(Note: an audio/podcast version of this blog post is H-E-R-E.)
“Even if my marriage is falling apart and my children are unhappy, there is still a part of me that says, ‘God, this is fascinating!’” — Ernest Hemingway
Noé Socha is a musician who’s life is absolutely not falling apart due to his being blind — and goddesses, his life is fascinating!
Got writing blues? Covid blues? The “when will the world learn that fear and hate aren’t the answers” blues? A couple of minutes with Noé’s guitar and harmonica will color them into rainbows.
CBS New York news interviewed him a couple of weeks ago.
I first learned of Noé thanks to Kenya Greaves, a friend I met through her work as an online writing tutor. She’s a great help with editing my novels. Watch Noé’s video below (one of many at his YouTube Blind Selfie channel) for Kenya’s appearance as a backup dancer.
Noé grew up in Carpi, Italy (a lovely place, which like my Los Angeles, knows earthquakes). Now he’s based out of Brooklyn, New York, where Covid first walloped the United States.
He’s released albums and garnered top awards from the Berklee College of Music and Billboard Magazine. In addition, he’s toured, performed, and recorded with artists including Nona Hendryx (Labelle), Vernon Reid (Living Color), and Grammy winners including Javier Limón and Paula Cole. Breedlove, an Oregon guitar manufacturer, added him to their stellar lineup of signature artists. The oldest harmonica manufacturer, Seydel, a German company founded in 1847, invited him to collaborate; here Noé demonstrates one of their harmonica holders on his Facebook page.
Even Mastercard has added him and his music to their “Something Priceless” roster.
Read on for his thoughts in his words about living creatively through Covid…
My Experience as a Blind Musician During Covid by Noé Socha
The beginning of Covid was very strange for me. I’m from Italy, so I saw all my friends going in full lockdown a couple of weeks before the states, but I still had performances every day until March 15. It was hard to stay focused, knowing how everything would have changed in a very short matter of time. I was questioning myself; I felt selfish taking all these chances, but I also felt like I couldn’t do any different.
I came back to NYC from PA on Monday, March 16, and I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing Times Square deserted at 9 PM. It didn’t seem real.
The next month or so was very challenging for me, I didn’t have any inspiration to play, people were dying and getting sick, it felt wrong to post music. All my musician friends were doing online streams, but nobody was making any money from them. Teaching guitar online was hard, I don’t feel I can help people very much without being able to touch their hands, and I can’t have close-up shots of myself. I also live alone, so I would go thirty plus days without seeing anyone.
I decided to start posting again when I realized I was losing my chops on the instruments, I couldn’t let all the work I put into it go to waste, and I needed something to look forward to artistically. I take selfies with my phone. The shots may not be very good, but I thought it would be interesting and different to have a blind person videotaping himself. George Floyd’s homicide and all the people that spoke out and told their stories after that gave me even more motivation to use my artistry to stand in solidarity and support.
In the summer, the gigs came back, sort of. I was playing outside bars, on the sidewalks, for tips. It was very nice to see how eager people were for live music, but it was also stressful trying to respect social distancing. I found myself hesitating when I needed help getting places; I wasn’t sure how to get people’s attention without getting close to them, and I didn’t want to make anybody uncomfortable. I am fortunate to be able to use Access-A-Ride, so I didn’t have to take public transportation.
Now we’re back in lockdown, and it feels like we’re in March again. I keep posting my videos, hoping to increase my followers and inspire people. I’ve realized that it’s important to have something to keep us motivated, even if we don’t see many results. Persistence is key. If I get somewhere with the videos, I want to show that all the work and struggle we’re going through will be rewarded someday, in ways we didn’t necessarily predict.
Has Covid impacted your creativity?