WH Chronicle No. 1.39

June 3, 2011 (plus or minus a few days without internet)

Tanzania had a taste of woodwind quintet music last week with music flavored by East African composers.   Some audience members reported being quite touched by these compositions and, more importantly, our students felt even more inspired to write their ethnic music to share with the world.   I plan to post the live recordings on a website in the next few weeks for everyone’s listening pleasure. 

It is nothing short of a miracle that we secured a woodwind quintet and have a terrific pianist, like Randy, to perform these world premieres in Tanzania.  Liz traveled from Charleston, Gary from Knoxville and Claire from Nairobi—each of them are terrific musicians, friends and colleagues.   Students, composers, teachers, expats, and locals were all incredibly grateful for these musicians’ sacrifices and their willingness to bring this project to fruition—as were we. 
Woodwind Quintet, Randy (w/ his pianist hat on), and two of our composers, Kasheshi, and Kaghondi.

Performers including the small choir for one of the compositions, composers, and Dr. Tamusuza, Prof. of Composition at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. 

Our musicians appeared to enjoy their time while visiting—safaris, mountain climbing, late night bottle wine while playing quintets; plenty of Bananagrams.  We played children’s concerts for some extremely engaged and attentive audiences--children that come from houses without electricity, bricks or multiple rooms—where they grow up sweeping dirt floors.   Daryl and Sam successfully lead these schools through their very first attempt at the “Chicken Dance”.    Evidently, this should be considered an international favorite.

When it was time for Liz to depart for home, she burst into a flurry of farewell tears.  The Tanzanians wishing her ‘goodbye’ were very confused by her weeping.   To them, this emotion is reserved purely for funerals.  Megan explained that it is normal for Americans to be sad and shed tears when they love a place and don’t want to leave.  To this, one student responded, “It makes me sad to see her cry, but very proud that she loved her experience.”   I find it charming to witness these cross-cultural awarenesses.

As our time here slips away, I still struggle with coherent thoughts at to what makes Tanzania such a special place.  Every visitor we’ve hosted shares our sentiments, but describing it remains a challenge.

Perhaps it is the people’s commitment and loyalty to community; or their priority towards others over selfish ambition; or the lack of cosmic entitlement.  Thinking of leaving I, too, get weepy. 
Maybe I’m a fugitive running from the known evils of my old life…or just maybe, I’m drawn to a culture of people that live so close to daily demise that I share some of the same contentments (resignations) after having been introduced to my own mortality by a mere mosquito.   As with the war veterans, we all understand there are alternatives far worse than a nice nap in eternity--not something that most comfy Americans like to dwell on…

OK, enough waxing editorial…back to the morning report.

After the concerts, Tom, Randy, Don, and Gary went to climb Lengai, an active volcano, and then to visit Lake Manyara. 

From our field reporter, Tom:
Always the question, “Why do you climb?” Always the answer, “Because no one told me how freakin’ hard it was going to be!!” One hears about the difficulties of climbing Kilimanjaro because of the thin air. Some people even talk about how much more difficult Mt. Meru is to climb. No one talks about Lengai because either they haven’t climbed or they are dead from having tried. My brother Jerry warned my brother Don not to climb anything with me.  I kind of understand now why he said that.
Anyway, we, Don, Gary Sperl, Randy Stubbs and myself, left Makumira on Tuesday morning and drove west. Our driver, a taciturn man, confidently took us to the small village where we ate lunch and picked up our cook and then turned off the paved road onto a dirt road that took us three hours north into the rift valley and up to Lake Natron next to Oldonyi Lengai “the place of God.” This is an active volcano which erupted last in 2008. It is recommended that you climb at night (midnight) because it is too hot during the day. We have since decided the reason is psychological in that if you can’t see what you are attempting, you won’t be tempted to quit.  Don aptly called it an eleven hour stairmaster. I agree except stairmasters rarely kill people.  There were many stops, much crawling on hands and knees and much soreness in feet and legs the next day. But, we did it and it is all part of a large selective memory bank of “boy, that was neat!”
We rested a little while then drove back on the much longer (strange) dirt road to the paved road and on to our lovely campsite complete with bar and pool.  Early to be and early to rise and we are on to Lake Manyara Game Preserve, famous for the tree climbing lions.  It is a beautiful park with plenty of animals and cool forested regions next to a very large lake and yes, we did see lions. No elephants, but it was fine with us. Gary Sperl, our clarinet playing friend from Knoxville, has determined that all the animals are remote control activated animatronics and there must have been a power outage in that part of the park. I would be inclined to agree because it was quite often a matter of driving around a bend in the road and catching some beast unawares ala Disneyland or Six Flags. But he got some beautiful pictures regardless.
All in all it was an eventful trip to places not often traveled with terrific people and terrific memories.

Photos courtesy of Gary Sperl

If there were a chicken in this photo, it could be a promo for:   Hangover 3, "The Serengeti"

Now back to Daris in the studio....

This week Sam told me that he wanted a freckle shaver.   

Daryl has been teaching Gary how to use his new mobile phone; how to navigate around the local village; as well as which cookies he should buy her.   Gary, our long-time friend, was recruited by us to teach here next year, so we’ve been doing our best to acclimate him to Makumira.   He’s already having a splendid time.

 This morning we could watch our warm breath in the crisp, cool air. 

"Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit."   Jawaharlal Nehru  

"It's not the mountain we conquer but ourselves." Edmund Hillary, first to climb Mt. Everest, 1919

"I wasn't always black...there was this freckle and it got bigger and bigger."  Bill Cosby

"Reminding you that all music was once new."  Composer's Datebook, National Public Radio

Still wondering,

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