To say that Sofar London defined my semester would be quite an accurate statement.
There were very few things this semester that had brought me some semblance of happiness. Even fewer that had brought me some personal fulfilment. But, despite the chaos that I have navigated, it is Sofar London that allowed me to feel vaguely as if I wasn’t in a territory that was an entire ocean across from home.
It is interesting. I have never felt homesick until this semester. Mainly, I craved the food that my parents had made. The Chinese food in London, if I am being very honest, was very disappointing. Or, at least, it was quite unlike all of the Chinese food that I have been used to having throughout my entire life. Because I could not find the comfort of Chinese food, and for other reasons I suppose, I became quite lonely. The world seemed unfamiliar, and I became acquainted with the unfamiliarity of the world. Similar to Samuel Beckett navigating the confusion that is late modernism, I approached the world within the theatre of the absurd.
I found some sort of community within Sofar London. I say some because Sofar London is quite a large organization. With over around 80 concerts per month, their volunteer community was immense. But, immensity also has its problems. In Philadelphia, there were only around 10 concerts per month. I was acquainted with almost all of the volunteers in their stories, and I memorized most of their names, which is something that I find oddly difficult. But, here in London, I only knew a couple of volunteers by their names. Despite all of the shows that I have volunteered at this semester, I only know a handful by their names.
For a time, I lost faith in dialogue as a concept. I was in a phase in my love where the only thing I wanted to talk about was love and existentialism, and it seemed that no one around me wanted to talk about love and existentialism. I found all other topics of conversation to be unfulfilling. I was also disillusioned with the fact that none of the conversations that I have had led to anything. Given the nature of adult interactions, it just seemed to me that making friends as an adult is significantly harder than it is as a student. Most of my friends comes from forced proximity with each other. After all, it is quite difficult to ignore people that you see on a regular basis. But, within my interactions with adults, all conversations seems to be a product of obligation that I did not know how to create.
Sofar London changed a bit of that. I still want to talk about love and existentialism, but I have accepted that the majority of people in the world do not general gravitate towards love and existentialism as their go-to conversation topic. I have also accepted that the vast majority of my conversations will not lead to anything. The vast majority of conversations in my life are conversations that are not meant to continue. They come and go, and then we continue to live on with our lives marginally changed from before. That is the way of the world, and I have learned to fight it no longer. Just because I have made friends in the past does not mean that I will make friends in the future. I have come to accept that, in the social sphere, the world is indifferent to me.
But, it would seem that there’s also some degree of beauty that is associated with the one-time conversation. A conversation comes, and a conversation goes. Regardless of how the conversation goes, it is, by nature, going to end. The understanding of this impermanence has allowed me to take some more risks in conversation. I have learned how to better transition into a conversation into a discussion about love and existence slightly, yet there will always be limitations to my abilities because I am not someone who is good at holding conversation. For those who are unreceptive, I transition into a topic I do not care about. For those who are receptive, I engage the topic with as open ears as I could muster. Regardless, the conversation ends, and only I can derive meaning from it when it is not given to me.
There is also, of course, the musical aspect of Sofar Sounds. I was able to interact with more artists than I could count. As the emcee of each concert, it made it quite easy to strike up a conversation. After all, I had legitimacy to talk to them. There were questions that I had to answer of course (i.e. hometown, latest release, upcoming concerts), but then there are also the questions in which I ask because I am genuinely curious. Most, if not all, of the artists I have talked to are receptive to talk about themselves. Most individuals are receptive to talking about themselves, of course, but there is a special sort of pleasure that is derived, it would seem, from artists talking about their art. Such conversations captivated me.
Sofar Sounds is an organization that attempts to empower all musical genres. As a result, I have heard more musical genres than I have previously thought to be possible. And, as someone who wants to create music one day myself, I truly found all of the acts I have seen to be inspirational. I do not have a a voice yet, but it is these artists who made me want a voice. I want to say something that is worth saying, and I want to express it through a musical medium that is true to me. There is a certain authenticity that seems to exist in the presence of artists and their craft, especially unsigned artists, and there is very little in the musical world that brings me more pleasure than to hear the truth that is created in the name of music.
There is the song that is sung, but then there is also the story that goes behind the song. I remember, on a very special instance, when I had the opportunity to have a conversation with a musican that streched over two hours about her understanding of love. After the concert, we had hit up a nearby pub at the suggestion of one of the volunteers. Over drinks, I asked her a question. That question gave birth to an inferno that defined the most enriching conversation that I had had all semester. But, as the nature of conversations at concerts go, I never had a chance to speak with her again. I do not expect to, but I still hold that conversation dear in my memories. It was one moment where I was not living the myth of Sisyphus.
I am writing on the United Airlines plane back to Philadelphia. In a few hours, I will return to Sofar Philly, where it all had started. Without Sofar Philly, I would not have been able to have the countless conversations that I have had this semester. By the end of the semester, I wouldn’t say that I have made friends through Sofar London — I don’t use the word friend lightly — but I definitely would say I have gotten somewhere.It is a position that was doomed from the start.
Sofar Sounds — what a beautiful organization.