I have always had a desire to go to those faraway places. When I was a child, I spent hours pouring through my grandmother’s National Geographic magazines and studying the exotic animals of the world. I was a little naive about Africa until the opportunity arose, and then began researching and reading about Africa, its people, its music, etc. I discovered that West Africa is often considered the heartbeat of the world when it comes to music. It was like fate was sending me there!
You stayed with families or sometimes slept outdoors, so you and were completely submerged in the culture. What was it like?
So far, it was the richest experience of my life. Out of six months, I only spent nine total nights in hotels. The rest of my time was spent sleeping everywhere: the sands of the Sahara, the rooftops of Bamako, huts in the Fouta Djalon forest region of Guinea, living with local families and young adults. I stayed with families that were amongst the poorest to families that were in good financial positions. Everywhere I went I was treated with the utmost hospitality. Living among people that had (comparatively) so little, yet were so in love with life, has completely reshaped my outlook on life and is something that will never leave me.
Are you planning to return?
When I was in Mali, my friend Oumar and I formed a group consisting of African musicians and one other American musician. Both Oumar and I have a similar vision for a band of musicians around the world, and are currently working on meeting the people we need to put it together. This winter I will be traveling to Australia, New Zealand, and hopefully Japan, to delve further into my musical explorations. Next winter, I am hoping to go to India, to learn more of their culture and music and to find any musicians willing to work on the project with us. Within five years, I hope to head back to West Africa so we can make this happen.