The Story of White Flags and Ashed Filled Roads

White Flags and Ashed Filled Roads was inspired by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. The story began for me after reading an article about a Canadian couple, John and Jackie Knill, who lost their lives in this horrendous event while on vacation in Thailand. The article featured a series of pictures that were taken by the couple as the huge wave approached. A missionary found their camera in a pile of debris and was able to pull up some amazing footage. Please go to this link, http://www.tsunamis.com/john-knill-jackie-knill-tsunami.html, to see the photos and read more on this beautiful story. I was very moved by the Knill’s story. The music was seeping into my soul as I began thinking about the Knill’s and how their families must have felt. A song was being born.

Around the same time, I received a call from a dear friend, Ramona Greenstein, who just returned home from Sri Lanka. She was there volunteering at an orphanage to help reunite the hundreds of lost children with their parents. The devastation was so massive that families were unable to find each other in the chaos. Ramona invited me to dinner where she began telling stories of the horrific scenes she had witnessed. Picture after picture from ground zero brought home the reality. I didn’t quite understand how bad it really was until that very moment. Ramona asked me if I would write a song. Little did she know, the song was well on its way. The stories that were told brought tears to my eyes.

The exact death toll throughout the Indian Ocean was well over two hundred thousand. When a body was discovered, the workers would place a white flag in the ground as the victim was being removed. I’m not exactly sure why they did this but Ramona explained that there were fields of these white flags. Getting the bodies buried as quickly as possible was a high priority for the search and rescue volunteers. The solution was to burn the bodies. Ramona explained that the roads were filled with this white ash. It wasn’t until she asked a colleague about the ash did she learn the true origin. With that final story, I knew what the title of my new song would be. White Flags and Ashed Filled Roads. The boys and I eventually worked out the arrangements and White Flags became song #5 on the new album, A Look To The West.

Moving forward to January, 2010. I received an email from a young director by the name of Mico Montes. He somehow obtained my album and absolutely loved track #5. Mico had this idea to use the characters from the 1950′s classic, The Seventh Seal, by Ingmar Bergman. I had never seen the black and white film myself, but I was intrigued by the passion Mico had towards this film and my song. I met with him over lunch and we discussed the project. After I explained to him the story of the song, it made even more sense to move forward with his idea.

I must admit, I was creatively burned out on A Look To The West. I loved every moment creating that album but I was done. I welcomed the fresh perspective. Mico and I began work on the project in late January 2010. A story line was developed and casting began. I couldn’t believe that it was all happening so quickly. And then, our first day of shooting was scheduled and in the books. The 1st shoot was to take place in the Laguna beach area on what was supposed to be a beautiful Saturday.

As fate would have it, our first day of shooting White Flags was canceled due to a Tsunami warning that was triggered by a Chilean earthquake that happened early that same morning. What are the odds, I thought. I remember a feeling of utter disappointment and to top it off, rain began to fall. I reminded myself that there were people in far worse conditions than I from the earthquake. After packing up for the day, we found out that the park rangers would honor our permit the following day if we chose to come back. A total sigh of relief to know this wasn’t all for not.

Sunday morning rolls around, and we are back at the beach right at sunrise. To our amazement, there was a huge film crew right in our very spot. It appeared that luck was not on our side once again. It’s funny how life can be tricky at times. Just about the same moment we were discussing our options, huge waves began to pour into the parking lot. Flooding the film crew and everyone else who was standing there. And of course, the park rangers showed up to evacuate the beaches. I simply couldn’t believe what was happening to this project.

I suppose we could have given up and left. That was not in my being, nor was it in Mico’s. Fate once again stepped in. The huge film crew that was scheduled that Sunday decided to leave and not come back. I guess it was too much of a wait for their budget to endure. All we had to do was wait until the tide receded as it eventually did like clockwork. The beach was ours again. And the massive waves that pounded the shoreline that morning turned into the perfect backdrop for a music video about a Tsunami. This set the tone for the entire day. The energy was electric and it carried over to the final day of shooting. The underwater scenes.

This was by far the most excited day to shoot. I believe everyone was looking forward to that day. I thought it was rather cool to have underwater shots in my video. Mico knew this would be essential in the telling of the story he had in mind. Although I didn’t get in the water myself, I did get my hand wet. Little Darius (The Lost Boy) had the most fun of all. Imagine being a 10 year old boy and getting to swim for over 3 hours. It was not work at all. I remember those days so well. I was very impressed with Darius and the level of professionalism. The entire cast was amazing. I’m fortunate and grateful to have worked with these fine people on my first music video. I hope you all can enjoy White Flags even more now that you know a bit about the history.

Much love and respect.

Chapa

(Link to White Flags and Ashed Filled Roads) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrpyO-pKZt8

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