Remembering Demba

Demba Nabe and I are two very different people. Demba, for example, is an uninhibited conduit of celestial energy and conversant in rabbinical mystic teachings, whereas I look like a guy who irons his underwear. But what’s the overused movie quote? “We’re not so different, you and I.” Demba’s probably not so nimble with Larry Bird trivia, but we shared some neat moments.

The Al band’s a few shows deep in our 2013 run with Seeed. I step out of their nightly post-show dressing room rave for some fresh air, sit along the loading dock and watch our tireless road crew load up semi truck after semi truck - I still marvel at what goes into making an arena show happen. I feel a tap on my shoulder, and Demba’s there, offering a joint the size of my arm, which I decline. Eying me suspiciously, he reaches into his Harem pants pocket, producing a lukewarm beer, which I accept. Demba puffs away exuberantly, I sip my beer, and we sit in silence for a while. It’s a beautiful thing, being able to sit with someone without saying a word.

Demba puts a hand on my shoulder. “I like your playing,” he says. “You have something inside of you that’s trying to get out. Let it.” He offers me his arm-sized joint one more time - sensing and finding amusing my Britishy preference to severe my own hand rather than offend anyone, ever - and literally moonwalks back inside the arena, hands weaving in and out of ganja smoke. 

I’m still processing that he’s gone. Demba was the genuine article, a beautiful maniac in every way. I’m lucky to have known him.