounds can tell, reminiscent of the time silently passing before our wary eyes, powerlessly or passively surrendering, yet witnesses of our most precious moments disappearing as fast as days go by.
I came to Tangier alone, which was surprising for those who are very close to me and even more puzzling for the others. It comes as such a contrast to the way I live, to the reality I gave birth to. Already surrounded by wonderful people, who would leave on their own when the world’s biggest fear is to end up a shadow of unconvincing sounds echoing a happiness never lived? I might have needed this time to face myself… Or is it a sort of self-imposed exile to redefine what I so easily determined as being myself? We tend to easily concede to the alienation of our grief, emotionally consenting victims turned into a reminiscence of what effortlessly becomes an everlasting sorrow of compromises. Some people will constantly search to reinvent themselves. Others will die to find a reason to remain a simple fracture of what they believe they once were. As for me, drenched in the sun’s radiance, I don’t know much of anything, if only that I needed to come here somehow. If we are the heir of the world we craft, I wanted to breath its warm salty air as the unknown figure the Tangier brilliance offers me to dwell on… a stranger being smiled at like a friend, hugged like a son… More Henry than Alex, less Foster than anything else… And it feels good. Very good.
Waking up to the sound of the mosque speakers reminds me how distant cultures could be from a prayer to another. I haven’t seen many dawns on my own. It’s not how you feel waking up in the morning nor with whom you would love to do so… For me it’s more about why. I keep waking up in order to look at the awakening light that glares on the horizon, wondering what may be discovered beyond the invisible lines I designed by my own restraints, disallowing curiosity to explore. Untamed mysteries laying down at the very edge of the world I give life to in the darkest hour of the night, those are the places defining my early morning imagination. Maybe that’s why I came here after all, or at least the spark that led me here. But I guess I simply felt invited here, in a city that feels so familiar to me. A city whose feet stand on a continent of promises waiting to be fulfilled, of miracles waiting to be unfolded. A city whose eyes crave for the dazzling splendors twirling on the other side of the sea. So close that it feels like we can touch it from the tip of our yearning fingers on a day like today. So close that it feels like we may break its marvels only by our hungered sight holding its view, as fragile and magnificent as it is. Impermanent yet eternal.
The ideas of impermanence and eternity might be amongst the reasons why I came here. But one thing’s for sure, writing has always been a way for me to keep memories alive. Not as much in musing about the past as contemplating the majesties that different environments have offered me to find myself in. Maybe illness also compels me to lay down some life stories I might be the sole witness to hold on to. Time is a cruel reminder, especially when you need to compose with difficult health conditions. It reminds you the inevitable, all summarized in a cold, emotionless fashion. Some may see it as a sad and pessimistic perspective, while others may elevate it as a romantic type of gothic poetry. Personally, I see it as an opportunity to give life to the innumerable shades of reality I kept wondering about for so long, that I kept pondering about so carefully, so faithfully, so obsessively.
I wonder. I muse. I ponder. However much of an untameable beast of sorrows and grieves time might dress up like, I’ve learned that emotional bleakness can be turned into an eternal blissful jubilee once our true state of heart and soul is acknowledged. Joyful plenitude is a resilient dedication of faith in love and hope in life. As Russian poet and philosopher Leo Tolstoy so gracefully wrote: “If you want to be happy, be”… That’s what I’ve been musing about since I came back from Japan with Your Favorite Enemies last November, what I’m allowing myself to look for, what I’m more enthusiastic to discover, what I’m willingly disposed to embody. “Tokyo Sessions” is resolutely the profound incarnation of that major emotional shift in my life. As much as the album “Between Illness and Migration” was a metaphoric wish for my transitioning need towards life itself, “Tokyo Sessions” is the celebration of its embracement, of its freedom.
In fact, “Tokyo Sessions” is a present, a liberating gift. And with every liberation comes a greater sense of perspective. For me, it revealed that I never really took the time to appreciate much of anything in the last couple of years, that I didn’t taste much of the opportunities I’ve had the highest privilege to benefit from either, whatever the reasons could have been. This is also why, once “Tokyo Sessions” was completed, I decided to spend time with some of my loved ones. I invited Ben and Sef for holidays in Dominican Republic, went with Jeff to a music conference in Brighton, UK, made a 2-week tour of Morocco with Ben, Sef, Jeff, YB and Stephanie and went back to Dominican Republic with Jeff. After all of this, I decided to come back to Tangier, where we spent a few days in May, in order to give my bad sinus condition some seaside love, to get some desperately needed rest and to write a little, if disposed to.
Actually, I didn’t realize that my latest BEEAST publication was as far as June 2… I had to ask home to make sure it was accurate, which, in retrospect with everything that the last few months separating my publications were made of, definitely looks like a lifetime ago, enough of a long time for me to understand more about the passionate reactions and fervid interrogations towards my statement implying that “Tokyo Sessions” could be Your Favorite Enemies’ last album. It really touches me to realize how deeply significant our relationship, lived through the band’s words and sounds, is for you all. And as incredibly overwhelmed as I’ve been to witness the effervescent waves of love my statement created, I cannot bear the fact that it might nonetheless be. And if it was to be, “Tokyo Sessions” would be as much of a sincere completion to our unique journey as it would be the perfect disenthrallment needed for the creation of new words and sounds.
Who knows, I may find inspiration for another song, another album, another artistic project waiting for me at a street corner in Tangier, may it be an inviting smile, a polychromatic sensation or the grandiosity of a simple moment. As Hemingway said: “I know now that there is no one thing that is true – it is all true.” And I believe that it’s only through honesty that we can truly see the world as it is; we see it with the same level of honesty we have towards ourselves.
It’s now time for the night lights to shine over Tangier. I have never been so at peace to be… So simply happy. What about you guys? Was Tolstoy somehow a little right?!