Do You Ever Ask Yourself “Were We Really There?”

Ever had a relationship that was so strange, you felt vaguely not yourself—so much so that you later wondered how it ever happened, or if it happened at all? The kind of relationship that seems, in retrospect, more like a dream than real life? That’s the mood of “Were We Really There?”

And it’s all about mood. Nothing dramatic happens here. No tension between rhythm section and lead instruments, no demands for me-time among solos. Drama requires conflict, and there is none. Like an affair that just goes along until it ends and no one’s quite sure why, it’s a tune that finds its zone and stays awhile.

True to its album title Conversations, Calima Shatiday’s 2012 release), the tune shifts back and forth between two chords (you say this, I say that) on electric piano. This comes over a late-‘70s synth bass and some slapping percussion, joined later by wah-wah guitar and a busy-bee synth darting between two notes. If your vague, strange relationship happened during the 1970s, you’ll be transported right back.

I’d like to hear what a vocalist might add to music like this. I have in mind someone like Erykah Badu or Nikka Costa. I could offer some lyrics:

Were we really there

(No, we were nowhere)

Was that me or you

(The past is never true)

That kind of thing. A bittersweet lilt, with the horns buoying her up. It would leave you feeling wistful, but probably not nostalgic. After all, what do you actually remember of that time, that person you were? Sometimes, life really is but a dream.

Jim Howard