A buzz of excited whispers fills the room as she takes the stage and then fades to total silence as she approaches the mike. The lights dim leaving the slight figure bathed in a single spotlight. Somewhere, someone drops a pin, annoying everyone with the racket it makes. After what seems like an hour, though in reality it is but a few seconds, she nods to the band, the music starts and she begins slowly, carefully, and with infinite tenderness to break their hearts….
…On a steamy August night in 2016, I sat down at the bar of Tegucigalpa’s third hippest night spot and ordered a guaro with a slice of kiwi to irrigate my tonsils, There was a lot riding on our performance that night. After years of frustration, this was our chance to finally break into the Honduran music scene. So, when I noticed that the glass the bartender had placed in front of me had a lemon in place of the kiwi, my artistic temperament got the better of me. “Where’s the ****ing kiwi?” I exploded.
The barman shrugged insolently and said nothing, but before I could remember the Spanish for the part of his anatomy best suited to accommodate his bloody lemon, I heard a silky voice behind me.
“You looking for me?”
I wasn’t prepared for the vision that blocked my view of the armed men stealing the band’s rented minivan outside the door. The hair that hung in curls around her shoulders was the deep brown you find on the lower back of a capuchin monkey, like the one that was at that moment sitting on the bar trying on my hat. You know, the bit of the monkey just before the legs start. Speaking of legs, hers went all the way down to her shoes and back up again. Her eyes shone like the gold in a drug kingpin’s teeth… and that voice! It was like nothing I had ever heard before. In a good way.
To this day, the winds of fate that carried her to such an unlikely place remain as much of a mystery to me as the identity of the fat man in the white linen suit and dark glasses who watched her so intently throughout the evening. But there she was. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, sultry New Zealand songstress Jenny Stokes had walked into the one in which I happened to be having an altercation with a smirking bartender with no knowledge of fruit.
I released the bartender’s collar, as I needed both hands to grasp my courage. “Miss Stokes…,” the words scratched my unirrigated tonsils as they stole diffidently into the clammy night air, “would you like to sing with us?”
She glanced nervously at the fat man, then seemed to make up her mind.
“Who wouldn’t want to sing with the Mysterious Beings?”
The answer at that moment was me. I still hadn’t got my guaro and my throat was parched.
“Look,” I said, “I’ve been working on this song.” I handed her an old bus ticket with the words to ‘If Only You Knew” written on the back. Honduran bus tickets are big. “Just join in with the band. It’s easy.”
And that’s how this recording happened. Honestly, it is.
I still don’t know who the fat man was. Maybe Jenny will tell us one day.
You can also listen at SoundCloud. If you are using the SoundCloud app on your phone, choose the ‘Listen in Browser” option, not “Play on SoundCloud” to make sure you hear the latest version. Sound Cloud refuses to fix a bug in the app which can sometimes play old versions of a song.