Saturday, 18 November 2017

Sesame Zen and Tinariwen Vibes

Tinariwen got the crowd excited on the second night of Clockenflap
The thing about living in Hong Kong is that you can be doing one thing, and then something completely different the next.

This morning I interviewed a Japanese Buddhist chef who is introducing people around the world to shojin-ryori cuisine, or temple food. Toshio Tanahashi is one of the few people in Japan who cooks this kind of cuisine, where only vegetables are used. Not only that, but he also makes everything by hand; while he uses knives and the stove, he does not use machines to pulverize or grind the food, nor does he use ingredients like onion, garlic, shallots and leeks.

Toasted sesame seeds in a grooved ceramic bowl with a pestle
He starts off each morning with a meditation by grinding sesame seeds and he let us try it.

We each got a large V-shaped ceramic bowl that had many fine grooves in it, along with the toasted sesame seeds and a wooden pestle with a point at the end.

Then he instructed us to either sit on our knees or cross legged and place the bowl right in front of us. Tanahashi instructed us to put one hand on top of the wooden pestle and the other hand holding it and making circles by turning the wrist, not using the shoulder.

We sat there quietly and you could hear the swish of the seeds going around the bowl and soon after we started smelling the gorgeous rich aroma of the roasted sesame seeds already filling the air. I decided to try to be as efficient as possible and not grind them too hard and keep the same tempo.

Tanahashi demonstrates how he meditates
At one point I closed my eyes and just listened to the sound of people grinding the seeds in their bowls and found it calming and nice to do something repetitive without having to think too much.

After several minutes he said we could stop and we were each given a spoon and try the grounded sesame paste. Mine tasted nutty. Then he told us to try other people's ground sesame seeds. Each of them tasted different! Some ground them so hard that they were about to become like a paste, while others like me were still at the roughly ground stage.

He explained that machine made sesame paste tastes exactly the same, while the ones done by hand each taste different.

This calm, chilled experience was contrasted with watching Mali group Tinariwen on the main stage at Clockenflap at 6pm.

I checked back on my blog and found out I had seen them five years earlier -- I had thought it was two -- and they were amazing. One of my friends dragged us out to watch them perform at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and I'm so glad she did.

The ultra chilled Tinariwen from Mali heating up the stage
So when I saw that they were performing at Clockenflap this year I was really excited, and the crowd tonight was too. The musicians, who are Tuareg rebels, were very laid back in their performance, but still full of energy.

There was one older man dancing on stage practically all night until one of the songs he grabbed a bright red electric guitar and started strumming away.

So cool.

And only in Hong Kong.

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