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Mystical Mavoji

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

Mavoji is the first and only Oud Player I've ever met. An introverted but overtly enthusiastic individual, nothing existed in the realm of music which seemed impossible for Mavoji.

We met while waiting to perform in our first solo performance recitals. I was playing classical guitar pieces, Mavoji was playing pieces arranged for Lute. We were both nervous as hell and anxious to get up on stage, do the deed, and then disappear quickly before anyone could intercept and critique our performance.

But we both did well and no one had anything bad to say about how we played. In fact, the dean of the performance department complemented us both, a pleasant surprise.

Our first meeting of any substance happened just after Mavoji had returned from a quick trip to Portland, Oregon to watch a solar eclipse happening that winter on February 26, 1979. I had heard about the eclipse on the nightly news down in the dormitory TV room which had a pretty nice big-screen television. I tried to avoid that room except to catch some vital news casts and to watch SNL when time and studies allowed. But Mavoji's energically rich and highly animated description of the eclipse almost made me feel like I had been there by the time he finished telling me about it.

Mavoji had heard I was also a 5-string banjo player and asked me one day after classes to play some tunes for him on it. I knew some standards but instead played some of my own compositions, which he seemed to like, and let him try playing the banjo, giving him a short lesson in Scruggs style and a few of the tunings I used. Then he brought out an Oud and played some for me on that wonderful instrument. It was a Turkish Oud and looked a lot like a Lute, which was Mavoji's main instrument in his degree plan. But Oud was what he loved to play and he was really good at it. The mystical tunes he played completely blew me away, and if I had had enough money to spare, his playing had inspired me so thoroughly that I'd have gone out and found a good Oud to purchase for myself on the spot. But they were too expensive and hard to find in those days anyway, so that never happened.

Mavoji let me try playing his a little that day, giving me some pointers on holding the instrument and applying the plectrum property, playing microtonally, effective use of accents, and explained the tuning he was using on it. It wasn't easy, being fretless, but intrigued and impressed by Mavoji's playing which imparted thrilling sensations of mystical powers at play, I never forgot that short bit of Oud playing and always wanted to try again.

A couple of years later I left music school to return to the workforce for a while and we lost touch with each other. Choosing to enter engineering school rather than resume where I left off in music school when I finally did return to college (I was worried about making enough steady income to actually clothe and feed myself at that time), we never reconnected.

I still haven't seen a total solar eclipse. Managed to see some of an annular solar eclipse in late May of 2012, which was impressive enough. Using a set of those flimsy, roll-up. ultra-dark glasses my ophthalmologist gave me after an eye exam as a filter over the camera lens, I managed to capture several photos of it. And I've still never played Oud again, but I may soon buy one of my own. Godin Guitars makes a pretty nice acoustic-electric model called the MultiOud Encore Nylon. If I do, and if you're out there still alive and playing, Mavoji, it's all your fault.

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