The One Where a White Guy Talks About Hip Hop and Jazz

This week, because I enjoy being both efficient and lazy, a large portion of this blog post is going to be the abstract to my master’s thesis. My thesis is due next fall so the final abstract will surely look a bit different than what you are about to see here. This is simply a preliminary abstract that I have to submit tomorrow to the honorable Dr. Dave Schroeder (director of jazz studies at NYU) so he can make sure that i’m not going to do anything terribly misguided or unrelated to jazz in my research. Unfortunately I fear I may be doing something terribly misguided and unrelated to jazz. You be the judge…

“Back in the days when i was a teenager,

before i had status and before i had a pager,

you could find the Abstract listening to hip hop.

My pops used to say, it reminded him of bebop”

-Q-Tip (Excursions)

The purpose of this research is to examine the connection between hip hop and jazz. Certainly there have been a number of jazz artists to utilize hip hop beats in their songs (notably Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, and Branford Marsalis), as well as a number of hip-hop artists to utilize jazz samples in their songs (notably A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets, and De La Soul). Yet the connection between jazz and hip hop is deeper than mere examples of cross-pollination. Herbie Hancock himself has acknowledged the relationship between beboppers composing new melodies over Tin Pan Alley chord changes and hip hop MCs composing new lyrics over funk grooves from the ‘60s and ‘70s, while the journalist Harry Allen proclaimed outright that “hip hop is the new jazz” (Tate, 388).

There are many similarities between jazz and hip hop. Both hip hop and jazz were created and developed by working class African Americans. Each genre served, and often still serves, as dance music (although jazz has in many cases evolved beyond a danceable rhythm, it is interesting to note that Dizzy Gillespie said in his autobiography: “Jazz was invented for people to dance. So when you play jazz and don’t feel like dancing or moving your feet, you’re getting away from the idea of the music”). Jazz and hip hop also share musical priorities such as an “obsession with syncopation and timbral exaggeration” (Tate, 388).

The above are just a few general connections between hip hop and jazz. Yet during the course of this research, I will attempt to discern the exact degree to which hip hop is jazz. I will do this by comparing and contrasting each genre’s creation, and social function, and aesthetic trends. Finally, I will do rhythmic transcriptions and formal musical analysis of verses by notable rap artists in an attempt to discover the musical similarities between dexterous rappers and jazz virtuosos.

What’s up nerds! It’s me Lucas, back from formal research writing land and back in the cozy casual world of blog writing. Seriously, anything goes here! Watch.

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See!

Ok, anyway let me soften the blow of my previous accusation. I don’t think that my research will be misguided or unrelated to jazz. I see clear social and aesthetic connections between jazz and hip hop. Yet I do realize that there is potentially a big problem with me exploring this topic: I’m white. Yes, I’m white. I don’t know if you all realized this from the fact that I look, sound, and act really white, but it’s true, I am white. And yet a foundation of this research is the fact that both hip hop and jazz were created by poor and working class African-Americans. I obviously have no idea what it is like to be black or tan. I’ve never known anything other than easy living on Caucasian lane.

If I were to at all try to explain the subjective experience of the creators of jazz and hip hop, I would be speaking about something I know nothing about. Sure, I have black friends, yes I play jazz and hip hop— this gives me the authority to talk about the African American experience right? Nope. Not even a little bit. White musicologists have a rich history of overstepping the domain of their knowledge and experience when analyzing African American music. Early 20th century accounts of blues, jazz, and African American folk songs are full of simplistic and racist portrayals of black people. I hope to avoid this trend at all costs.

Luckily, my research is redeemed by the fact that this is formal academic writing (i.e. the most boring, soulless, lame-ass writing in all the land). In this paper, there will be no room for subjective commentary, simply objective description. I’ve chosen to write about the connection between jazz and hip hop not because either is part of my cultural tradition, but simply because I really love to listen to and play both. And if you have to write a long-ass boring research paper, it might as well be about something you love right?

The Legacy Project— Ellie V in Five Songs

PiphpicThis week at Lucas Murray Music, I’m doing something a little bit different: I am entering into world of Big Piph (aka Epiphany Morrow). I’m not talking about just hanging out with him— I’ve had the pleasure of performing and hanging with Piph countless times. I’m talking about taking a step into the vast universe that he has created for The Legacy Project, the world’s first “living album,” which he is releasing tomorrow. This is Piph’s magnum opus, tying together an album of new music, enough videos to rival Beyonce, and an interactive app for your smart phone. For the past four years I’ve witnessed Piph grow this ambitious little pipe dream into a full blown reality. He has likened executing this project to trying to jump the grand canyon on a moped, and if that is the case, I’ve been a captive audience member eating popcorn on the sidelines, waiting to see either a miraculous landing or a terrible crash. Well everyone, it appears that he is going to make it, and because of that I get to give you a tip of the iceberg peak into the project. Today we are going to take a musical look at one of the characters in The Legacy Project. Enjoy.

Ellie V BackgroundEllie Evans was an extremely gifted student and athlete. In spring of 2006 she graduated salutatorian of historic Little Rock Central High School at age 16; that fall she began attending Princeton University and maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA during her stay; at the end of 2007 she qualified for the Beijing Olympics in gymnastics. Yet after a string of personal tragedies, Ellie inexplicably left school and Olympic glory behind, moved back to Little Rock, and began a transformation into the mysterious woman we see today. Ellie V (as she chooses to be called now) is a modern renaissance woman: one part martial artist, one part computer programmer (or hacker as some have claimed), and one part punk rock icon. She granted me this rare interview on the terms that it would only be about music. It seems she does not want to address the rumors that she has become a consultant for L.E.S. in their “special outreach” division. So, ok. on to the music. Here is Ellie V in five songs:

1. You are at an amazing, lush house party at a Venice Beach mansion. Everyone there seems to be friendly, attractive, intelligent, and having the time of their life drinking, dancing, and socializing. Mos Def and Penelope Cruz are among the guests that are casually enjoying this party. This is the best party you’ve ever been to. You must pick one song that will play every time you walk into a new room at this party. What song do you pick?

Ellie: Let’s Get it On— Marvin Gaye

2. What is the one song you wish you had written? Note: You are not necessarily the performer of this song, but you will receive royalties from it, and everyone who knows and loves this song will know that you were the brilliant person who wrote it.

Ellie: Nothing Compares 2 U— Prince

3. What was the last song that played in your car?

Ellie: You’re With the Wrong One— Fried

4. You are an olympic boxer in Rio this summer about to compete for the gold medal. What song do you play in your headphones beforehand to get you ready to fight?

Ellie: Bring Your Whole Crew— DMX

5. You are 76 years old telling your teenage grand kids that their music is crap, and how much better your musical taste was during your teenage years. What is the first song you play for them to prove this point?

Ellie: Bull in the Heather— Sonic Youth

Finally, Ellie has also granted me the exclusive privilege of pre-releasing her brand new single “eat your heart.” You heard it here first kids. Thanks Ellie!

African Tour Diary, pt. 4

Saturday, February 21:

With the end of our journey in sight, Piph, Paul, and I sat at breakfast and marveled at the many wonderful sights, sounds, and learning opportunities that this trip has offered us. For instance, our previous day in the village of Rebola, with it’s small makeshift houses, joyous children, and moving funeral march, had highlighted both what we’ve taken for granted in America (i.e. clean running water, air-conditioning, internet, transportation, education etc.) and what we dislike about America (i.e. isolation and lack of community). We all agreed that this trip had put things in perspective and made us see that there was little to complain about back home. Piph, the most experienced traveler of the group, explained that after similar musical expeditions to other countries, he realized that he did not want to associate with consistently negative people. Later at lunch, Corey echoed this sentiment by expressing that he did not want to simply return to the complacent doldrums that sometimes pervades the Little Rock music scene. We’ve seen people on this trip who are accomplishing so much more, with so much less money and resources than many of us back home. Indeed, talking to each band-member, I’ve realized that we’ve all experienced this trip as a reminder of how much more we believe we can do with our lives and our music. None of us feel that it is time to rest and pat ourselves on the back, but rather it is time to be even more proactive: to write, to record, to practice, to go back to school, to learn a new language, to volunteer, to fight against injustice and to become who we truly want to be.

In the afternoon, we drove to the French Cultural center to rehearse with some local rappers for the evening’s show. Though they had never heard our music before, five different MC’s were easily able to do rap verses over our songs. This and other rehearsals during this trip have served as evidence of how universal Hip-Hop has become. We haven’t had to teach anyone how to rap, perform, or represent Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop has been spreading around the world on its own for years now. From what I’ve seen, the tiny, obscure country of Equatorial Guinea, brimming with talented rappers and dancers, is a perfect example of this trend.

In the evening we enjoyed a delicious meal on the relaxing patio of the French Cultural Center —I had steak with creamy mushroom sauce, fried plantains, and San Miguel beer (a ubiquitous Spanish beer in Equatorial Guinea that I grew to love). After dinner, we shuffled in to the center’s concert hall and watched the main event of the evening: a two-on-two breakdance battle tournament! Dancers taunted each other with acrobatic flips, popping-and-locking, and incredible feats of strength and balance all to the beat of the DJ’s tracks. I tried to work on this tour diary from the balcony, but realized I couldn’t turn my eyes away from the amazing display of coordination, skill, and energy on the stage. Before the tournament’s winning team was announced, we took the stage to perform a short set. We heavily featured the local rappers we had rehearsed with earlier and the crowd (already worked up from the amazing dancing) was loud and supportive.

After the show and a brief rest at the hotel, we went out with Micheal and Piedad to partake of the local nightlife (wich Piedad explained is most enjoyed by people in Malabo between the hours of 1 and 7am). We went to a brightly lit bar, eccentrically decorated with roman pillars, paintings of Buddha/beautiful west African women, and all topped off with a green laser-light dancing on the ceiling. There we sampled local palm-wine, danced with Piedad, her sister, and their friends, and stayed out until our 3am curfew (imposed by our Embassy driver).

Sunday, February 22:

Today we luckily had plenty of time to sleep off the previous night’s party. Our first event was to meet with an Equatorial Guinean street-workout group called Barbarrio at 3pm (or 15 o’clock as I like to call it). We heard from five members of the group as well as the program’s organizer named Sese (pronounced “sesay”). We sat poolside at the hotel as Sese explained that Barbarrio’s purpose is much greater than providing fitness for young people— it is about acquiring skills like teamwork, communication, English, and discipline which will be useful for the rest of their lives. Furthermore, she explained that they execute their training within a Hip-Hop context— using minimal workout equipment and taking turns to improvise and perform rhythmic workouts to the beat of Hip-Hop songs. When we heard from the five teenage members of Barbarrio (speaking in their best English), the most common sentiments being expressed were that “Barbarrio is like a family,” and that “it is good to work out alone and be in shape, but it is much better when you do it with a group.” I responded by repeating the same ideas about music and our band: “of course it is good to play and practice alone, but it is best when you can make music with others,” and that indeed “over the course of this trip this band has become like a family.” After our discussion, they gave us an impressive demonstration of a typical workout which incorporated difficult pushup and parallel bar routines using our song “Untouchable” as the soundtrack. Next they encouraged us to get in on the workout and showed us different dips and core workouts that we tried out. At one point after a vigorous (and self-centered) workout synced up to my own guitar solo, I decided it was necessary that I jump in the pool with my jean shorts on (much to the chagrin of Michael, who was ready to escort us off to the next event). I went upstairs to change clothes so I missed Piph nearly completing a difficult 180 degree turn on the parallel bar (however, there is video of the attempt if anyone is extra interested).

We all got changed and went to have drinks and hors d’oeuvres with the kind Ambassadorial couple Mark and Jane Asquino, who hosted us at their large, modern home inside the US embassy. There we learned about their travels to central Asia, and talked to them about our musical and personal lives. They showed us pottery, clothes, and art they had collected around the world and we humorously attempted to play some of the African string and percussion instruments they displayed. The food was delicious, the drinks were generously poured, and the conversation was delightful. At one point, Paul exclaimed out of the blue something like “this is incredible, wow.” After we all exchanged warm goodbyes and gratitude, Paul explained outside that he became overwhelmed by the realization that his life could have been very different, but that certain choices (going away from home for college, devoting himself to drums, staying in Arkansas, etc.) had lead him to this wonderful moment we were all having together.

We returned to the hotel room for a poolside jam session at sunset with local Equatorial Guinean musicians. We began with a funky Afro-beat jam lead by local legend Alex Ikot on drumset and a talented young guitarist named Elvis-Bob. Another great hand-percussion player named Gafar played along while Corey and I listened and adapted our playing to the novel but infectious rhythms. Next an incredible young singer named Nelida Karr, who also happened to be married to Elvis, joined us on a West Africa infused rendition of Gershwin’s classic “Summertime.” Alex then summoned up the bass player for his band and we in tomorrow maybe took a refreshing moment to be the audience members for a stellar ensemble of musicians. Everyone played masterfully, joyfully, and tastefully as the band supported one of the best voices I have ever heard in person— Nelida sang with such precise control over her gorgeous full voice that it was difficult to believe that she is only 25! If you don’t believe me (and yes I have been accused of hyperbole from within the band), I have audio evidence of just how amazing this group was. After a few songs, we joined them again for a Hip-Hop jam with Nelida singing an improvised chorus between Piph’s freestyle rap verses. Unfortunately it began to rain so we had to pack up early, but I retired to my room with the rhythms and melodies of the evening still singing in my head.

Monday, February 23:

Our first order of business today was to check out the equipment we would be using for wednesday’s show at the Malabo Spanish Cultural Center. Similar to nearly every stop on our voyage, the equipment at the center was not quite up to the same standard as what we’re used to back home, yet by this time we were veterans of making due with what we’re given. Like many times before, Corey looked at his bass amp, surveyed the rest of the equipment, and uttered a resigned but confident “we’ll make it work.”

After our equipment check, we drove over to a vocational school in Maloba where we sat down for a talk with a large audience of young adults, all wearing lab coats (blue for students, and white for teachers). The enthusiastic crowd encouraged us with loud applause for seemingly every introduction and answer we gave. At one point we asked the audience if anyone knew what Hip-Hop is. Five or six students approached the front to give the answers, most of them replying something similar to “it is a way to express yourself and talk about the experience of being on the street,” yet everyone was especially impressed when one of the students confidently stated the four elements of Hip-Hop which Piph had been describing since day one of this trip: “Rap, DJ, Graffiti, and B-Boy.” We then invited some of the students to the front to showcase their own rap skill, and about six students took turns rapping while Paul made a beat on the table with his hands. Their was an interesting variety in both flow, demeanor, and lyrical content— we learned later from Michael (who understood the Spanish), that one young man was very positive and had thanked us for being here in his rap, whereas another took the opportunity to disparage and attack white people (and I clapped for that guy!). We finished the session with Piph rapping his own verse and a massive group picture with the students. We then got a chance to take a hard-hat tour of the facility where we saw students learning skills like metal-working, electronic engineering, wood carving, and cooking in preparation for good jobs that could support them for the rest of their lives. In a country marked by a huge disparity in wealth between the super elite and the poor, this school seemed to be a very good and potent drop in the bucket.

Next we packed up and departed for the airport in order to fly to the city of Bata on the mainland. We flew with the Equatorial Guinean airline Cieba Air, who conducted their airplane safety demonstration in Spanish and French. I’ve heard it all before so it didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand the words, but I realized that this was the first flight that I’ve ever been on that had no English language demonstration. This was a minor detail, but a major reminder of just how far away from home we were.

We were on the ground in Bata a mere thirty minutes after takeoff, and then checked in to the seaside Hotel Ibis. For dinner we went to the restaurant at the Bata Spanish Cultural Center where we would be performing the following night (Spain is still a major diplomatic influence in E.G. and has some of the finest facilities for cultural programming on both the island and the mainland). There we met with four foreigners who had been living and working in Bata— three of them were Spaniards working at the cultural center, and one was a young American consultant named Elsa who grew up in Mexico, but spent her senior year of high school in Dewitt Arkansas of all places! After expressing the appropriate level of amazement at this coincidence, I enjoyed getting to know her more and talking to her friend Quico, the Spanish Consul in Bata, over a delicious dinner of locally caught fish.

Tuesday, February 24:

Today Piph, Corey, and I conducted our morning workout outside on the wide walkway next to the Atlantic ocean. The oppressive heat and humidity of the tropical country made for perhaps our most intense and difficult workout yet— it took me an hour to stop sweating.

We met up again with Elsa for lunch at a Lebanese restaurant in town, and let her order us a large family style meal of hummus, baba ganoush, beef, chicken, salad, olives, bread, and a San Miguel beer for me. As we were waiting for our food Elsa described the excessively relaxed attitude of Equatorial Guinean waiters— “Once I ordered pizza at a restaurant and they then waited an hour before telling me they didn’t have pizza, and sometimes you’ll order one thing and they’ll just bring you something different.” Sure enough, right on cue the waiter brought me Heineken. Oh well, que sera, sera. The food was plentiful and delicious, and the restaurant owner insisted on treating us to some complimentary papaya and pineapple for dessert (E.G. has the best pineapple), which I washed down with a potent cup of Lebanese coffee.

We then went to a walled in orphanage which contained it’s own school and residence halls— if the children are not adopted at a young age, they are allowed to live and go to school here all the way up to high-school. The large campus was contained by tall stone walls, and on the inside

we saw playgrounds and many buildings which were pointed out to us as classrooms, residence halls, an auditorium, and more— though everything was a bit rundown, Elsa assured us that this was a nice facility for Bata. We met with some administrators of the school there, and although the principal seemed actually a little confused at our presence and definitely disappointed that we were not dancers, he quickly assembled a group of about 80 high-school age students for us to talk to and interact with underneath the shade of a large outdoor covering. We sat down in front of them, with Elsa and Pieadad strategically placed amongst us to do the translating. We introduced ourselves, gave the background of our band and Hip-Hop (expertly translated by Elsa), and then began to ask and field questions. Although shy at first, they told us which American Hip-Hop artists they liked (Eminem, Lil Wayne, Tupac), repeated back the four elements of Hip-Hop, and by the end of the talk some of them had sufficiently loosened up enough to try their hand at freestyle rapping— the crowd favorite was a teenager who didn’t really rap or freestyle, he just repeated the phrase “chopina, chopina, chopina!” to which the crowd shouted back “chopin!” (this was both hilarious and awesome). Next, at the request of the students, Piph rapped a verse to his song “Untouchable” while Paul held his phone speaker up to a megaphone and played the instrumental track out loud. The crowd of students erupted and we were all consumed by swarms of picture takers and and autograph seekers (I apologize to the girls whose shirts we signed— I know that seemed like a good idea at the time). Even Michael, Pieded, and Elsa were asked for pictures and autographs (which they of course obliged).

After numerous unsuccessful attempts to make it back to the car un-photographed, we finally rounded up everyone and drove off to do some brief souvenir shopping. We found a street-side trinket dealer and Elsa helped us all haggle and procure bracelets, carved wooden animals, necklaces, coasters, and bowls. Piph and I also dipped into the grocery store across the street and purchased some Cuban Rum and Italian Wine.

After the shopping spree we drove to the Spanish Cultural Center to check out the equipment and rehearse with local rappers. We’d gotten very good at this routine by now, so it didn’t take us long to conduct the soundcheck and work the two Batan rappers into our act. We booked it back to the hotel in the bullet-proof Ambassadorial SUV that had been our conveyance around Bata, rested, refreshed, and prepared for the nights show. We arrived thirty minutes before showtime and were met with a massive empty room— not a single audience member. We set up and then waited backstage, anticipating a sorry show. Yet, the day was saved when a group of about thirty teenage girls (students from the school we visited earlier), showed up and filled the seats— soon after even more people showed up so that by showtime, we stood before a very decent audience. We had planned on playing a slightly shorter set, but the crowd was so into it that we ended up playing all of our songs. Elsa took the stage in her rock-star attire and helped us conduct the crowd-participation portions of the show, teaching the audience to sing our song “Feel Alright,” telling them to shout “hey!” along to the chorus of “Something to Tell Ya,” and inviting any dancers to the stage for the song “Chills.” The latter made for the highlight of the show: about a dozen young audience members on stage dancing along as we watched and played— Elsa even stayed on stage with us to bust a few moves (“I see you Elsa!”).

Feeling hot and high after the fun show, we were met with a shocking surprise when we found out that someone had tried to break into the Ambassador’s SUV during the show. This was a lousy attempt at criminality on a couple levels: for one, our driver Diosdado was standing right there watching the whole thing unfold; for two, the would-be robber tried to break bullet-proof glass with a crowbar (poor guy barely scratched the surface). We didn’t want to wait for the police to show up, so we went to Quico’s nearby apartment, dropped our equipment off, and walked on to the (possibly) famous “Freedom Tower” for dinner in a revolving Italian restaurant (which we requested they stop revolving because it was making us sick).

Despite being the only customers in the restaurant, the service was textbook Equatorial Guinean (slow and inconsistent) and the long wait time afforded me more opportunity to get to know Elsa. She described the culture shock of arriving in Dewitt, Arkansas for her senior year of high school, where at 18 years old she suddenly lost the privileges of drinking and going clubbing and gained an overly-protective host-mother and a school ripe with racial tension. Despite encountering a slew of real life negative Arkansan stereotypes, she did manage to make friends there and even visited Hot Springs last year to be a bridesmaid in one of her Dewitt best friends weddings— it was at this wedding that Elsa met our one mutual friend/acquaintance: Claire Nichols (shout out to you).

When our food finally came, I was proud to be part of the only group of Americans eating dinner at an Equatorial Guinean revolving Italian restaurant. After dinner we continued our unique journey by being the only people to hang out in the club downstairs— the bartender roped us into staying with some free tequila shots. We busted some brief moves on the empty dance floor, which was surrounded by mirrors on the walls; Elsa explained that this was because in many central African clubs women will dance facing the mirror, watching and waiting for acceptable dance partners to approach them. We all drank another drink and continued to discuss the peculiarities of life in Equatorial Guinea until it was time to depart for some much needed sleep. This will not be news to my bandmates, but I admit to being reluctant to part with Elsa.

Wednesday, February 25:

Today we flew back to the island of Malabo for our final show of the tour. Did I admit to being reluctant to part with Elsa? I have met some very impressive and inspiring people on this journey and she is certainly near the top of them. She is a consultant working on development in Equatorial Guinea, much needed because the country’s massive oil wealth sits in the hands of the elite minority, leaving over 70% of the citizens to live on $2 a day. Despite it being an underdeveloped country lacking in western comforts like running water, electricity, air-conditioning, and internet, whose citizens can be cold and distrusting of foreigners, Elsa chose to go to E.G. because her work is needed there and she believes her work could actually make a positive difference in people’s lives. She lives and works in a harsh reality, yet amazingly maintains an extremely upbeat demeanor— when I asked her how she manages to be so happy in such difficult circumstances, she said one of the most beautiful sentiments I’ve heard during the trip: “I just make my own sunshine.” Time and time again on this trip have I been humbled to meet people either with less wealth or heavier burdens (often both) than I, who nonetheless have truly learned the art of happiness and continue to live and work hard.

After landing back in Malabo, we had nearly a full day to rest and recover before our show. I took the opportunity to sit by the pool and work on this tour diary, punctuating my paragraphs with dives into the water; I stayed there long enough to work up a nice sunburn.

Around 6:00pm we again arrived at the Spanish Cultural Center and conducted a brief set up and sound-check. Corey, Paul, and I then went and had cake and coffee at the restaurant, and enjoyed watching a Barbarrio street-workout unfold before our eyes— this time there were about 25 Babarrio boys and girls (I was happy to see that the group is co-ed) taking turns doing various incarnations of pushups, pull-ups, and dips. Backstage we grouped together and prepared for our final show in Africa. Everyone was loose and ready to put on a great show, continuing a running joke which began at our first show in the Equatorial Guinean heat that we were all going to perform shirtless. Babarrio opened up the show with a ten-minute workout routine set to music; after each person completed a difficult set of maneuvers Nelson, the strong 17 year old leader of Barbarrio, would shout “Uno, Dos, Tres!” and the rest would answer “Barbarrio!” When they completed their whole demonstration he again shouted “Uno, Dos, Tres!” but this time Nelson’s countdown was met with “Big Piph and Tomorrow Maybe!”

We played a loud energetic show to a nearly packed house, relishing playing a show we had perfected over the course of the month. Multiple times I looked around at my bandmates to see them either dancing, smiling, or both. Gone was any self-consciousness attempt to be more or less Hollywood than the other— we were all in this together, and we played one of our best shows of the tour. When it came time for our boisterous closer “Untouchable,” I saw Dre and Piph really considering taking off their sweat drenched shirts. I’ve been of the “give me an inch and I’ll take a mile” mentality for much of this trip, so I went ahead and stripped my shirt off right there in front of the foreign audience (which the Ambassador was sitting in no less), and before I even had time to turn around, Dre had followed suit… then Piph… then Paul. Corey just sunk his head— “are these guys really doing this!?” I read clearly on his face. Halfway through the first verse and Corey had (halfway) followed suit, lifting his shirt above his head, and by the second verse he had reluctantly completed his unveiling. There we were, Big Piph and Tomorrow Maybe, valiant, sweaty, shirtless, American. At the end of the song, encouraged by the rest of the band, I stretched my unaccompanied closing solo well past the limit of tasteful length and dropped in a Star-Spangled Banner quote for good measure. For me, this was absolutely the most fun show of the tour, because after a month of playing, laughing, and working everyday together, it was the most connected we felt as a band.

We made it back to the hotel in time for one more buffet dinner at the “Teatra” restaurant that had become so familiar to us over the course of our Equatorial Guinean stay. We ate and joked around with the hotel staff who had greatly warmed up to us during our week there, and halfway through dinner we were joined by our friend and Barbarrio organizer Sese Site. She passionately pleaded with us to not simply make this a one time trip to E.G.— “what you have done here has been positive, but you need to follow up again and again. The youth here have a lot of pain and frustration below the surface, and they need help finding constructive community activities like workouts and music. You could have a huge impact here.” Piph then explained that while we would like to help, our program (AMA) sent us here as a one time occurrence, and we do not have the money to come back here on our own. Furthermore, we can only help if there are people here in Equatorial Guinea who will be proactive in any potential program and who want us to help. Yet in the end we all agreed that we would try to find a way to continue our exchange with the Equatorial Guinean youth and would absolutely look for grants and programs that would allow us to return.

After dinner, we all went to the hotel bar (Piph, Paul, Dre, Corey, Piedad, and I) to have a final celebratory drink together. Dre and I ordered beers, but we were all a little turned off by the high price of drinks at the bar, so Piph went to retrieve the Cuban rum I had bought the night before and the young bartender kindly let us use glasses from the bar to pour our own booze in. I poured us all healthy portions of rum, and we took turns contributing to a massive band toast: “here’s to the being in Africa!” … “here’s to a great experience, and many more in the future” … “here’s to having the best possible band—there are other great musicians out there, but I don’t even want to look for them”… “ditto!” … “here’s to not really knowing you guys at all before this trip, but now considering you some of my best friends” … “CHEERS!” Piph, Corey, and I went in for a sip, but saw Dre and Paul take the whole cup down, so the three of us followed suit. Despite tossing back a healthy two shots each, we were all pleasantly surprised by the smoothness of the Havana Club rum (something we’ll hopefully all get to enjoy soon in America). We finished the bottle while marveling at the many amazing sights we’d seen, the wonderful people we’d met, and the amazing fact that the five us had spent 25 consecutive days together working and playing and that there had been absolutely no drama or flare ups between us. This was a special journey.

 

Thursday, February 26:

Today our flight back home didn’t leave until night time, so it made sense to our program organizers to have us do a couple more talks before we left. Logically I understood this, but the fact was that after a great last show and a rum-drenched late night recap of our journey, we were prepared to fly back home and start afresh in Little Rock, carrying the lessons we learned with us. It seemed like the scheduled events resonated with our tour fatigue. The first was a talk at the university in Malabo with an English class, where neither the students nor the teacher (nor us for that matter) seemed to know what we were doing there. We dragged through the conversation, took a picture, and left confused. The second event was another talk with an English class for all ages in the English quarter of town. Here they were better prepared for us and we had a pleasant talk about music and life in America, yet all of us knew that we were ready for the flight home. Finally we ate a delicious dinner of American sized portions of pizza, chicken wings, cordon bleu, burgers, and pasta at a nearby restaurant and went on to the airport. We began our return journey at 9pm Equatorial Guinean time, flew to Paris, then to Detroit, and finally arrived in Little Rock around 5pm Friday evening (central standard time). We were seven hours ahead in E.G. so you can do the math on how long this voyage actually took (I don’t want to think about it).

Afterword:

I think if you re-read this diary (I’m certainly not suggesting you do that), you would find that the most frequently used word was “experience.” I’ve used it as a verb, adjective, and noun countless times, and that word once again is the one that best sums up my time here: I’ve experienced three different countries, eleven different cities/towns, dozens of beautiful sights, and hundreds of impactful people; I come home with a deeper knowledge of the world— I am truly more experienced; and I can honestly say that this was the best experience of my life.

I know that if you asked the other members of the band they would affirm how meaningful this trip was. Yet what is fascinating is that while the magnitude of the trip’s effect on us was similar, the character of the trip’s effect was different for each of us: for one, it reaffirmed and energized his current path; for another, it revealed people and things he needed to let go of in order to progress; for another it showed him how fortunate he was, and made clear that he needed to hold on to someone special; for another it cut through the superficial stressors of American life and showed him that people are what is most important; and for another it showed him the true purpose of musical performance and what the future should look like.

I want to offer my sincerest gratitude to American Voices, the State Department, Marc, Bahri, JJ, Ida, Fatma, Selma, Michael, Piedad, Elsa, Sese, Epiphany, Corey, Dre, Paul, our sound engineers along the way, the many artists we worked with, and all the wonderful Moroccans, Algerians, and Equatorial Guineans that we met along the way for helping make this such an amazing journey.

African Tour Diary, pt 3

Sunday, February 15:

During and before this trip we’ve been having an ongoing debate about who in the band is “the most Hollywood.” For clarification, the adjective Hollywood as we are using it is essentially the narcissistic quality of behaving like a superstar-celebrity. However, being Hollywood in no way correlates to how proficient one is at their musical craft— we are only talking about superficial and behavioral indicators (e.g. manner of dress, level of showmanship/show-off-manship, number of pictures posed for, and generally how much one enjoys adulation and attention). It is a generally accepted notion amongst us that our singers Bijoux and Dee Dee (who aren’t here to defend themselves) are the most Hollywood, and that our bass player Corey is the least hollywood. Thus, up for debate is who on this trip (from the pool of myself, Paul, Piph, and Dre) is the most Hollywood, and today, our first show day in Algeria, offered ample evidence for all of us to use in the great Hollywood debate.

Piph and I started the day with a vigorous 7:15am workout in our hotel gym. If asked, I think we would both tell you that we workout to feel good, be healthy, and be more competitive in sports, but come on, I think we each want to look good too (chalk it up to being a bit Hollywood). After the exercise we met up with the rest of the group for breakfast and we were off to rehearsal by 9:15. Our wonderful Algerian program organizers, Ida and Fatma, have done an excellent job scheduling practice/setup times into our days, so we had ample time to tighten up our songs as well as rehearse with the Algerian rappers, dancers, and high-school film students that we would be collaborating with in the evening. We then swung by a shawarma shop for sandwiches and ate them on the way back to our hotel.

After some much needed naps, we packed up the bus and departed for the show venue. On the ride there we discovered that our Algerian driver is apparently infatuated with Akon’s sugar coated dance song “Silver and Gold” — the dude played it literally four times in a row. When we arrived we met and fraternized with more rappers and dancers, bonding in the green room over our love of the free tea and pastries set before us. As the crowd filtered in for the show, a young Algerian DJ played a combination of current dance mixes and late 90’s jams —“Maria Maria,” “Too close (You’re Making it Hard for Me),” and Puff Daddy’s “I’ll be Missing You” comprised one nostalgic three song stretch. The Algerian rap duo “Africa United” and rapper “Mister Pablo” then took the stage, rapping and dancing around to their brand of synth heavy party rap (this is what it sounded like—I didn’t quite pick up on the french and arabic lyrical content). We learned later from Ida that this was the first time any of the night’s rappers and dancers had gotten to perform on this prominent stage— this center was usually reserved for traditional Algerian music. Peaking out from the backstage curtain, I was happy to see not only the biggest crowd of our tour so far (props to Fatma for an excellent promoting job), but also the liveliest— many in the large crowd were standing up dancing and screaming for their hometown heroes, who obliged them with some true Hollywood posturing. It was fun to watch.

After a very flattering minute-long introductory video made by the high-school film students, it was our turn to take the stage. Following our show plan, Dre went out first and played an improvised solo; Corey, who would be next, took his time and waited an extended period before ambling onto the stage (Corey’s not Hollywood). Paul and I eagerly joined shortly after and we all began the official intro which immediately segued into the high energy song “zone out” as Piph joined us onstage. Paul, excited at the sight of a really good crowd, clicked his sticks high above his head before beginning his drumbeat (yes that’s a little Hollywood). After a handful of our original tunes, we again brought on the opening act rappers who joined us in performing a Reggae rendition of our song “Same Game.” During the climax of the song, Paul improvised an amazing multi-measure drum-roll with syncopated accents (Paul was happy to perform for the crowd during this show—i.e. Hollywood). We next covered Tupac’s “California Love” while the dancers performed incredible acrobatic breakdancing. Towards the end of the show, we invited everyone to the front of the stage for the massive selfie. Yet before we could even get into position, Dre, wearing his new flashy dark shades, had taken pictures with five different people (Hollywood Dre!). When we began the final song Dre continued his Hollywood lifestyle by posing for pictures and video during the song— he even left his keyboard station in the middle of the song to dance and take pictures, (granted it was during a part when he didn’t have to play). Piph, likely threatened by Dre’s spotlight, attempted to jump into the audience to rap (that’s definitely Hollywood) but he was immediately pushed back to the stage by our Algerian body guards (yes having Algerian body guards is incredibly Hollywood)— “Alright, I’m gonna get down here with you for this verse, ohp, nevermind” I heard him say into his microphone. I even saw Corey embrace his inner Hollywood by moving to the front of the stage and playing directly to the immediate crowd. During my solo, I tried to indulge in the Hollywood games by cranking up and walking out to the center of the stage and I would have gone to the front, but my instrument cable wasn’t long enough (it’s not a very Hollywood instrument cable). The crowd was in an uproar by the end of the show and I’m sure we all felt justified in our Hollywood behavior.

And thus, the great Hollywood debate will surely rage on. In all sincerity, however, I am extremely grateful that everyone in the band is actually extremely down to earth, authentic, and kind-hearted. We enjoy performing and getting into the act onstage, as well as ribbing each other offstage, but the truth is that no one in the band has a difficult personality. I do believe that there are many performing musicians (both famous and not), who enjoy admiration more than music, but I can honestly say that for all of us, the music comes first.

Monday, February 16:

Today was our travel day from Tlemcen to the capital city of Algiers. Before I talk about that however, I’d like to reveal something about our time in Algeria that I felt I could not write about days earlier. Almost as soon as we got off the plane in Oran we were informed that we would not be able to go anywhere without a Police escort, that we would always have to travel everywhere with the whole group (no wandering off on your own), and that we should assume that our emails/texts/facebook messages/phone calls/skype sessions were being viewed or recorded (therefore we should not use these mediums to write or say anything critical of the government). Traveling around Tlemcen, we were always accompanied by at least two (and sometimes up to five) security guards or police officers— I was even trailed into the bathroom by one of them during one of our rehearsals. I’m still not totally sure if this was for our safety, or because we were viewed suspiciously by the government. To be fair the guards and police were pretty friendly and we were actually able to get to know them somewhat; regardless, I’ve never in my adult life experienced such a feeling of lack of freedom. I am able to write this now because I’ll be publishing this while in Equatorial Guinea.

Back to the story: We traveled from Tlemcen to Algiers via a long five hour train ride. Luckily Fatma took charge of the train station employees and was able to secure us our own section of the train. I sat next to her during the ride and was happy to get to know her better— she had travelled all around the world, but was still in love with her coastal hometown of Algiers; she has two boys ages six and nine; she had recently taken up salsa dancing, and she loves to laugh and joke around. During the train ride she even weighed in on the great Hollywood debate (see previous day), ranking us as Dre, Corey, Piph, me, and Paul (from most Hollywood to least).

After we arrived in Algiers, we drove to a local kebab restaurant in a bullet proof embassy van. We’ve decided that one of our cultural gifts to Algeria and Morocco should be the practice of writing down restaurant orders. At the restaurant our orders were all wrong (except for mine for some reason) because this waiter (like many others not used to our picky American tastes) did not write the order down. After hungrily eating our incorrect sandwiches in the van, we checked into our hotel where we enjoyed best internet connection of the tour and settled in for some much needed sleep.

Tuesday, February 17:

Today four of us (Piph, Paul, Corey, and I) partook in an early morning workout— fitness is apparently a priority for Big Piph & Tomorrow Maybe. After breakfast we drove to an auditorium located in a shopping mall underneath the grand, famous Algiers Martyrs Memorial. There we jammed with the Algerian Blues band King Melody (who played a nice rendition of Eric Clapton’s “You look Wonderful Tonight”), and worked up a nice collaboration with local hip-hop/reggae artist Joe for the following night’s show. We were particularly happy to work with the most talented and accommodating sound crew of our trip so far, who provided us each with our exact volume and equalization specifications.

Yet the real treat of the day came when we were taken to the U.S. Embassy where Ida and Fatma work. To prevent us from stealing government secrets, we had to leave all of our electronics (aside from our instruments which we would use later) at the opening security check. One of us took this as an opportunity to flirt with the cute Algerian security officer who ex-rayed our bags (there is no Tinder community in Algeria so we have to engage the opposite sex in real life). Inside we had a lasagna lunch at the cafeteria and then went to the Embassy’s Information Resource Center (IRC), a library and media center that organizes numerous programs and events in order “to provide authoritative, up-to-date information to the Algerian audience on U.S. policy, and to promote public awareness, and facilitate mutual understanding of political, economic, trade, cultural and environmental issues” (from the Algerian US embassy website). There we had a stimulating and open discussion with Algerian university students and adults who were interested in learning more about American culture (luckily they all spoke English, so we could speak directly to them without the aid of a translator). We talked about why they liked or disliked Hip-Hop, our inspiration and reason for pursuing music, and our goals for the future. Upon they’re request, we finished by performing a stripped down rendition of our song “Feel Alright” with Paul beating on a table, me playing the Embassy’s acoustic guitar, and Piph rapping.

After our group discussion we packed into the radio room and did a podcast interview with the lovely Selma Mouloudj (a senior biology major at the university, English teacher, Embassy employee, and Fulbright scholarship hopeful). Despite Selma’s best efforts at professionalism, the band was having too much fun and we often took the interview to outrageous and off-the-wall places— I know she’ll have to edit out much of the hilarity of this interview but I still greatly look forward to hearing it. We then had a short hour to rest, check email, and chat with Selma before setting up in the Embassy’s atrium to perform at a party for the Ambassador and other state department employees. At the party we played a handful of our songs, met Ambassador Joan A. Polaschik (a very pleasant, fun woman who even helped us out with one of our songs), watched other local artists perform, enjoyed drinks and H’orderves, and even shared the stage with a band of embassy employees for a fun rendition of the classic American song “Wagon-Wheel.” This was a wonderful event that seemed to bring everyone in attendance a lot of joy— the Americans in attendance were grateful to experience a small taste of home, while the Algerians enjoyed getting to see an immediate glimpse of American culture.

After such an eventful day, we were happy to ate a delicious Pizza dinner in the comfort of Francois and Ida’s home. Ida played the bartender, and Francois the DJ as we talked about their college age kids, travel, and the great day we had just enjoyed.

Wednesday, February 18:

Today we had nothing scheduled until the late afternoon. The others rested, worked, and refreshed but I took this as an opportunity to continue the stimulating discussion about life in Algeria with Selma Mouloudj that we began the previous day. After her morning class at the nearby University, she joined me for tea at the hotel lounge. There we discussed two subjects familiar to most twenty somethings (she is 22 and I am 26): 1. Relationships 2. What to do after college life. Though we had similar desires in each area, I quickly discovered that she has obstacles that I have never had to consider. She explained that she plans on getting a master’s degree in Marine Biology and that eventually she would like a job that would allow her to travel. She badly wants to go to grad school in America for the high quality education and because she loves American culture (first learning to speak English by watching American TV shows like Beverly Hills, 90210). However, Algeria has the strange custom of not recognizing foreign degrees, so some of the most hard-working and talented Algerian students who earn degrees abroad, even at the most prestigious American and European schools, find it difficult or impossible to find jobs in their field when they return to Algeria. Even so, Selma is considering applying for one of the 5 or 6 Fulbright scholarships given to Algerian seniors each year which would allow her study in America.

Juggling school, two jobs, and résumé building has left Selma little time for that other great element of young adult life: dating. Yet it seems that even if she did have time for a boyfriend, she would face other difficulties in finding and maintaining a relationship. She told me that most young Algerians date, but that they cannot tell their parents because there is a strong cultural taboo against pre-marital sex and relationships (parental influence seems to extend much further in Algeria than in America—often people will simply live with their parents until they are married). The situation is especially frustrating for women because any female suspected of not being a virgin is considered essentially unfit for marriage. Ironically, she knows young women who have been directly and unromantically asked for sex from men on multiple occasions. She said that she simply wants to find someone nice to date who she can talk to and understands her, yet she’s encountered a world that has shunned public relationships and offered only casual encounters. During this trip I’ve been consistently reminded of the many gifts I’ve taken for granted while living in America, and after my conversation with Selma, I’ll certainly add the freedom to date to this growing list.

Around 4:00 we packed up and headed back to the performance hall to prepare for our show, and it was here that we discovered that Piph had been feeling sick since the morning. While Corey, Paul, Dre, and I conducted sound-check and rehearsed with the rappers who we would be collaborating with in the evening, Piph rested backstage. As showtime approached, Piph was in a feeble state and found it difficult to even speak with the many artists, officials, and fans coming and going before the show. Ida attempted to help feed Piph some healing energy by massaging some acupuncture points and I offered him some medicine my doctor sister had prescribed me in case of travel sickness. Miraculously, Piph was able to muster enough energy and adrenaline to put on a great show with us for the large and energetic Algerian audience. Having seen his pained face and sickly demeanor before the show, I was amazed that Piph was able to power through and perform at such a high level.

Because he was feeling especially weak after the show, we dropped Piph off at the Hotel (our stringent security measures were relaxed in Algiers), and then jetted on to a Hookah Bar/Restaurant to eat and celebrate our final night in Algeria. There our conversation with Ida and Fatma echoed my discussion with Selma earlier in the day. After Corey curiously asked about romantic life and dating customs in Algeria, Ida (the American) first responded that young people do not date and then Fatma (the Algerian) quickly countered with “of course Algerians date!” Ida was simply articulating what she had seen and heard from many Algerians— on the surface it perhaps does appear that there is no romance in Algeria. Fatma however, having grown up in Algeria, was quick to reveal that she had dated her husband before marrying him and that most other Algerians do in fact date. It seems that it is sometimes easy to mistake a country’s public policy for the actual behavior of that country’s people. Yet I’ve been inspired on this trip to see that despite economic, religious, social, and governmental barriers, people will invariably find ways to satisfy their need for art, music, education, and romance.

Thursday, February 19:

We bid a groggy goodbye to Algeria early this morning. Waking at 4:00am, we were in the air and on our way to Paris by 6:30am. Unfortunately Piph’s sickness had not resided and he was feeling especially drained having slept very little and eaten nothing since breakfast the previous day. On the plane we had the most intense health scare of our journey when Piph fainted in the aisle on his way from the restroom back to his seat. He quickly regained consciousness and the nurses gave him a cocktail of medicines to keep him afloat until we could land. For better or worse, I was asleep in another part of the plane for this ordeal, and only learned about it when I met Marc outside of our plane. However, by the time I saw Piph he was already joking about the two petite French stewardesses trying to support his huge limp body. Marc gave Piph a few options: 1. check into a French clinic, 2. fly back to the U.S., or 3. continue on to Equatorial Guinea as planned. Piph instantly chose the latter.

Thus we said goodbye and thank you to Marc, who was returning to the U.S. — he had been extremely helpful in navigating the first two legs of our voyage and promised to continue to be in communication with us if there were any questions, concerns, or needs during the rest of our trip. Before he left, he gave me multiple Paris medical contacts to use just in case Piph’s condition worsened. We located our gate and then I went to find Piph some much needed food and water. Feeling better from the medicine he received on the plane, Piph was able to eat and drink, and we all made it on to the plane feeling encouraged. I passed the time on the plane by sleeping, watching Scarlett Johansson destroy people in the in-flight movie Lucy, and talking to an adorable four year old Cameroonian girl and her mother (the little girl and I basically had the same french language skill and bid each other “au revoir” and “a bientot” multiple times at the end of our flight). Piph was feeling a good deal better, and we landed in Malabo, E.G. without incident.

Stepping off the plane we immediately felt a sensation we hadn’t felt in weeks: heat. We were happy to encounter an orderly scene at customs, which was even expedited for us by someone hired by the U.S. embassy. We then met embassy workers Michael (an American) and Piedad (a local) who would be accompanying us this week (they are the Equatorial Guinean edition of Ida and Fatma). After checking into the hotel, Paul, Dre, Michael, and I drove to the U.S. embassy housing where two fellow Americans named Lauren and Cormac had prepared us a delicious chicken taco dinner in their home (Piph and Corey were feeling tired and sick so they stayed at the hotel). We all got to know each other while watching Sportscenter on American TV, an extremely comforting experience amidst our foreign adventure.

Friday, February 20:

Our morning drive to the U.S. Embassy offered us our first breathtaking glimpse of the giant inactive volcano that stands above the island. We also saw an impressive array of large, extremely modern buildings lining the road from the hotel to the embassy— Oil was discovered in E.G. in the mid 1990’s and there are parts of this tiny country that exude great wealth and extravagance. When we arrived at the Embassy, we overlooked the sound-system and then met with Ambassador Mark Asquino for a fascinating lesson on the History of Equatorial Guinea, which he claimed is “perhaps the most unique country in Africa.” He explained that E.G. was originally colonized by Portugal before being traded to Spain in exchange for land that would become part of Brazil. Spain later leased E.G. to England to run as a haven for freed African slaves. The English helped foster a flourishing agricultural economy in E.G., yet when they attempted to purchase the country, the Spanish (who had done very little in E.G.), oddly refused. Thus, while broken “Pidgin English” is still widely spoken here, Equatorial Guinea is the only African country whose official language is Spanish (there are numerous indigenous languages that are still spoken here as well). E.G. was finally granted independence in 1968. Unfortunately, the country came instantly into the control of a ruthless dictator named Francisco Macías Nguema who ushered in a ten year “reign of terror” which saw mass killings and economic decimation in the country. In 1979 Macías’ nephew Teodoro Obiang Nguema overthrew him and became the new President of E.G., a position he still holds today (he is Africa’s longest serving dictator). Thus, Ambassador Asquino stated that the history of E.G. is in large part a history of trauma, “first the trauma of colonialism, and then the trauma of dictatorship.” Yet he told us that he truly can see hope for this country in the many talented and open-minded young people that the country boasts. Furthermore he framed the importance of our visit by stating that American musicians almost never come to E.G. (the last group to visit was a gospel band that came five years ago) but that young people love Hip-Hop and many may consider our visit “the cultural event of the year.”

After our conversation Piph, Corey, and Dre visited the embassy nurse for some much needed medicine and care and soon we departed for the tiny nearby town of Rebola. On the drive over Piedad told me that Rebola means “lots of kids” in Bubi (the name of tribe/language native to the island portion of E.G.), and when we arrived, I could see why. In front of the Rebola cultural center were over a dozen small, raggedly dressed children (ranging from roughly 2-6) dancing, playing, and wrestling with each other. The town as a whole was, for me, reminiscent only of scenes I’ve seen on television— brightly clad women with buckets of water balanced on their heads walked down a single dirt road which was lined with small houses made of cheap aluminum siding and makeshift parts. Atop the cultural center’s upstairs balcony, we met and rehearsed with some Bubi rappers, but our practice was abruptly interrupted by a funeral procession for an old woman who had died that morning— her casket was slowly driven by in a pickup truck as well over 100 people trailed behind on foot and together sang a beautiful west African Hymn. When all the people had finally passed by we stood speechlessly marveling at the breathtaking moment of community we had just seen.

After rehearsal we went briefly back to the hotel and then returned to Rebola to see the town’s name again affirmed— about 80 small children were there sitting and waiting patiently for the outdoor show to begin. The local rappers soon started the show as the already large audience continued to grow. Though I had virtually no idea what they were talking about, I was very impressed by the rhythm, stage presence, and delivery of many of the Bubi rappers as they energetically performed in front of the two impressive cultural center murals at the back of the stage. When it was our turn, we were pumped up to perform for the fun and energized crowd, yet as soon as soon as we struck our first collective chord we blew out the mixer that was amplifying the keyboard, guitar, and bass. It appeared for a moment that Piph was going to have to perform without the band, but our sound guy soon found and connected us to a backup sound system. During the wait a group of Rebola’s children began performing a choreographed dance routine in order to pass the time. After finally getting reconnected and amplified, we made our second attempt at starting the show. Despite less than desirable equipment, we played a well and had a blast performing with our Bubi collaborators in front of an incredible crowd (the largest of our tour so far). On the way back to the hotel we reflected on the enormous number of children at the show, the technical difficulties, the language barrier, and the distinct scene of the show and we all agreed that it was likely the most unique show we’ve ever performed together.