Tuesday, November 20, 2012
The deserted highway undulated in the blackness like a silk ribbon with a yellow stripe running down the middle. The windows of the big school bus opened wide to the balmy night air that eddied and flowed through the living room area near the driver’s seat. The Manhatten Transfer crooned a jazz tune from the stereo. Marj sat behind the wheel with her nightgown billowing around her lap as Tony, our Roadie, stood beside her laughing softly and helping her steer. Cece peered out from the front of her bunk where she lay with her arms folded under her chin. John and I were engrossed in a ferocious cribbage game, which I was loosing. Marty tallied up the day’s T shirt sales and Muzzy fingered scales on the oud. Janet and Jennifer had already crashed for the night and their bunk curtains swayed gently in the breeze. As our cribbage game folded and John triumphantly put the set back up on the shelves that held our games and books, tapes and stereo, I looked around, marveling. I was rolling down the highway in the Central Valley of California in the middle of summer, on my way to another show at another club, just one of many in the middle of a month long road tour. Riding the coattails of the hippie era, in the midst of disco fever, I was part of a Middle Eastern dance and music band that cut a rock n roll swathe across the west for 10 glorious, tumultuous years. We made it up as we went along. We tried harder, worked longer, took more chances and entertained more people than anyone or any group in our genre. We played Middle Eastern fusion before it had a name, created our own dances based on photos in books, glimpses in old films and from our imaginations. We carved our own niche, created our own style, scandalized, delighted, educated and entertained everyone around us, including ourselves. We were Bou-Saada. From 1974 until 1984 the Bou-Saada Dance Troupe was my life, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Several times a year for 10 years we took to the road and played shows in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and British Columbia, Canada. At our peak, there were eight of us, plus a roadie who drove our bus and ran our lights and sound equipment. At various times, my two children, Jennifer’s little boy, and a dog or two were aboard. Sisters and brothers, groupies, friends and lovers occasionally made their way onto the Kenworth Pacific converted school bus that became our home and haven. We played music, we sang, we danced, we sold T shirts, we spoke a language of our own invention and navigated our way through the landscapes of people’s imaginations with the northern lights as a backdrop, the rolling plains of Montana as our stage, the towering Douglas firs of the B.C. coast our stage set. We ran the rapids of the Rogue River, did street theater from Portland to San Diego, played grimy taverns, outdoor arenas, Shriner banquets, rock n roll concerts, Army bases, colleges and universities. Isolated in a small corner of the northwest, we made it up as we went along. Every one of us could play an instrument, sing, dance, run a sound board, set a stage with backdrop, lights, monitors and mics, plug them in, and put them away. We made our own costumes and our own drums and used duct tape in a thousand creative ways. And while we never made a living from it, it was our life. We will forever be bonded by the experience.