Of Cab Drivers and Bob Dylan

A couple of great music experiences lately: First, we had a phenomenal cab driver take us to BWI when we were leaving DC. He was, I can comfortably say, the most intersting and engaging cab driver I’ve ever had. (That title was previously held by a driver in New York, who, once he found out my name was Ginny and I was from Alabama, began to quote minutes-long chunks of Forrest Gump to me.)

This driver was Ethiopian, and, after talking very thoughtfully about the state of politics and culture in Ethiopia and recommending a couple of Ethiopian restaurants, he asked if we’d like to hear some Ethiopian music. We were game, and it was fun music, with sort of a reggae vibe. We asked if all the songs on the CD were sung by one singer, and he said, “It is one singer, and it is me.”

It turns out that our cab driver, Abdi Nuressa, is a pop sensation in his home country at the moment, thanks to his latest music video. Check it out here on YouTube. We got one of his CDs from the trunk, and it’s great party music. I’d like to think he won’t be driving cabs for long…meanwhile, if you’re in DC, check and see if your cab drivers have released any CDs lately. It’ll make the ride go faster.

Also, we saw Bob Dylan in Birmingham last night. (I put Abdi ahead of Dylan because, come on, Dylan doesn’t need any publicity.) Fantastic show, mainly in terms of being able to watch Dylan up close, as opposed to listening to him. (We had good seats.) Not that the music wasn’t great, but it was the man who was captivating.  He was wearing a hat and a dark suit with yellow trim, kind of like a hip version of a doorman’s uniform. Partly because of the outfit, he reminded me of the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World. Actually, he seemed like a cross between the Most Interesting Man in the World and Geoffrey Rush in Pirates of the Caribbean.  The pirate thing was enhanced by how he growls his words and always seems close to saying “argh.”

But to see his expressions–the quick flash of a smile, the cut of his eyes–and his oddly compelling minimalist dance steps, that was well worth the price of admission. He reinvents every song in concert so that it takes a few beats, sometimes a few lines, to recognize it.  So even “Leopard-Print-Pillbox-Hat” and “Ballad of A Thin Man” weren’t immediately knowable.  And, frankly, even when when I know the song, I can only understand about half of the words coming out of his mouth. The growling quality cannot be overstated. But it is so cool.  I love him.

He is the Most Interesting Man in the World.

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