Out here, in a quiet neighbourhood in LA, I am safe.
I am, and have been since the beginning of my travels, taking precautions to ensure I remain healthy and lower the risk of carrying the virus. I am also still able to enjoy my time and have been blessed with many amazing opportunities to make music, share connection, and have fun out here in California. I am now however, avoiding larger social gatherings and events (which is easy, because most things are being cancelled anyway), and being even more careful than usual. I urge you to do the same.
What I wanted to address in this post is not health, but the effects that the pandemic is having on public events, classes and day to day life across the world. Namely, the effects it is having on those of us who are self-employed artists and musicians. I am watching as festivals, gatherings, gigs, and workshops disappear, and as flights get cancelled, stopping travelling artists from being able to attend their own bookings.
Myself and ManMan Mui, a taiko artist and musician that I work closely with under the name Project Ikigai, unfortunately have to cancel our show in Torrance, LA. A show that I was just about to announce here, but it seemed the virus beat me to it!
We are taking this necessary measure to minimise the spread of the virus within the community here, and honour the new recommendations set in place. With ticket sales going really well, a small venue with many attendees in close proximity is not worth the risk.
Since we are both so excited about this performance - perhaps our biggest show yet - we refuse to let a virus stop us. So, instead of cancelling completely, the show will now be recorded and live-streamed. We are still in the process of figuring out logisitcs, and working out ways that we can make this financially viable for us, but I am excited to see how this new venture will force us to find new creative solutions.
Rehearsing for the show will bring a new challenge, since we will now have to break up the performance pieces into smaller ensembles so as to honour the recommendation of keeping a good distance apart from each other. We will be practicing in small groups, and piecing the concert together bit by bit over the coming weeks.
I am inspired by all the other working musicians and artist out there who are also finding new ways to deal with the mass cancellations. I am grateful for the wonderful world of technology that is allowing us to stay connected even as we physically distance ourselves from one another.
I wanted to take this time to ask you what you can do to help your friends / neighbours / loved ones who are self-employed or running local businesses and losing a lot of work during this time. Whether that's buying digital work, nipping to the local cafe while it's still open, sending money for a coffee, or whatever other way you can think of to offer support. A little help goes a long way. Already I am seeing people within this community lend a hand to each other (figuratively of course, I recommend replacing hugs and handshakes with elbow bops or shoe kicks), and showing exactly what it means to be in this together.
I am keeping fingers crossed that I will be able to return to Europe and work as usual, I have many events lined up that are the main source of funding for my journey as it's the spring and summer months that provide the most work for me. So far, I have been living on savings since I am not allowed to work in the US, and am relying on the upcoming festival season to be able to continue. In the meantime, I suppose this is a good time for me to find new ways of generating income whether I am at home or on the road. Worst case scenario, I get to go home and be with family a little earlier than planned. I'm okay with that!
Travelling is all about learning to go with the flow, taking new opportunities as they arise and finding yourself in situations you never thought possible. So this is just another unimagined direction amongst many, one to explore slowly and mindfully. The last three months of travel have prepared me well for that. I have learned how to stay calm in unexpected situations, make the most of what I am given, and (perhaps the hardest lesson to learn) accept help wherever it is offered.
While for me, this is a minor hiccup in my plans, for many it is more than that. I hope that my friends in Italy who are in lockdown can continue to keep spirits high, and I hope that everyone who is avoiding crowds and events are able to still connect with friends either in small parties or online. Social isolation can be devastating, so lets all make the effort to keep in touch with each other, even if it's from a distance.
More updates coming soon regarding Project Ikigai.
Stay safe, stay healthy.
If you think you're washing your hands too much, you're not washing them enough.
P.S. even if you are in the low-risk bracket, you could still be a carrier. Don't be selfish and risk spreading the disease to those more likely to suffer. Take precautions! No, it's not an over-reaction, nor is there need for panic. It's just better to be safe than sorry.