Up in the hills, they told us, was a band that had been playing forever. The road lead higher and higher, through sparse, shrubby valleys. Hawks circled overhead, like black stars in the pale sky. We strode on, shoulders aching under heavy packs. ‘What do you mean, forever?’ Suzie asked our guide. He shrugged and smiled, showing three yellow teeth like sulphur chips. ‘Forever,’ he said. ‘They are wedding band. They play for first wedding. And it not over yet.’ ‘Whose wedding?’ ‘The world’s,’ he replied. ‘When everything marry everything else.’
They were playing on a verandah in a village caught in the jaws of a narrow valley. Behind them, the mountains faded into endless blue. There were seven of them – all men, all old. They were playing accordions, battered horns, brass trumpets, and trombones. Some were smoking as they played, dangling yellowed cigarettes from tight lips. Some were smiling; others seemed intent on their music. They played, but the music seemed a thing of its own. It scowled and leapt and swayed in the air, first brazen, deafening, then stately, murmured, endless. In front of the stage, a few people danced and watched, wearing flowing white shirts and tall black boots.
On the way home, with the evening swallowing the light around us, their music rang in my ears, a tune I could already not quite remember. ‘I didn't think they were that good,’ said Suzie. ‘I mean, I've heard better. They're just a klezmer band. You know.’ ‘I liked them,’ I said.
That night I couldn't sleep, although I was crushingly tired. My head whirled and roared with useless thoughts. I poured myself a glass of water and stood in the narrow window, breathing the darkness of those hills. I leaned my head out the window. If I listened very intently, I was almost sure I could hear the sound of a single trumpet drifting through the night.
Raphael Kabo @lowercasename