The Ghetto – Nairobi, Jazz and the universal language of music
Location: Nairobi, Kenya – Sunday night, December 4; Day one in Africa
Complementary blog reading music, download: The Ghetto, by Don Hathaway on itunes.
“We have so many incredible musicians in the house tonight. I would like to bring up onto the stage all the way from America, Mr. Tim!”
Somehow I had wound up in the local Sunday night jam session with some of the best and renown jazz musicians of Kenya. Jazz? Kenya? Yes. I was shocked too. Shocked at how unbelievable the music was. The local bar was packed inside and the crowd flowed through the doors out onto the patio where the locals bounced, swayed and danced to the groove while peering through open-spaced windows. The music was off the hook and everyone felt it.
I paced nervously as thoughts ran though my head of countless open mike jams of my past. Jazz. Fusion. Heart. This jam session had it all, and I was like a white ghost amidst a tribe of energy filled African soul travelers.
Butterflies filled my being as I snaked through the crowd of darkness toward the lighted stage. My imagination could not have anticipated this journey. The musicians greeted me warmly with smiles of anticipation as I stepped curiously behind the drum set. I cracked the snare drum signaling my arrival and complemented with a quick roll to register my sense of the kit set up. James, the gregarious yet warm and open leader bobbed his well kept dreads toward me as he felt me out “Cha cha cha?” A slight twist my head as if calling off the signal like a pitcher calling the next throw. “The Ghetto?” A quick nod came instinctively as if I knew this was the one. A complementary nod and James laid down the keyboard rhythm and followed through with his soulful voice. “ummmmhhhmmmmmmm ohhhhhh yeeeaahhhh….. this, is the ghetto….” I felt the vibe, the timing and with my natural count I struck the snare beat intuitively and the rest of the band joined in perfect harmony. “The Ghetto” was on.
My heart aligned with my mind and the percussion flowed through me as if I had played the song a thousand times before. “Don’t you know that it’s alright… Doin, what you know your supposed to do, feelin so raw…” The dynamics of the jam flowed deep and I felt like I had been called home…