[Aaron Jonah Lewis] Returns to Civilization and Departs for India

Howdy Friends,

It’s great to be back in the USA, after an incredible two weeks in Finland with my beloved Froggy Mountain Boys. Our tour was an unqualified success in every possible way. So much good luck, which I believe was a product of lots of positive energy plus the incredible kindness and generosity of the people we met in Finland. You know who are! We love you and can’t wait to come back again some day.

And… I started writing that about a month ago. Since then I went and played at Grey Fox for the first time and saw so many great bands and caught up with lots of great friends, did some more touring with Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line, went to Clifftop for the first time in a few years and had a tune-filled great time and then went to Galax directly afterwards, which is always the highlight of my year. I tied for 11th place this year in the competition but I got to toss the mandolin during the Mandolin Toss for the first time ever. What a thrill that was! So many highlights to tell you about, so little time. It’s really been an incredible summer here (and in Finland — a friend over there just told me the Froggy Mountain Boys were playing on Finnish national radio!) and I’m already looking ahead to the future.

Tomorrow I’m going to India on a US State Department tour. The official tour only lasts about ten days but I’ll stay for a month since it’s not every day you get flown to India, right? I’m going with a new band consisting of old friends Lindsay McCaw, Aviva Steigmeyer and Roy Pilgrim. We’re called The Corn Potato String Band and yes, in case you were wondering, we ARE the Eyes and Ears of America. We’re representing traditional folk music from the US (and Mexico), so we’re playing a few different styles of old time music and it’s just a great thrill to work with these guys. Hey, I’ll even attach a track off our promotional CD we just made for the tour, Fiddlin Arthur Smith’s ‘Take Me Back To Tennessee’. (This is only for people who subscribe to my email list — send me an email if you want to join!)

The tour will include a reception at the Ambassador’s house in New Delhi in honor of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s march on Washington for civil rights. This has special meaning for the people of India because King studied with Gandhi in preparation for his campaign of nonviolent resistance in the US. We will also play shows at some universities in smaller cities such as Aligarh as well as in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). I’m very excited about the workshops we have scheduled with the traditional scroll painters, who paint scrolls that tell a story and create songs to accompany the story, much like our modern practicioners of cantastoria, e.g. Bread And Puppet (a political puppet theater group that Lindsay has worked with for many years), and the workshops with recovering street children through Music Basti, the workshops with leading local musicians in Kolkata, and especially for our trip to the Baul village. The Bauls are the traditional folk musicians of India, much like we are the traditional folk musicians of our country, so I’m looking forward to learning from them and playing some tunes with them, too.

As for my reading, I read a nonfiction contemporary history of the US Supreme Court called The Nine, by Jonathan Cody. It was pretty good for a rather dry topic. I definitely learned some interesting things and promptly forgot them. All I really remember is that Sandra Day O’Connor has the habit of referring to things as either attractive or unattractive. It could be the death penalty or somebody’s tie she’s talking about. I appreciate that. I also read this funny book by Robert Heinlein, one of my favorite authors from childhood, called I Will Fear No Evil, about an obscenely rich old man who is ill and ready to die but the people around him won’t let him die because he’s worth so much, i.e. they keep him on life support machines. To get out of the situation he asks for a brain transplant, i.e., to have his brain put into a younger, healthier body, thinking this will never work and he’ll finally be able to die. Well, it works and he wakes up in the body of a beautiful young woman. It’s an idea I’m sure many of us have pondered, and I wouldn’t really recommend this book for it’s great writing but it is interesting to see what ideas this guy had about how enlightened rich people would behave in the future. Also in the semi sci-fi realm I went through a collection of Ray Bradbury’s short stories (another childhood favorite) called I Sing The Body Electric. I like his style although it can veer to the indulgent, he’s got great ideas and he uses language like a fat pastry chef uses butter and sugar. Right now I’m reading a compilation of New Yorker Magazine humor columns through the decades, and Joseph Campbell’s Occidental Mythology, from the Masks of God series. One of my very favorites. Although I think I should find a copy of his Oriental Mythology, seeing as I’m traveling to India and everything.

I’m not going to list tour dates in this post, rather I will direct you to my calendar. As you know I’ll be in India for the next month and when I get back I play a little tour with Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line, including showcases at the Americana Music Awards in Nashville, the International Bluegrass Music Association convention in Raleigh, and the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion. Looking forward, always forward to the future my friends!

Oh, and if you have any connections in India or recommendations/suggestions/advice, I would appreciate it all although I don’t know if I’ll be able to check email much once I’m over there. We’ll see, and I’ll see you all again some time soon.