The 75-year-old South African jazz artist made the rounds at a few Smithsonian locations, concluding with an interview in our office at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. He talked about social justice and sustaining cultural heritage through music, with representatives from the Smithsonian, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Howard University, WPFW and more.
He was explaining something about how historically Europe has preserved its arts much more thoroughly than Africa has. Offhandedly he said, “I was kicked out of an opera once,” the first opera he ever saw. I started recording.
He’s a sweet, funny guy. He gave everyone in the office hugs instead of shaking hands. And he also gave me a KDVS station ID!
“I tried to stick around for punk kids Heller Keller, but watching one of the singers put out a cigarette on the ground inside the gallery and then tell the audience ‘fuck all you guys’ three times in five minutes was my limit. If that were my venue, I wouldn’t invite them to play again.” (Ema and Her Lady Parts) I just Googled this myself and found that Heller Keller has been using this quote from my post as their bio on Bandcamp. I mean, that’s pretty great.
Thanks for reading and listening! Many more audio adventures to come.
Four years ago today I got up at like 5 a.m. and flew to Okinawa, Japan. (I was pretty sure I remembered the date, but I double-checked my Google Calendar, and sure enough I had February 11, 2010, labeled “HOLY SHIT.”)
Our 12-week trip was part vacation with my family, part English-teaching internship with my cousin, and part musical traditions study in an oceanic cultural crossroads. It’s the reason I bought a portable recorder, the place I started recording live music and found sounds. It was the greatest adventure I’ve ever had, and it opened my heart to ethnomusicological research. You can read all about it on our travel/music blog: oki yo!
It took me over a year to synthesize all my recordings, photos and stories into one compilation album, which was my goal all along. After many hours drudging through audio content and getting frustrated at Kinko’s, I had this neat little CD package, an oki yo! time capsule in four chapters: traditional concerts, private performances, adventures, and originals.
Each of these songs has a story on oki yo! if you want to search around or in the liner notes if you want to order the album!
A weird thing happened to me when I returned to D.C. after winter break. I was relieved to land at about 10 p.m., not too late, and then reserved a spot on one of those airporter shuttles to get home.
After a long wait, our van—containing two D.C. women, a guy from Australia brand new to the U.S. and myself—was about to take off, when the driver tried to fit in a French family of five. One woman said she was going to report the driver because there weren’t enough seat belts for all the kids, and then the other woman stormed out in an awkwardly maneuvered rage.
The first woman got the company’s dispatcher on her cell phone, and the conversation was so outlandish I whipped out my recorder. (The three kids sharing the back seat with me snickered.)
I felt so bad that all these people were arriving in my county and this was their first experience outside the airport—but not so bad that I wasn’t laughing most of the time. Eventually, the driver kicked all of us out (20 degrees and nearing midnight, by the way). Aussie guy and I waited another half hour for another van and left the crazy lady to take a taxi.
My winter break was full of highlights, but the most scenic of them was a few days spent at Point Reyes with my cousins. We rented a house in Inverness, explored Tomales Bay, pointed out every cow, deer and turkey vulture along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and took the requisite hike to the historic lighthouse.
We learned that Point Reyes is officially the windiest, foggiest place on the West Coast, but we picked a beautiful clear day. And by the time we walked down and up those 300+ stairs, we were down to T-shirts and tank tops!