Stone town is haunted in the most beautiful way. Each board used to frame a window seems to have been pulled off of some vessel from the 1700’s, and hand carved. If you stare down the narrow stone streets for long enough, you get the feeling that the people that built this labyrinth are still present.
You can feel ancestry in progress within the Taarab music as its being played. It has a mournful quality that resonates somewhere between the past and the now. The rhythms and tones made me feel like I was witnessing the music score of ancient Arab theater being created before me.
Masai tribesman often work security jobs at hotels in Zanzibar, and engage in soccer matches on the beach during breaks from work. The more I travel, the more impromptu games I see erupt. Besides music, it feels like the next closest language that requires no words to engage in. Truly, universal.
I came to Zanzibar to play music at an intimate festival on the east side of the island in a small beach community known as Jambiani, and to engage with an art center in the heart of Stone Town called the Dhow Countries Music Academy. I accompanied my dear friend and founder of a non-profit called Learn Africa, Johnny Fernandes, to discuss some ideas about a musical exchange program, and an instrument collection project for the center. I also got to meat up with an amazing musician from The Gambia, with whom I will be visiting in December. Her name is Sona Jobarteh, and she plays a beautiful instrument called the Kora. She learned from her father and her Grandfather, who learned from their fathers and grandfathers. The Griot culture is one of oral tradition, and the mastery is passed down from hand to hand. When Sona would begin to play, the hairs on the back of my neck stood straight up and my eyes began to water. Her music was so powerful that it evoked an emotional response in me. She showed me a new way to tune my guitar, and took the time to teach me an accompaniment to a famous Kora song called Jarabi, which means Passion. We practiced and performed together at the festival on Jambiani beach. It was a highlight for me, and a moment I will never forget.
One morning there was a line of sailboats lining the shore. Hand carved from Mango wood, these Dhows were something else. I chatted with a couple sailors before they set out into the Indian Ocean. The man that I spoke with assured me that they were destined to take 1st place in the annual race.
In summary, Zanzibar blew my mind. The people were kind, and the emphasis on local agriculture, musical tradition, and recycled art inspired me deeply. The Taarab music fills your head, and the smell of fresh cloves and cinnamon fills the narrow alleyways of Stone Town.
Femi Kuti waxes poetic with Seattle’s Publish the Quest members and bellows, “Gimme horns! Gimme horns!” opening the groovy pan-world pop band’s new album Then What!? (Late Night Sessions), and leading into the “Gimme hope! Gimme hope!” of Jacob Bain’s unrelenting optimism. Before you know it, you’re on your feet ready to dance and to sign up to join his quest.
Then What!? is Publish the Quest’s pursuit of musical connection—its own band members’ pop, salsa, reggae, and hip-hop past fused with the deep vocals and alto sax of Afrobeat legend Femi Kuti, the bendy riffs of string virtuoso Eyvind Kang, and the poetic, hip hop vocals of beatbox artist Radioactive.
Pakare Paye Art Center is inspiring. A place where young artists can develop and hone their skills in music, dance, drama, poetry and storytelling. The work that Zimbabwean legend Oliver Mtukudzi is doing at the center is obvious from the moment you arrive. His selfless giving of time and energy to the students is infectious. It was clear from our first meeting with Oliver in 2011 that our mutual love of music and our ability to help would bring us back together.
I would like to thank all of the people who donated instruments during the past year. These intruments will allow the students at Pakare Paye more practice time and enable them to conduct musical outreach programs into the rural areas around and Harare such as Hatcliffe.
Just outside of Harare Zimbabwe there is a township called Hatcliffe. It is a place with a complicated past and an uncertain future… Strong hearts live in Hatcliffe, and we are privileged to call some of the people that we have met there our friends.
Last year was the beginning. Introductions between some of the children and Publish The Quest members were made, and smiles were exchanged. We played music, and had one hell of a dance party! But, naturally, the kids were a bit shy… when it came time to say our goodbyes, nobody knew for certain if we would have the good fortune to meet up again someday.
Our trip to Zimbabwe was ambitious this year. Performing at HIFA (Harare International Festival of the Arts) was the reason to be there, and the vehicle to deliver us, but there was so much more that unfolded. For me it started in Dubai with Nasa and Colin, the filmmakers.
Our layover was just 14 hours. The perfect amount of time to actually claim that you’ve stepped foot into a new place (outside of an airport), but not long enough to require somewhere to sleep. The taxi ride from the airport took us past the world’s tallest tower, and through a cityscape that was like none I have ever seen.
A lot happened while we were in Zimbabwe. I was reminded of what a special treat it is to travel with music as a focus. Music is such a powerful language, connector and vehicle, on and off of the stage. Beyond performing at the HIFA (Harare International Festival of Arts) festival this year, Publish The Quest had the opportunity to embark on a musical journey that affected us all deeply.
Seattle Band Publish The Quest to Perform in Portugal and Poland
Release of New Single to Benefit Arts Education in Africa
Seattle band Publish The Quest will travel to Portugal in November to perform a showcase concert and to release the single Sodade. Recorded with Cape Verdean vocalist Laise Sanches, proceeds from the sale of this song will benefit Arts Education in Africa.
The sun is warm in the Sierra Nevada’s today.. 3 more shows to go, and then back to the Northwest.. Time flies! The tour Van sprung a leak on our way up to Tahoe yesterday, and somehow (once again) the stars shifted, and aligned, in such a way that damage sustained was close to none. A kind faced man named Seig hooked us up at the transmission spot in South Lake.. Unbelievable fortune.
One of my favorite Northwest’s. Pouring rain, interspersed by quick, squinting-bright sun beams. The kind of Autumn Weather that leaves trees naked.. Last time Publish the Quest headed down the coast, is was to do a quartet of shows, mostly in and around San Fran. The old silver van that I bought on Craig’s list was left in Placerville as a casualty of the short and bitter sweet tour.. Cliche. A disas-tour that somehow makes a band tighten (in a good way).
Thanks to everyone who helped make our latest kickstarter project a go!