“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” Billy Joel
Some people listen to music to lift their spirits. For others it is a stress relief, a moment during the day when everything else falls silently away. Find peace in music. Find love in music. Find war in music. Music is an extension of our innermost thoughts. A form of communication expressing our heart’s voice.
What do you love to do? If you could make a living from your passion, would you take the chance? Wouldn’t that be the very definition of success? By turning a hobby into your passion into your career, then getting up in the morning would be freakin’ easy. Imagine a life you’re that excited about.
This is my friend Gordon playing his saxophone in La Fanfare de Goulamas, a street band, where they walk through a village or city centre during a festival, and people follow behind in a giant parade. The style of music they play is a mix of local French rhythms and catchy fun tunes. Being a musician might be the best job in the world. In essence, your job is to make people happy.
When I met Gordon four years ago, he was doing odd jobs. I remember going to see him one night at a friend’s restaurant, Le Chat Qui Peche, where he sat on a stool, strummed his guitar and sang a few songs. He completely captivated his audience with his sultry tones, and his cultured dulcet voice. Singing from the heart, the whole crowd smiled as he felt his way through popular and original tunes. He has this quiet confidence, a charisma that makes him likeable. That star quality.
‘The biggest adventure you can take is living the life of your dreams.’ Oprah Winfrey
Since then he has landed a job with a band called Goulamas’k who puts on concerts throughout France. With Gordon on sax, Flo on electric guitar, Angel on drums, Yadu on trombone, Adri on base and Fred lead singer; the group creates Ska Punk music.
So what is Ska Punk? It is music with elements of Reggae, Rock and Calipso. Run along a steady beat, the music has hints of Rhythm and Blues. Goulamas’k is more on the Punk side of Ska with a heavier bassline, rock-style interludes and punk-style vocals. Goulamas’k makes use of a plethora of instruments including: electric guitar, bass guitar, trombone, saxophone, and drums; all the traditional fundamentals, however, they add their own elements with the grille catalan, graille, bouzouki, and the cornemuse catalane similar to the bagpipe. This makes their music style distinctive, combining the energetic Occitan lyrics, the heavily influenced celtic undertone, and punk. It has a sharp edge, which the audience feeds off and everyone in the crowd is jumping and dancing. It is an experience, that everyone seems to appreciate.
An offshoot of their well-known band is their G.O.G., the Grand Orchestra of Goulamas’k, which brings energetic fun music to festivals and events on stage. The music is fun and lively. The stage is visually stunning, with a dozen musicians dressed in Pajamas, all having way too much silly fun. Behind the cool, carefree, mellow facade of this band are some very talented musicians.
“Without music, life would be a mistake” —Friedrich Nietzsche
Who are you? My name is Gordon McManus and I am originally from Leith, Edinburgh in Scotland but now live with my girlfriend Marianna in a small town in the Languedoc, in southern France.
Why did you move to France? I came here to visit my mother and my step father and we have spent many summers here ever since. Eventually I decided to stay, found work helping out where I could, and landed a job as a boat mechanic. Although it was steady and I had a good year-round French contract, I would not describe it as my dream job. That came later.
Did you do anything since moving to France that you never would have expected? I never expected (although I always wished) to become a full-time musician. I also never thought I would work a 9-5:00 job as a boat mechanic, but sometimes life leads us in different directions. I like to go with the flow. Goulamas’k has been a great opportunity, and keeps the creative juices flowing.
Being a musician for the group Goulamas’k, I play the saxophone, Irish bouzouki, grille catalan and sing. It was my dream, one I pursued even through university. Music has been a passion that has carried through my life.
Sometimes we lose track of our dreams, but I always knew that one day it would come back around. I wake up everyday and do exactly what I want. I create music, lyrics, and practice. I feel very lucky.
Performing on stage is an adrenaline rush. I feel the energy between the band and the crowd. It’s remarkable. From the creative process, to performing live on stage for hundreds, sometimes thousands of people, it is unlike any other rush! It is cool, and the pay cheque is a bonus, because honestly, I would do it for free.
What did you do to integrate with your community? We have made some great friends in Argeliers, Capestang, Quarante and the surrounding areas. Through the band, we have really rooted into our community. Also my girlfriend and her sister work as hosts for luxury barges on the Canal du Midi. Everyone seems to know each other.
Tell me something special about the Languedoc that most people don’t know? There are these amazing private beaches along the riverbeds where we camp with no one around for miles. I could tell you more about them, but then they wouldn’t be a secret anymore.
What is the worst thing about being an expat? The worst thing is being far away from family when they hit milestones like marriages and births. That’s when I feel the distance the most.
What is your favourite thing about being an expat? Being able to do what I love to do in great weather and with good friends.
What do you miss the most about your home country? Scotch pies, Irn-bru and friends that are there. I go back to Scotland as often as I can, and my friends and family come here too. It helps. A quick flight and we are together.
What advice would you give other musicians? Music is an expression. Just keep playing. I am very lucky to have had the chance to make music my career. If I didn’t, I would still be playing. My advice, ROCK ON!
What are you currently working on? Loads of stuff! A new album for Goulamas’k, a video clip for one of the songs from the album, another branch-off group called Les Diables de la Garrigue that plays electronic music. We have many concerts throughout the year, which keeps us very busy and of course I am always writing songs.
Some might call it luck, a Scottish musician landing their dream job in southern France. I call it the moment opportunity meets preparation.
Music is art. Music can be transcending. Music can calm. Music can spark emotions. Music can be a career, if you keep pursuing your dream.…