Erasmus & Music: an unexpected love story
If asked to describe the strongest passions of my life, I’d probably talk about my Erasmus, and music. This is the story about how music changed my life during Erasmus, and how Erasmus changed the way I view music.
I fell in love with music the way I fell in love with words: madly and endlessly. These two, together or apart, have taken me to places I had never dreamt of and down paths, I would have never walked on my own. On these journeys, I got to meet some of the most incredible people and share an unbelievable and unique experience with them. Let me take it from the top.
I want you to imagine a dark room where books cover every wall, where pianos and cellos hang from the ceiling and Christmas lights bring a cosy touch. This is the most beautiful, as well as the smallest music venue I have ever seen or played in. This is Pieśniarze and it’s very important for the story I’m about to tell you. You see, this small musical venue hosted the weekly “International Students Orchestra” meetings... and that Orchestra changed my Erasmus experience completely and thoroughly.
So, in this story, the protagonists are people I met in this venue, and on this small trip down memory lane, you will learn about a friend I made, who comes from The Kingdom of Tonga and is the most incredible guitarist I’ve ever had the chance to play with. You will hear about a Frenchman who liked to play music in the streets and got everyone who ever met him to sing along to a French song. I will tell you about a German guy with the most positive mind and a hilarious jaw harp. And I’ll tell you all about how these people, who came from different backgrounds and who had different influences, ended up connecting and being in each other’s fondest memories.
We all met each other in the small music venue I described above. And before we knew it, our common passion for music took us out of this venue and onto the streets, or in parks, or dormitory common rooms or, really, anywhere we could meet and play. It became a habit, one that started very naturally, like it was always meant to happen. It felt just right when I found myself in my German friend’s apartment, on a cold night in March, surrounded by people the only thing I knew about, was they loved music. It felt beautiful and surreal when that same cold night we took the tram downtown and played both for us and the ones around us to enjoy. It felt like nothing I’ve felt before when we walked down the streets, the freezing breeze on our cheeks. We played our guitars and ukuleles and we sang as loudly as we could so that people can hear us. And when they heard us, they danced. And that, also, felt magical.
That was only the first night of many more to follow. Nights and days, afternoons and evenings, random times when I received a text from a friend, asking if I would like to go and jam. And each time I felt so close to these people, as if they were my best friends for years, even though, as I later realised, most of our conversations were musical. To this day, I’m not sure what the Tongan man studies or which city the French guy grew up in, but I recall their faces when they picked up a guitar, the runs in their voices and the way they closed their eyes while playing an emotional song. I remember watching the sunset from the window behind them as the music kept filling the room, escaping from the door cracks, guiding me to them whenever I joined them and saying goodbye whenever I left. Not a day passes that I don’t wish I could climb up the stairs and open the door to the old gym of the dorm to find them sitting there, already strumming their guitars in tunes that sound brand new. Is it a song from the Fiji islands he’s playing today? He sings words I don’t understand but I can feel how close to home this is for him and this is the furthest I’ve ever travelled.
We still talk, from time to time, but it’s never the same. It can’t be the same without our soundtrack playing. Of course, there are notes of this soundtrack in everything I do. It’s been a year since I left and I still hear it in the songs we used to play. I hear it in the jaw harp my best friend gave me the day I left. It’s in every time I play my ukulele and every time I tell our stories, for this legacy to live on. It’s in the memory of us in a crowd of over 6000 people playing the same song at the same time in the market square of the city, trying to break a record. It’s in the streets of Wroclaw and the dormitories we lived and played music in. I hear it everywhere and I don’t think there will be a time when I won’t.
I catch glimpses of it when I play with the Erasmus band in my hometown. I see it in the smiles of these people who might not realise it yet, but their Erasmus experience will be changed by music. There is nothing like looking around the room and seeing people who mean so much to you, people who you’ve spent so much time with, people who you would have never connected with if it wasn’t for this one thing you have in common. This bond is heart-warming and true. It’s the most honest way I’ve ever found to express how I feel. It’s a sweet melody, a nostalgic song, a happy chorus and a key change on the bridge.
Erasmus life is colourful, hopeful and free. Add music to it… and you have a whole show!