To mark LGBT History Month, 2013, Polari asked its contributors to recall a song that had an impact on their own stories.
‘My Little Partner’ – Stomu Yamash’ta
by Alp Haydar
Looking back, and it’s something I still don’t really understand, we had a strange relationship with music in my house growing up.
It was an unhappy household for sure, a lot of silence, never much of an excuse between the explosive domestics for someone to slip on an LP and tap their foot to anything. My mother had fled her home in Cyprus because of a war, and I suppose with no natural musical inclination that experience had closed a firm door for her on frivolity.
My dad had arrived here a decade before on a very different vibe. Cyprus was a British colony then. He enjoyed a hedonistic time sampling all that swinging London had to offer. But after marrying, both of them soon discovering they had so little in common, a second firm door too was closed on his bachelorhood and the distractions that had come with it.
The little music we did own was Turkish. Overweight, heavily made-up women on album sleeves, or Middle Eastern men with moustaches, all moaning incoherently. The only ‘Western’ albums we had were two orchestral Christmas albums (got to love those secular Turks) and weirder still, Handel’s Messiah. It was one morning, when I suppose I was old enough to be left alone in the Dining Room with the record player, and bored flipping through the dusty photo albums, korans and cookbooks, I traced the edge of a new album sleeve between the books. It was white, and I had never seen it before. It had a huge ornate bird on the cover and pictures of solemn Japanese men playing instruments on the back. I played it and was terrified. I guess I could best describe it as ‘experimental’. At 10 years old, it genuinely frightened me. Whose it was, how we got it, I didn’t care – I scrambled to lift the needle so quickly that I dropped it again – this time what I heard made me freeze on the spot. The jauntiest little ’70s jazz-funk track. Playful drum licks and this warm, repetitive violin riff. Something familiar and friendly had arrived and it wanted to be my friend.
For an only-child in an unhappy house, secluded both in his environment and in his identity, that one track changed my life. A funky bassline, and the cheesey electronic keyboard and it’s dance partner, a little fiddle, playing a melody that tickled me. It had a sense of humour. I can’t count how many times I went to that album hidden between the books to cheer myself up. It felt like a friend. It was only on being asked to write this article that I took the time to find the album, and read the track name. ‘My Little Partner’. Quite apt really.