Updated: Aug 1, 2018
I met the most unorthodox and inspiring family this summer on the boardwalk of San Pedro Alcantara, a small town of southern Spain.
While walking my dog, I passed by a couple of teenagers playing the guitar on a Spanish boardwalk. I am not a music expert and rarely stop to listen to public performances. But I was captivated by the dexterity, rhythm, speed and technique of the boys performing gypsy jazz under the gaze of their father, Ton.
Ton is a grey haired Dutch national full of vitality. He is 79 years old but looks twenty years younger. He has been living in a mobile home with his family mostly around the Canary islands, and has established residence in San Pedro Alcantara (Malaga province) for the summer. The family is composed of Miranda, his wife (41), and their four children: Lars (18), Kay (17), Sven (14) and Jesse (8).
'We are totally free. We do not know what each day will bring. But every day is about the music.' - Ton
Ton has dedicated his life to music, singing, playing the guitar and performing gigs in Holland. He started the nomad life after meeting Miranda over twenty years ago. During all that time, they only lived six years in a house, when their old van broke down and they had to settle to earn enough money to buy a new one. Ton and Miranda have passed the music bug to their children. Lars plays the harmonica and the bass, Kay is an amazing solo guitar player. Sven plays the drums and Jesse sings.
The kids have apparently been dispensed of school by the educational board to develop their musical talent and pursue their career. And they do not leave any room to chance. They work very hard.
The family believes that playing in the street, being exposed to people and receiving direct feedback on a daily basis is the best way to hone their skills. Wherever they park their van, they start playing. The teenagers practice from 11am to 2pm, and 7pm to midnight every day, seven days a week, unbothered by the hot sun of Spain and to the delight of passers-by. They spend their mid-day break on physical fitness 3 or 4 hours a day to maintain their body in shape.
'Each day is the same. We work to improve our skills' - Ton
According to Ton, all his kids were born with the 'music gene' and developed tremendous musical skills, each playing various instruments. The two elders have a very special complicity and can play for hours. Kay has an unreal talent as a solo guitar player. He only picked up the guitar five years ago, but his raw talent combined with sheer work and discipline have converted him into one of the most talented artists of his age. Lars and Kay performed at a few festivals and venues (recently the two brothers were in Paris at la Chope des Puces, a mythical venue of “Manouche Jazz”). Their time by the sea is just a way for them to continue sharpening their skills and remain in touch with the public.
The most fascinating thing about this family is that they are apparently living like hippies (six people living in a small mobile van, playing on the side of the road to earn money), but that they in fact hold true traditional beliefs. They value hard work, knowledge, self-development, a healthy lifestyle and perfection in music over anything else. Their modus operandi seems to be quite democratic using every event as an educational opportunity. Even before accepting to be interviewed for this blog, the parents and the teenagers met me to discuss the pros and cons of social media coverage. The whole family seems well adjusted to their life and the teenagers totally in sync with their parents.
Since the first minute I was captivated by their music which seemed to bring smiles and excitement to all. Digging further, I have been even more inspired by their dedication and discipline to pursue their passion and attain fulfillment. Their assumed singularity in every area of life (housing, education, work, discipline) clashes with established norms. I believe they are truly vanguardist in the world to come. We must privilege knowledge over a diploma, uniqueness over conformism, a dose of minimalism over excess consumption, dedication over amateurism, depth over superficiality.
All nomads-by-choice are looking for some form of freedom and contentment. The path is not always easy. Life on the road has also its price. It may however be a good way to know and challenge yourself by constantly forcing you out of your comfort zone. It works for Ton's family, but it does not have to be for everybody. It is only one path among many in search for happiness.
The best I can wish you is that you find your own path. If you have not found it yet, get some inspiration from the amazing encounters life will throw your way. Learn to recognize them and be open-minded enough to learn from them, even (especially?) if they are nomads...
Hopefully, this post will inspire you to discover Lars and Kay's music, and tag them on social media. If you are lucky enough to pass by the San Pedro boardwalk this summer, take five minutes to relax and listen to them. You will be served with joyful music that will brighten your day. You may even be meeting a couple of stars of tomorrow...