Copyright  © 2017-2019 NINFA ARTEMIS

 

Chapter 2

THE SUCCESS

- Where did you most like to perform in London?

- I loved performing at all the spaces I had gone to. Those with the most audience were the ones in Camden Town. There, the people seemed to like to go out at the end of the day to hang out and listen to music. You can hear a lot of alternative music in that area of the city. There are also a lot of alternative looks like: really short hair, really long hair, long hair on one side and shaved on the other, multi-colored hair…etc. Sometimes the girls would wear long fake eyelashes and lots of makeup, and eccentric clothing. All these people made London more exotic and other worldly. I loved it there! It was the most “artistic” spot in London.

- Did you have any adventures during your performances?

- One day we were on our way to another open mic in the artsy area of Camden Town, where we had performed before. I always carried a list with open mic pubs/clubs and locations. I selected a venue from that list, but when we got there we were told that there wouldn’t be any open mic because there was going to be a soccer game on television and so the live music had been cancelled in order not to disturb the viewing of the game. I looked at my list of possible good open mic places and saw that nearby there was another bar, which served vegetarian food. After we arrived, I decided that I didn’t want to sign up. He asked me why. I said that I actually would like to perform there because there were lots of people there, but the problem was that they only drank water and juice!

- So?!

- That’s what he asked me, amazed by my reaction, “You don’t want to perform here?! It’s full of people! They don’t drink alcohol...so what?!” So, I explained my theory...

- Your theory...you have so many sweetie. Which one was it? You have that theory which would possibly bring an end to all nighttime crime: “Turning off the street lamps! Criminals cannot see in the dark and so they can’t rob from people or steal cars. Also, the stars would be seen more clearly!” Then there’s the theory about the dog pounds: “That they should be built next to residential areas because all the leftover food could be used to feed all the abandoned dogs and cats in that area.” Then there was the theory that suggested: “Eliminating from all history books, novels, movies and so on any biographical references to dictators, assassins and others which deserve to be forgotten and substituting these for heroes, altruistic, good people who would inspire millions!” You also had that theory that came from watching the roosters on your dad’s farm fighting constantly: “Their brain only thinks about fighting!” and you came to the conclusion that in an area or country with a large concentration of men, arguments, fights and disaccord were bound to arise. I’m anxious to hear about this new theory of yours which didn’t allow you to perform!

- On that day at that time and in that bar my theory was that if all the people there had been drinking alcohol they’d think that my singing was magnificent and that my songs were terrific, especially after their second glass! With all those people drinking water and fruit juice, I was psychologically unable to perform!

- You’re so funny! What did he say?

- He laughed as if he had just heard a really funny joke! He smiled at me and said that my theory was no good. He said I could easily perform for sober people and that they’d like it. I continued to insist and he decided to accept my choice. We went to another part of town. A forty-five minute underground trip took us to our new destination. I noticed that it was almost empty, but there was no turning back now because the other open mic had already begun. Noticing that I was disappointed, he looked at me and jokingly said, “Look, those two guys are really drinking a lot! They must be on their third glass of beer...Is this a good place for you to perform in?” I looked at him sideways, and tried to lift myself to get eye-level with him (he was much taller) and growled like a rabid dog ready to attack!

- So, you didn’t like performing that night?

- I liked it. People started filling up the bar and the atmosphere started warming up. There was a guy rehearsing by singing alone in a corner. Occasionally, he would attempt to clear his voice by making noises with his throat which were a little too noisy. The open mic started: a group of girls sang and danced flamenco, dressed in traditional garb accompanied by male guitarists. By their looks and accent this group seemed to be composed of English people; they were definitely not of Latin origin. Then, there were a few more acts – I was the fourth on the list. The fifth to perform was the guy who had been rehearsing and warming up his voice in the corner. The audience applauded. All of us were applauded before and after our performance. It made us feel good!

- Did the audience know that you were Portuguese?

- At the beginning of my act I said so. The first times I performed I just opened my mouth to sing; I wouldn’t introduce myself, my songs or the guitarist. The other performers were not like this...they talked a lot. They would give a long introduction to each song and make some jokes to liven up the audience. My guitarist would say, “You see? You have to be more like them! You have to talk a little...Do you want me to introduce us? I can do it. No problem. You have to captivate the audience!” I retorted that the songs are what had to captivate the audience and not me. However, in latter performances I forced myself to say something. For example, like I had done on the last Monday of August.

- Were did you perform?

- We performed in a really popular reputable bar in Soho which was known for being a great bar and also a great space to perform in because they had really good technical conditions for live acts. To guarantee a slot we got there earlier than the sign-up time. The bar filled up with artists and public quickly. It was overflowing! Do you know how the host presented us?

- No...

- He merged my name with the guitarist’s name. I would ask the guitarist to sign us up at all the open mics we went to. He’d write both down our names on the sign-up list. Because the hosts had trouble pronouncing my last name “Artemis”, he started signing me up simply as “Ninfa”. The guitarist’s initials were KAL and the host presented us as “Ninfa KAL” and pointed at the guitarist, not me! I smiled. I spent the night calling him “Ninfa KAL.” I always sang standing up and he’d sit beside me.

- Did the performance go well?

- Yes, really well. I introduced myself: “H-E-L-L-O!” I spelled the word in order to test the sound. The audience found it amusing (not aware that I was testing the sound) and enthusiastically replied “HELLO!”, clapping and giving me a warm welcome. I felt happy and continued, “I’m a bad singer!” There was a sepulchral silence. The guitarist turned and stared at me and smiled in surprise: is she talking to the audience?! In that sepulchral silence I thought, “I just wanted to make you laugh. I’m not such a bad singer! Ninfa, you’re in trouble!” Then I said, “I had a bad day! I’m sad!” In unison the audience let out an “Ooooh!” as if to say, “Really?! We hope it wasn’t anything serious! We hope that whatever it is gets sorted out!” I replied, “Let’s have some fun?” and I sang the opening to “Times!” At the end of this song the lyric asks, “Do you want to do it on the floor, in the shower or in a Porsche?” The audience immediately replies, “We want to have sex in the shower!” I smiled. Before me a singer/songwriter of about 20 years old had performed a song about one day getting old, really old, really sick, where days seem to have no end, sad and feeling like death surrounds us; one of his lyrics being, “death wants to eat us” which he sang extremely slowly as if he were dying and his fingers were getting stuck on sad notes on the piano: death wants to eat us…eat us…

- Then you show up and the audience loves you replying, “Sex in the shower”! Why did you tell them that you’d had a bad day and were sad?

- After that performance I would only have two more open mics: one on Tuesday and the other on Wednesday. I knew that I’d be returning to Portugal to my job on Thursday at that at 5 a.m. my guitarist would be heading to Sweden with his band. But today was Monday and we were still together. I liked being there with him. It was painful knowing that I’d have to leave. My mind was not taking this reality too well…I didn’t even know what to do with all the reality that awaited me after leaving London: being alone in Portugal trying to form a London band. My mind was tired of fighting, or struggling to try to get what probably makes me the happiest in the world. My mind deserved and needed to rest. It needed to go to a world of dreams. It needed me to tell it a happy bedtime story so that it could be happy for a while because it sensed that new fights were about to start up. “Don’t stress me out with more boring realities, ok? I’m tired of working! I need a vacation!” – my mind would say. I tried to avoid, as much as possible, thinking about the future.

- Oooh….when you talk like that you remind me of a tired angel who needs pampering!

- Wednesday at 11 p.m., without knowing it, it would all be over. Nothing would compare to that month in August. After this, a list of crazy events were about to fall upon me as if a jealous demon had decided to leave hell and chase after me, possess all the souls that I depended on and confided in and sabotage everything in my life. Everything was reduced to ashes, except me. This demon allowed me to glimpse into people’s sad souls, souls which I had refused to see as sad. This demon showed me my weaknesses and stabbed me until I was laid out on the ground full of pain. This demon let me live in order to develop my inner strength when stabbed by petty egotistical souls.

- Why didn’t you try to get a job in London and move there?

- I doubt there would be any vacancies in my profession. Besides that, I owe the studio money and I have to honor that commitment and pay that debt. I can’t go around risking more than I already have.

- I think the book is an excellent idea to make you known to the general public. Always be optimistic! Pessimism only brings unlucky friends! So, you were sad because you only had two open mic performances left, right? 

- Yes, it´s true. On that Monday, the guitarist kept pestering me about something as we walked around waiting for open mic hour to arrive (9 p.m.) It was 6:30 p.m. and we had stopped in a little park nearby which had lots of benches. He asked me what I was thinking about doing; if I was thinking about returning to London. I was tired of my life, tired of the struggles, stress, anxiety, sacrifices and solitude. The answer to that question required me to go on without knowing where I was heading, but I was willing to continue to try and sacrifice. I made a mistake by not saying that to him at the time; that I would keep fighting to be on stage. I was so afraid to let him down if things didn’t go well that I asked him to forget me.

- What did I just say? Pessimism only brings bad luck! You didn’t want to let him down?! Poor thing...Then he was the one that left you down…

- I wanted to say some nice things to cheer him up. I told him that one day he’d be working in New York; that he’d have his dream car, house and probably his dream woman and she’d probably come with big breasts! He smiled. He said that I’d probably get everything I was hoping for too; that in music age doesn’t matter; it is not necessary to be 20 years old to succeed. He said p. without knowing where I was heading, but I was willing to continue to try and I had to return to London and form a London band! He grabbed a can of beer, put it up his sleeve, lifted it in the air as if it were some sort of hose and drank from a small hidden opening and said, “You see? There is a solution for everything!”

- Why was it so hard to drink a simple can of beer?!

- A police officer was doing his rounds on foot nearby and could have fined him for drinking alcohol in a public space. He insisted, “You're going back, you’re going to form a band and perform!” I opt for pessimism and said, “Go on with your life and forget me.” It hurts me to say that and I start feeling down. This makes me get up and sit at the opposite end of the bench. I almost fall onto the ground because more than half of my bottom was off the bench. He turns to me and with his fingers raises the corners of his lips and said, “Hey, smile...”

- If he was being nice to you why were you being unkind to him by telling him to go on with his life and forget you?!

- I didn’t want him to suffer if I couldn’t form the band...whatever! Like I said: I was scared. We go and do our final performance together on that Monday night at that bar in Soho and in the end he says in a happy and optimistic tone, “You're getting better! Now you're feeling more comfortable on stage and talking to the public! The performance went well!” The host and some people in the crowd who were circling the bar to get a drink also said, “Good job guys!” In my introduction I never revealed that I was the sole author of the lyrics and melody of my songs and figured that the audience must have presumed that we were a duo performing our songs.

- You see? Everything was going great, why couldn’t you be more optimistic?

- Ok! In the future I’ll try to remain calm, guarantee stability and transmit optimism so that good things may come. The day after that performance in Soho was nice too!

- What happened?

- We were on our way to one more performance, but when we tried to sign-up at 6 p.m. we realized that although we had arrived on time, there were a lot of artists on line and according to the promoter we’d only be able to get on stage at about 10 p.m. which was too late for the guitarist. He had a rehearsal scheduled with the band he was going to go to Sweden with at 9:30 p.m. He started getting anxious because it was impossible for him to be in both places at the same time. I told him that I’d cancel this performance so he could go and rehearse with his band. This small bar where I had just canceled our performance was cozy, rustic and looked like a typical antique bar. It had a long wooden bar and big rectangular wooden tables which could seat about 20 people. I recognized the promoter from a place we had performed at before (where the flamenco act had performed as well). Do you know that he still remembered our names?! I was delighted: the promoter remembered us!

- Of course he remembered! And you remember to be optimistic - always! What happened on that day that was so nice?

- Because we still had time, we went to a really big park with lots of trees in Camden Town. And there, something happened…

- Was a couple having sex in the park or something? An orgy?

- I don’t think so...It was still day. He was lying on the grass eating an entire package of cookies with cherry filling and drinking a dark beer from a can (both of which I had offered him) and he asked me, “What would you do if you had a lot of money?” I said that I’d hire an entire band of really good musicians, get fantastic arrangements for my stage songs, rehearse and perform as much as possible in London to get experience. Then, I’d schedule gigs in the US, Europe and other places around the world.

- What would he do?

- “How about you?” I asked. He replied, “I’d buy a house with an ocean view, I’d set up a good recording studio and lots of beaches.”

- Beaches?!

- I was confused because I thought he’d said “beaches” but then, by the way he was drinking his beer and looking off into the horizon I understood that he had actually said “bitches”. I told him that I was a swimmer and that in the locker room it was common to see about thirty naked women a day; that I was tired of seeing so many boobs, pubic hairs and asses in the shower! Do you know what he said?

- That it would be heaven for him?

- Yup! I tell him an interesting story: I tell him that once I bought an antiperspirant cream which said it could be used both on the armpits and in the mammary folds! I asked him if he knew that women with really big breasts could sweat from them and that it could smell bad. Meat on meat... Then I thought about the fact that I didn’t have big breasts.

- Your boobs are fine! Who needs super big boobs? Just men!

- I got up and grabbed his empty beer can. He continued to lie on the grass. He guessed what I was about to do with it and said, “Throw me the empty beer can!” So, I threw him the empty beer can and he kicked it as if he were playing football. Still laying on the ground he’d kick the can, I’d pick it up, throw it back at him, he’d kick it again, I’d pick it up, throw it at him and thought to myself, “What an idiotic way to exercise!” He was entertained kicking the can for the twentieth time, but a look on my face must have made him decide to kick the can into the bag I’d taken it from moments earlier. I told him that it was time to get on the tube so he could go rehearse with his band. He didn’t want to get up. He was feeling lazy and looked like someone who didn’t want to get out of the bed in the morning. I insisted, he smiled.

- You two made an interesting couple…

- We were just friends. Finally, on the last day (Wednesday) I performed in a fantastic place! It was a jam session. I came to find out what that meant. The resident band accompanied any artist even without being familiar with the songs, through improvisation!

- They must have been really good musicians…

- Given the circumstances, it was convenient for them to be so. It was my first performance with a live band! In the morning I had touched up my hair and cut some bangs. My hair was loose and I was wearing bright red lipstick for the performance. At the jam session the first person to perform was a fifty year old Australian man who was visiting some friends in London and stopped by the band to sing a song. Accompanied by the resident band, he played the guitar and sang a song he wrote that sounded like a mix of country and blues. The next person to perform was a solitary soul that I’d seen at almost all the open mics I went to. He’d show up alone and would rarely speak to anyone. After performing he’d usually stay at the venue and watch the other performers. After performing I’d almost always have to leave because the guitarist needed to dedicate his free time to his thesis or rehearsals with the band that was going to Sweden or his other heavy metal band.

- I wonder…what the heck happened after August for your guitar player to become such an asshole?

- I don´t know. I don´t care. It´s over. Do you know that during my performance the Australian grabbed his cell phone, approached me and the band and took some pictures?! I felt like a rock star! In the end, one of the band members said, “You are fucking good, you must come back!” Once more they thought that we were a duo.

- That’s how you should always feel: like a rock star!

- Before the open mic, the promoter gave out chocolates to all those present. There was a good vibe in the room. Our performance was over and the guitarist was waiting for me outside the bar, near the door. I had got delayed because the host and some other people were wishing me a good trip back to Portugal because I had mentioned that I’d be returning the following day. They also complimented the performance. The guitarist heard the people’s feedback and smiled. He seemed proud. He was smoking a cigarette from a pack that I’d offered him earlier. The week before he had asked me to ask people on the street who were smoking for cigarettes. Then I realized by the facial expression of some folks whom I’d asked that this was extremely annoying to them. Their facial expression seemed to curse the fact that they were smoking in public because there was always some “poor soul” shamelessly begging for a cigarette. Cigarettes in London are expensive!

- Yeah, I believe they’re much cheaper in Portugal…

- The next day the guitarist wanted me to ask someone else for a cigarette. I refused to get another “look” like the one I’d gotten the previous day. Because this was our last open mic, I bought him three packs of cigarettes. He rarely smoked. “I hope I don’t get addicted to cigarettes after smoking these three packs!” Finally, outside the bar he said with a great big smile on his face, “The lipstick looks good on you. You’re getting better, you see? You looked like a rocker with that band behind you…Good job! You have to return to London!” We started walking towards the underground station and I opened my arms enthusiastically and said quite loudly,“ From now on it’s going to be up, up, up! Climbing to the top! And since you’re always asking me to imitate a Brazilian accent we’re going to travel the world and stop in Brazil so you can console yourself listening to their accent! You’re going to part of my super band!” He smiled, but this time in contemplation he said, “You don’t reach the top from one day to the next. It’s not easy. It takes time...” But, I continued walking with my arms wide open as if ready to embrace all the good things that the universe was going to offer me!

- That’s exactly how I want you to be: self-confident and optimistic!