Wednesday, September 2, 2009

1st September 2009 - Day 2

1st September 2009 - Day 2

Joining the Nairobi rush hour traffic, we head over to the GoDown for a first day of music.
The room seems spacious to start with but as Joseph Kumura arrives with his accompanying singers and guitar players the space soon fills up.

For a musicians perspective on the first day, I'm going to hand over to Devon for a few words....

Dear Tom's blog,

We're in an industrial part of Nairobi. Driving through the red gate with the guard, Go Down Arts Centre is a large, dusty-bricked courtyard, white walls with music murals and graffiti.

There are practice rooms all around the main space -- white concrete rooms with high ceilings -- and a recording studio. Young people are everywhere: musicians, street kids, mentors and administrative folks. In our room, we have a PA, plastic chairs, and a handful of instruments: a twangy, light-stringed Takamine, a funky white Strat copy and a bag of percussion.

The group of local musicians we played with today, headed up by the mightily respected Kenyan legend Joseph Kamaru, seem lovely, though I think we're all a bit nervous. At Guy's suggestions, Paul and I played the Jimmie Rodgers-inspired song we wrote last week in England, for this project. After a round of grins and nods and sporadic clapping, they took over. With Kamaru in the lead, they started into a bunch of Kenyan songs. Eventually, we began playing along, and so the day progressed. Their chords are very straight-forward but the timing and structure of the Kikuyu songs takes some concentration. Later in the day, we played Hank William's Honky Tonkin' and got some of them singing on the chorus. Here and there we stopped and talked, but for the most part, it was one big, messy, delightful jam. By the time we took our first break, I could already feel some of the cultural awkwardness starting to ebb.

Joseph Kamaru

Kiruiku Wanganangu

Just a minute ago, Tom and I walked across the courtyard to where a group of boys were doing acrobatics: upside down, balancing on each other's shoulders and knees, two or three boys high. Now, here in the GoDown office, two of the teenagers have come in, one with an ice pack and the other, a huge, huge lump at the bottom of his knee. I'm completely distracted from this writing, watching him gasping as his friend tries to wrestle the lump back into his knee. My stomach is turning and I think it's worse for him that I'm here -- strange white girl wincing back at him. So I'm signing off! All in all, it's been an exhausting, wonderful first day.

Thanks for reading,

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