It’s just what we do, is what I was thinking when I listened to Robert S. Hilton play his hand-made array of musical instruments Saturday evening as part of South Pasadena’s Arts Crawl.

Hilton makes his own instruments out of all kinds of objects. Some would characterize the objects as cast-offs, junk or throwaways. But it’s the music that he plays that transcends all of that. It’s lyrical, gentle, almost Sitar-like, if you’re aware of the India-stringed instrument. If not, no worries. A Sitar can have multiple strings. Some of the strings run over curved, raised frets, and the remaining strings run underneath the frets and vibrate with the played strings. Ravi Shankar made it popular with the Beatles back in the day. I only know the Sitar because as a young buck of 20, I spent nearly a year in Bangalore, India, ostensibly as a student. I wish I took advantage of such an incredible opportunity but, alas, I did not. I did play, though. My band was “Velveeta, The American Cheese Band.” I faked singing and playing a 1956 electric Fender Stratocaster because it attracted girls.

All of this came to me listening to Mr. Hilton play. He plays because it’s just what we do. We play. We write. We sing. We paint. We dance. We sculpt. It’s like breathing. We have no choice. And don’t you love the fact that in South Pasadena that’s what we do, too. Talk soon.


Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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