The van wound around hairpin turns as if we were running from the law. Driving from the tiny town of Vilcabamba to Cuenca in Ecuador was anything but slow. Our driver was intent on one thing – to drive as fast as humanly possible. We whizzed by homes and roadside food stands, careened over blind corners, swerved around chickens, cows, and the occasional flooded road. Why did the South American chicken cross the road? I have no idea, but they do it quickly!
We stopped for a break at a crumbling roadside shop selling sweets and glass-bottled Cola. The other side of the road pitched into nothing with a sweeping view of the hills beyond. There appeared to be no homes around for miles, but as we stretched our legs three young men approached the van. Dressed in graphic t-shirts and artistically ripped jeans they soon asked to hitch a ride. At first we’re unsure, but when they learned I’m a musician they enthusiastically pulled out a poster for their reggae band, proudly pointing out their printed names. Our reserve softened and it didn’t matter if the poster was theirs or not, their enthusiasm was incredible.
For the next two hours they spoke in rapid Spanish about music and I tried the best I could to answer back. We dropped them off behind a used tire store in Cuenca. They shook our hands, thanked us and trooped off with their gear.
We had found common ground through music. Some may argue that common ground can be found almost anywhere, but music is a common communicator. It breaks down barriers, even those of language, and regardless of the level of playing musicians attain the crucial point of music is to share.