Imagine meeting someone for the first time in complete darkness. I don’t know their skin color. We cannot verify their age, gender or country of origin. Whether there are any visible obstacles. If they are obscenely rich or live on the streets.
We don’t get the visual cues that our minds start tracking from the first minute we meet a new person. That throbbing impulse with momentary sexual attraction or an instinctive sense of danger or fear.
What if all I hear is your voice? How does that change when you finally accept or reject that person into your life?
Boulder-born traveling musician Brian Rocheleau, who goes by the name Rosh (rhymes with Josh), finds that when he wanders into what appears to be a public people experiment in Iceland in 2006, the darkness is turning into society. I have learned that it excels as an equalizer.
Rosh was traveling through a tight-knit country of 300,000 people playing his tunes when he wandered into a cafe hosting a disability awareness event in Reykjavik. He was handed a Braille calling card and led down a darkening highway to a pitch-black room filled with the sounds of people laughing and chatting.
“It was a powerful moment,” Roche said. “It was like the impact of jumping into a cold puddle and the impact of hitting a wall of sound.”
Rosh handed his card to a blind server and was shown to a table with a group of cool kids in their teens or early twenties. They drank coffee, ate pastries, talked for hours, and flew in and out of English to the benefit of Roche. No one asked Roche, “Where are you from?” But some asked bluntly, “Are you from Colorado?” A stranger in Iceland just knew.
They talked about everything that separates us: language, race, age, gender, disability, and the vagaries of light and darkness.
Rosh, who had never seen his new friends’ faces in the light, later wondered what it was like to experience music in this way, “free from all visions.” rice field. One of his ways of making connections is by freeing himself from his sense of control. But think for a moment about the awkwardness of a regular Zoom call. They tend to see themselves rather than the speaker and are preoccupied with how they should appear to others. Think about the anxiety and pressure that comes with matchmaking and casual office introductions. Dinner party flair. All first impression data that our minds instantly process and make decisions on. All underpinned by his one hyperactive vision of us.
Trained at Naropa College in Boulder, Roche has come to believe that vision actually interferes with our hearing. What if all you have to do is listen?
“When I’m in the dark, I experience a level of release from all the inner neurosis that comes with eye contact and visual conditioning at social gatherings,” Rosh said. “When everyone is on a level and neutral visual playing field, they are forced to be in the present moment with each other without the stress that comes with visual processing. It’s like trying to figure out if it’s right for them.The darkness offers an authentic way for people to open up, share, and listen.It’s like being in space. , anything is possible.”
Since 2010, Rosh and his Blind Café Orchestra have traveled the country to give over 50,000 people a house concert dining experience in 100% darkness. Our first idea in Iceland was to shed light on the experience of the blind. And yes, “Of course I’m an advocate for the blind,” he said Rosh. But more than that, “I’m an advocate for everyone to feel connected to each other in the most authentic way possible.”
Returning to The Dairy Center in Boulder this weekend, ‘The Blind Café Experience’ resembles a three-course sensory meal (one of which is the actual meal), with positive social impact discussions followed by intimate conversations. It’s a concert. all in the dark.
Rosh hosted a private event for 15 to 1,000 people participating in Google’s leadership program. (And then there was Katy Perry’s birthday party.)
Jeff Garkow, a longtime social studies teacher at Columbine High School, attended the Blind Café in Boulder six years ago and has since brought members of the top class to Rosh as his farewell gift. . So the seniors at the school, then the site of the worst school shooting in America, now spend his last two hours of high school safely with Roche in literal and figurative darkness. It means that there is
“The magic happens when you take a group of young adults who are about to move on to the next phase of their lives and put them in complete darkness,” said Gerkow. They have a chance to reflect on their high school days and embrace truths that don’t always happen when guided by visual cues.”
According to Gerkow, his students quickly learn how to rely on each other and embrace a sense of the unknown. “By the end of the night, we had a large group of senior citizens singing loudly together and sharing in a way we don’t normally do,” he said. “It’s a really great experience.”
The next three shows in Boulder will be held in small studios at the Daily Arts Center with about 50 people each. They are led by blind ambassadors and given what Rosh calls a strong and purposeful menu with both vegan and meat options. in partnership with , said of the meals served picnic-style “just like grandma’s great Sunday dinners.”
They can hear music from The Richie Flores Project and Roche’s own Blind Cafe Orchestra. This includes a piano player, stand-up bassist and cellist, with Roche singing songs reminiscent of Sam Beam and Novo Amor. Roche said there’s a clear connection between the song and the live conversation going on around him.
Flores is Rosh’s Lead Blind Ambassador and Champion of the Year. “Rosh is clearly the one and only life force on this planet,” said Flores, who saw an early performance of his orchestra at his café blind in Austin. At the time, he was president of a local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. Rosh was seeking buy-in from the blind community at the time. And Flores was interested in doing something different that would bring awareness to the larger Austin community.
Flores has since severed ties with the federation. He said one of the reasons was because he passed a resolution condemning the entire “Dinner in the Dark” experience, which has become something of a cottage industry.
“There are people in the blind community who feel that if you take your eyes off someone (who is not disabled), you’re only going to scare them with their (beep),” Flores said. “They believe that doing it in a safe way, even for a second, will not yield good results. say.
“What we’re doing isn’t ‘dinner in the dark.’ It’s much deeper than that. What we’re doing is ‘learning in the dark.’ It is not only a connection with others, but also a connection with ourselves.
“We don’t use it as much as sight, so we have little opportunity to tap into the other four hidden senses. We use darkness as a tool. But I don’t[beep]about food. that’s not the point.
Everyone who comes to Blind Café has a different experience, Rosh admits.
“Some people start to lose[beep]in the dark.” But chaos is just another word for excitement, he said. Rosh fully embraces Trungpa Rinpoche’s mantra ‘Chaos is good news’.
By embracing darkness, Roche opposes the social training that humans have been taught for centuries that darkness is evil and something to fear. Underlying doctrines, there are bright and dark. That may be one reason why the city of Boulder gave him a grant to Rosh in 2018 to hold a “dismantle racism” argument in the dark.
“Darkness gets a bad rap,” said Roche, reflecting on his first experience in Iceland. Though immersed in darkness, surrounded by food and laughter, Roche never felt isolated or alone.