From Camden to the Himalayas, with a piano
By Raul Bobe
London, Apr 26 (EFE).- For Desmond O’Keefe, all of his life’s most fascinating moments began thanks to someone walking through the doors to his piano repair shop in London’s famed Camden Market.
One of those most memorable experiences came after a woman walked into his shop, and convinced O’Keefe to embark on a journey across the world, to a remote Indian village nestled high in the Himalayas, to deliver a piano.
The woman was a music teacher who wanted to travel to Lingshed in the Indian region of Zanskar, located 4,000 meters above sea level, but she told O’Keefe that she could not transport the huge instrument there herself.
“I will bring a piano to Zanskar for you,” O’Keefe told the teacher at the time, a story that inspired directors Jarek Kotomski and Michal Sulima to tell his story in a documentary film, Piano to Zanskar.
Kotomski says the idea for the film was born after he decided to buy a piano he saw online.
When he arrived in Camden, the piano had already been sold, but Kotomski ended up having a three-hour conversation with O’Keefe which ended in a proposal for his debut documentary that would chronicle O’Keefe’s perilous piano pilgrimage.
The original plan was to dismantle the piano and transport it in pieces to Lingshed on the backs of yaks, but they eventually had to descend it down a mountainside with the help of Sherpas. It was a dangerous alternative that even led O’Keefe to consider walking out on the project.
This piano had been in O’Keefe’s family for generations. For him, fixing pianos was “the most boring job” but he had dedicated his life to it since he was 20 years old.
He “had a very strong desire to help improve the lives of other people, especially young people from various walks of life who were friends of his,” Kotomski says.