First there were three long days of travel, during which I went through seven cities: New York, Montreal, Brussels, Kigali, Addis Ababa, Dar Es Salaam, and finally Zanzibar.
The only place I stayed overnight was Kigali. Much is the same over there. I managed to squeeze in a meeting with my old friend Jean Pierre (aka JP,) and we started planning a concert we will hold at Mille Colline, the hotel from the film Hotel Rwanda.
Most importantly, I managed to hold my first street performance of the summer in Rwanda, right across from the Simba supermarket. I was pleased that some people even said, “Welcome Back!” There was also a mentally ill individual there whom others were trying to make scram. Overall, the performance went well, considering my level of exhaustion. I noticed in particular some elderly people who’d stopped to watch. One man told me he used to play sax but was arrested for playing it in a public park in Uganda. He suggested that this would not happen in Rwanda, but I’m still not sure if he was trying to offer me a “cautionary” tale.
That evening I was right back on the plane, and when I arrived in Zanzibar I was exhausted to say the least. Someone picked up me and a few other festival participants at the airport. I crashed in bed immediately after being dropped at the hotel. Luckily I woke up in time to have some dinner, consisting of delicious street food which is mostly grilled fish cubes on a stick.
Opening night of the festival was fascinating. It was held in a medieval structure known as the Old Fort. There were many performers and speakers, including Tanzanian government officials. Most interesting to me were two young women who sang together acapella. I didn’t understand the swahili lyrics, but the music was great. It reminded me of Bulgarian folk choirs, but there were only two of them. Finally, the first film of the festival was about Senegalese singer Youssou Ndour, particularly the use of Islamic themes in his pop music. My feeling is that so many interesting events are going on here at the festival, that I’ll be lucky to get even an hour or two at the beach!
Last night (7/11/10,) I had my first performance in Zanzibar. The film festival held an after-party for the World Cup, and the entertainment was a collaboration of me and Tanzanian DJ Eddy. We had only met that afternoon, but it went wonderfully. DJ Eddy laid down some beats, and I improvised sax lines and extended solos on top. His music selections ranged from American hip-hop to local Tanzanian beats. The crowd loved us. They were dancing so hard, and looked like they were having such a good time that I was jealous! (Not to say I wasn’t having fun too.)
This brings us to today: I’m supposed to perform at the closing ceremony for the festival, so I met with the organizers to discuss. We decided that over the next few days, I should keep an eye on the other performers here, plus go spend some time at the Music Academy. When I find some people I’d like to collaborate with, we’ll start making further preparations…
I just returned from a cocktail party with other festival participants, and met many people from around the region and further. My pocket is now full of business cards, and with a little luck I will be able to connect the names and faces later! The party was on a terrace of a hotel with a beautiful view of the Indian Ocean.
Now I’m going off to find some dinner and catch some films and performances…