So one day in Arembepe, we finally went to the hippie village. This fishing village was a hippie haven in the 1960s. In its heyday, it attracted the likes of Janis Joplin, Mick Jagger, and Roman Polanski.
There was a direct route by road, but the person I was with took me on the scenic route, which was beautiful, but I should really have worn other types of shoes. I was in the one pair of flats I brought to South America.We walked 1km through some grassy patches, then another kilometer over a swamp/seasonal river (that was sort of in season), then another kilometer down a dirt road and finally 2km along the beach. Clearly I should not blame my shoes for being completely torn after the trip. I had to throw them away.....which in retrospect is ok because it gave me a good excuse to buy some amazing cheap flats in Bolivia later on.
We got to the village and it was such a different place. I had no idea what to expect,but when I got there, we found people farming, some washing clothes by hand etc. Basically I think most of us Kenyans are hippies, if that's what being a hippie means. My friend had told me that in the village they don't use money, but we definitely paid for our beers with money - so i'm not quite sure how it works. There was a little arts and crafts market in the village where a few old people were selling stuff. They were quite high, and still smoking up. It is so strange, you know there is a smell of someone who is drunk, but there is a more distinct smell of a drunkard. In the same way, there is a smell of someone smoking up, and a more distinct smell of someone who smokes up all the time. That is the smell I will take with me. For some of the old hippies, the pungent smell of weed is forever going to remain with them - in their hair, in their clothes, in their breath etc. Everyone was really nice though - that's the one thing that should be said about potheads - not at all dangerous, but barely functional. Although my Portuguese was less than basic, I could notice the slurring and the slow speech of most of the hippies - especially the older ones.
After looking at the various ornaments on sale, we heard some drumbeats and followed the sound. We got to the outside part of the bar where a group of 5 or so people were gathered making music. One person was on the drums, one on the guitar, a few singing and one with the shakers. It was very impromptu and quite beautiful. People kept on joining, some leaving, some singing, some dancing etc. At some point I was given the shaker, and I joined. I think I was a bit crap at the shaker, because someone came and took them from me after 15 minutes or so, but I felt so happy when I was playing. I began to see what the magic was about this place - the easy sort of joy. Not anything extravagant. Not anything big. Just the peace of sitting in a village making music with complete strangers. There were lots of mosquitoes around, but even that didn't bug me too long.
At some point, I asked if there were any English songs we could do. I sang a few Bob Marley songs. I had such a great time. One of the guitarists then invited me to do an improvisation act. I would sing whatever I want, and he would figure out how to play it - even if he didn't know the song. It worked so well. I don't know how we managed to be in sync. It was as if music was another language that we could communicate by. He knew the next notes I was going to hit even before I knew them myself. I did a mash up of Anjelique Kidjo's "Bahia", Brenda Fassie's "Nomankanjani" and threw in some Fadhili Williams "Malaika" because everyone really wanted to hear something African. It was so much fun.
The one irritating thing though was how my beers were distributed to the masses. In Brazil, the culture is very collective. Everywhere I had been, I realized it was good manners to share a beer, rather than buy two beers at a time. I had gotten used to this reciprical nature - I buy a beer, and distribute it, then the next person does the same and we are all happy in the end. I think another reason Brazillians do it, is because they hate warm beers. I always got the impression that a warm beer was frowned upon more than an expired beer would be. I observed people pour out beer with a look of disgust on their faces, if it had gotten warm in their glass. Sharing a beer helps you avoid the beer getting warm. In the hippie village, I ordered 3 beers, but they were to come one at a time. The price was better if you got the 3 beers. The bar owner and her friend were sitting next to me. She brought out the first beer, poured some for me, poured some for her friend and then poured some for herself.....I was thinking, "Uhhhhhm, there best be a discount, now that you are all helping yourselves to my beer." They did that even with the next two - and there was no discounted price at the end....That I did not like. Beware - the hippies will mooch off your beer.