Day 7: In Nairobi – sponsors, blogs and strategy

The group is split today.  The Jeep Group, having suffered only a flat tire in the field, has made it home to Nairobi.  The Van Group, having suffered a more fundamental breakdown wakes up in Nakuru facing a morning of car repairs and an afternoon drive home to Nairobi.

The Jeep group spent the morning on blogs, the afternoon with sponsors and the evening working on the Singing Wells Strategy through 2014.  In discussions with sponsors, one of the major themes was how to ensure the music we discover and capture from the field is truly relevant to new generations.    We discussed in detail the twin mission of Singing Wells and the conflict inherent in our two goals.  On one hand, we are scientists, collecting fossils to be stored and re-discovered.  Here our obligation is to be systematic in our field visits, to represent the breadth of East African styles, to record fairly, and to not judge whether any particular group or style is likely to be relevant to today’s generation of listeners.  On the other hand, we are artists, seeking musicians and styles that can be fed directly into the current music scene – we are ‘seed’ collectors looking for music that can be replanted and grown in different soils.   Our obligation here is to judge, is to prioritise, to separate groups and find some groups that we should be bringing back to the Ketebul studios and supporting with contemporary studio musicians and sound engineers ready to bring new arrangements.

The sponsors discussed that these missions are sometimes in conflict.  If we spend too much of our time showing videos of more traditional tribes singing traditional songs, we might turn off the young audience we are trying to attract.  Like kids everywhere, they tend to reject their parents’ and grandparents’ music, hoping to discover new music they can uniquely own.   If we spent too much of our time showing only the videos of the few groups we think can be fed into more mainstream music, we are abandoning our mission to record all the styles of East Africa, so others can rediscover them.   This topic became a major topic of discussion over our remaining three days and will be a key issue we address as we put forward the next draft of our 2012-2014 Strategy.

We worked the afternoon on writing blogs for all the interviews and field visits, including all our song translations.  Kathy brought back a full work book of notes.  We have realised the growing importance of our ‘field interviewer’ who now spends as much time with the groups before and after their recording sessions as we spend with them recording.  We are investing increasing time in group histories, background on costumes and songs.   We then said goodbye to Kathy that evening as she flew back to London.  Jimmy and Hunter will continue with the Ketebul crew through the weekend to produce songs/videos from the Kalenjin visit and as we start our studio recordings of the Otacho Young Stars (from our Nyansa trip) and Ben Kisinja (from this trip to record the Kalenjin).


Friday, March 9, Nairobi

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