Disbelief of Wonder
the world-famous Stevie Wonder wasnt known in the remote villages
"You want to hear something funny?" the young cook Cisco asked
me in his native-Botswanan accent, as he prepped up a beef stew for dinner
in our safari camp in Kasane, a town just outside the Chobe National Park
in northern Botswana. "I hear there is a man from America who plays
the piano, but he is blind." He chuckled as if it were some silly
urban myth that all the kids in his hometown of Maun were told. Maun is
a small town in the middle of the Kalahari Desert, so it was more like
a desert mirage.
"Oh, you mean Stevie Wonder?" I told him.
"Yes, I think that is him," he answered. "He is a comedian?"
"No, hes a musician."
"And he is blind?"
"Yes," I told him. "You havent heard of Stevie Wonder?"
Evidently the world-famous Stevie Wonder wasnt known in the remote
villages of Africa.
"If he is blind, then how can he see the keys of the piano?"
"I dont know. He just listens to the notes and feels his way
"Oh, so the music sounds bad and all mixed up?"
"No, hes really good. He plays a lot of songs. Havent
you heard of Ebony and Ivory?" It would have been the
perfect Ebony and Ivory moment between the two of us, talking together
in perfect harmony, if not for my tan Filipino-American skin. It was more
like Ebony and Coffee With Milk, Two Sugars.
"That is a song he plays?"
"He plays it and sings along."
"No, you are joking," he said, chuckling in doubt. His bright
ivory smile glimmered between his dark ebony lips.
"No, he really does. He plays the piano and sways his head while
he sings," I explained as I did Mr. Wonders signature motions.
"Sometimes he even plays the harmonica." My Stevie Wonder mimic
was more like the slithering of the indigenous spitting cobra and it made
Cisco really start to laugh.
"You are a fool!" He went off to tend to the campfire in disbelief.
"No, Im not joking!" He thought I was trying to pull a
fast one on him, or just perpetuating the bucolic myth. So I had to do
what America has done in the past: call in the British Army for backupa
fellow traveler in our safari group from London who had served in Her
Majestys Royal Troops.
"Bob, you know who Stevie Wonder is, right? Cisco here doesnt
believe me that hes blind and can play the piano."
"Ah yes, Stevie Wonder," Private Bob said in his prim and proper
British accent. "Hes a black American musician who is blind
and plays the piano. Hes quite famous really."
The same information coming out of a respectable British soldier was enough
to convince the deluded Botswanan.
"I will have to tell my friends that it is true then. There is a
man in America who is blind and can play the piano."
"Actually, theres another. Have you heard of Ray Charles?"
Cisco burst into laughter. "Ha ha! Oh, now I know you are just fooling
me!" He shook his head and laughed and went away to make dinner.
Oh, if only Stevie Wonder could have seen the smile on his face.
© Erik R Trinidad August 2002
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