Thursday, December 17, 2009
Well this week much of my time has gone to the bass. Blogging is more difficult than it seems and I've fallen behind a bit. In the mean time here's one more video. This one is Nefertiti by Wayne Shorter and was shot the same evening as Dieties, under the mango tree, next to the anthill.
Monday, December 7, 2009
How was it? Three words I’ve begun to loathe as a traveler. Any trip I return from, these three words always manage to make their way out of the mouths of my family and friends. In the beginning I told the truth. I would include all the details of the grueling travel, sleepless nights, and sub par food and my family thought that I had already become bitter and sour with life on the road. Over time I’ve found that no one wants to know honestly “how it was”. They would rather have some sort of aural postcard full of fancy hotels and incredible landscapes. I’ve conceded a bit and now leave out some of the less desirable aspects of travel and have kept my family and friends fairly happy.
Throughout our trip in Ghana I prepared myself for our return and the inevitability of facing those three words once again. How was it? It was a lot. In this case I’ve chosen to forgo creating a picture perfect postcard because it would not do the entire experience justice. For a month I lived without any of the comforts most westerners enjoy and most likely take for granted. For a month I washed out of a bucket. Every morning my wash water was a bucket that I walked outside to fill from a tank or a well in some cases. I may have experienced running water for three days out of that month. The toilet required a bucket of water to flush from the same water tank outside, which became an awful feat when the urge came in the middle of the night. This was all the procedure when there was a washroom available. I’ll spare the details of the outhouses and tall grass, Mother Nature’s washroom.
I regularly walked alongside, stepped over, and ate next to open sewers. After some time we were unable to discern the smell of the food and that of the sewers because they became one in the same. I abandoned any notions of cleanliness that I’d held before. I couldn’t worry myself asking, “Is this clean?” when my food was placed in a plastic bag. “No it isn’t clean, but just eat because this is it.” I would tell myself. I stopped worrying myself with what became trivial western comforts. I slept in beds that I wouldn’t have given a second look months before. I stayed in hotel rooms that wouldn’t garnish a single star rating and used washrooms that made gas station restrooms look inviting. I ate grasscutter, a delicacy that would be categorized here as a field rat and I accepted diarrhea as a daily occurrence. On top of it all, upon returning home I learned that somewhere along the way I had contracted malaria from a mosquito bite. I just finished my treatment yesterday.
So, how was it? I can’t wait to go back. Although many aspects of my life for a month were very uncomfortable, looking back I loved every moment of it. . I became aware of all the excesses that filled my life at home. I miss the smell of the sewer and burning garbage. I would give anything for some rice and sauce, banku, or wakye right now. I had the opportunity to meet some of the most beautiful, talented, and giving people I’ve ever come across. Even now I still smile thinking of some of their personalities. It’s a difficult experience to put to words. I now have a new understanding of Thelonius Monk’s tune “Ugly Beauty”. I had some of the most beautiful and memorable moments in my life in a city that many westerners would consider a garbage dump. I experienced some of the most incredible landscapes and culture in a place where many people are running from their rich tradition.
I have so many thoughts and ideas that I’m just beginning to find words for and I'm looking forward to sharing them. There’s a wealth of information and insight that I gained from this trip. I don’t know if I found everything I was looking for or expected to find but what I needed found me. As often as possible I will post more of my thoughts. I’ve developed an even greater respect for writers as I’ve tried to balance wearing both the hat of a writer and bassist. At the moment the hat of the bassist is receiving the most attention but I’m making a steady effort to write more about this trip because I feel it is important to share what we saw, felt, and accomplished.
Above is a video of "Dieties" which we played on one of our last nights there under a mango tree next to an anthill. There were all sorts of insects, lizards, and bats accompanying us on this one. This may have been the night I contracted malaria but it was all worth it and was a great way to wrap up our trip. Thanks for all the interest and support and check back soon because there will definitely be more words, music, and video to come.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Well we've finally returned from our 6 day trip circling the country. The trek was full of grueling travel, unforgettable experiences, and everything in between. When we set out last week our path took us to the Volta Region, Tamale in the north, and finally Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti region. Among our travels we've encountered distinct cultures certainly linked but also encompassing a myriad of differences. Here's a couple of videos from the trip. There's more to come and I'll expound a little more about each stop along the way.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
For anyone who hasn't experienced a market like the one in Madina or throughout Africa for that matter, it is beyond explanation for a western mind. Antoine told me this before we arrived and after experiencing a few markets myself, I completely agree with him. The market for one is massive, almost like it's own small city. I can't even begin to estimate its size and it seems as if you go until you find what you're looking for, but there's so much more ahead of you. Every isle is bustling with activity. For everything you see there are multiple layers beyond that. Only those with a knowledge of the market and those layers are capable of viewing, understanding, and navigating its crowded isles and small alleys.
Throughout our trip the majority of folks we've questioned about Jazz either don't know about the music or immediately express a strong dislike for the music. This can be for a number of reasons. Most apparent is the lack of media exposure for the music itself as well as the nature of the music that does manage to make its way here. If I were only exposed to the things I've heard here I wouldn't care much for Jazz either. In addition there is a lack of understanding of the culture of Jazz and black people as a whole along with its cultural implications and importance to black people in the states. With that said I think it's best to bring the music directly to the people. People who would otherwise never hear the music in an expensive concert or on commercial radio.
A market is the best place to do this. In the market you'll find locals along with those who live in the surrounding villages shopping and selling their wares. It's an incredibly heavy energy to break but we managed to grab a spot and play. I'm certain this has never been attempted before and and you may not find anyone else doing this in the near future either. It is a lot harder then the video portrays. It is not easy to concentrate with the hot sun beating down on you and the myriad of activity that can include anything from a cart full of rice squeezing through the narrow isles or a woman skillfully balancing a bowl of smoked fish strutting by as if it is nothing. I'll take this moment to just add that it's an incredible show. I often like to sit and watch people when I travel but I haven't seen anything like this anywhere, and we're still in the city. I haven't even begun to see anything yet!
By playing in the market, we're beginning to chisel at the wall that has divided our cultures for much too long. The tune is one of Antoine's called "Black People Suffering". We're playing it here for black people, or any people for that matter, who are suffering, striving, and fighting just to sustain. If I were to believe the media I would think that there's nothing positive about Ghana. I haven't managed to come across any such images yet and don't intend to see any. People here are proud and fighting against all of the limitations and restrictions that colonialism and imperialism have imposed here and are perpetuated even after independence.
This is only the beginning as we are preparing for the real trek to the north and the Volta region. We'll mingle with mystics and rhythms and there's no telling what else. As always check back soon as there's more to come.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
There's been quite some time between posts but it is for good reason. For one it's often difficult to find a reasonable amount of time online when much of the day is spent in traffic and among the sights here. The past few days have been great and I've had the chance to digest a myriad of culture. After a trip into the mountains to Aburi for palm wine, I am convinced that this place is paradise.
Darryl, our drummer, just arrived and we spent the evening in a dance class at the University of Ghana becoming acquainted with some of the dance and rhythms. We'll now get a chance to start exploring more music as a trio and try to bring the music to the people. There so much more to come. In a couple of days we head north to explore some of the more rural regions and traditional music and dance. As always check back because there's so much more to come.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Right off the plane we stepped into another world. There's so much that is similar but a world of difference as well. At the moment we are staying with a friend in Tema not to far from the capital city of Accra. Antoine and I managed to get some footage of the markets and a few scenes of different aspects of city life. Finally we stopped at the beach in Tema where Antoine decided to pull out his horn and we got some nice shots. There's so much more to come so please check back regularly and share your thoughts and ideas.