by Michael Sparkes
On November 15th, Gene Tagaban, a local Performance Artist who draws from his Cherokee, Tlingit and Filipino heritage delivered an inspirational message to a small audience at Whatcom Community College. Songs were sung and stories told; the message that we are all tribal peoples came through loud and clear.
One could imagine a campfire illuminating the stage as Mr. Tagaban, known also as “One Crazy Raven,” spoke, danced and sang songs inspired by his belief that each person is a story. The audience watched fascinated as they were allowed to touch and experience the story of his personal journey in becoming “The Raven Dancer”.
Transported to another time, we became part of the story as together each audience member was invited to suspend the troubles of their day and become comfortable in the understanding that we too were storytellers, replete with our own experience and journey.
The pleasure of multiple ad lib moments worked their magic as The Raven Dancer stopped his performance and included the audience in the show. One such moment came while he was playing a song on a wooden flute. The flash of a camera triggered a smile on the face of the performer as he stopped the song to comment, “That wasn’t my best side.” We could almost imagine the vanity of the Raven appear before us in the magical moments that followed as he removed his glasses and preened to the delight of his now captive audience.
Another such moment came when audience questions were called for. “Could you show us how you did that on the flute?” one audience member asked. While asking, he went on to say that he shared musical interest and skill and could do everything else except the reverberating trills that had recently echoed almost hauntingly throughout the room.
“You can do everything else?” Gene repeated with a subtle glint in his eye. The inner child of the performer then turned to the small stool upon which about a half dozen instruments was placed. He selected a smaller flute, turned slowly to face us and with a solemn look upon his face, brought the instrument up and placed it squarely to his right nostril. In a moment we were treated to yet another tune –this time accompanied by both laughter and awe. I remember wondering how many hours were spent as a youngster with a flute pressed to his nose.
The warmth of the magical and imagined campfire that had been lit through the stage presentation grew and had leapt to illuminate each person’s heart as we heard more stories and tales of wonder. Spirit fingers were called upon and the whispered chant, “Awesome” was heard in the voice of the little tribe that had formed.