Bale Mountain National Park

nyala

Nyala!

“Have you thought of your program?”

This was the third time this guide had barged into the drafty common room of the Bale Mountain National Park lodge to solicit his services. I had told him before that I had no plan and no desire for a guided walking tour of the park, be it for bird watching or otherwise, yet he persisted.

“We must make a plan.”

“Do I need a guide? Can’t I just walk around? Besides, I’m just here to meet a friend. I don’t think we will even do any trekking tomorrow.”

The friend I was waiting on was Brian, a long-haired, coffee-fueled, Peace Corps volunteer who I had met only fifteen minutes before. I was sent his way by an old college friend (and PC volunteer) who said I ought to go check out Bale. I thought this an excellent idea. Once you make Peace Corps friends in an area, the whole network opens up, and a vagabond can easily hop from town to town, connecting the dots.

“I’m just going to hang out with Brian. No birding.” It was getting cold and dark. Finally the guide gave up, electing to walk down to his cabin, leaving me in peace. Continue reading

For the Love of Music

Tilapia boys and some of their immovable objects

Working with the Frank Znort Quartet as a much more rewarding experience than I could have imagined previously. I was commissioned by David, the owner of Tilapia Culture, to organize a tour for a large group of Norwegians I’d never heard of before who would be coming to Kampala only weeks later. I had never done any kind of music management, and would be paid almost nothing, but it was just the sort of crazy task that an otherwise aimless vagabond like myself likes to get involved in. Plus, I have a don’t ask don’t tell relationship with music which is as healthy as anyone’s. Why the hell not? Continue reading

Frank Znort Quartet hits Kampala

“Somebody has to tell me if it’s 110 volts!”

“Do we have any more light filters? Like green, maybe?”

“How many beers do we get?”

I was struggling to unload and set up some of the equipment, and being the liaison between the band and the venue, I was also the one with all the answers, presumably. Continue reading

Roots Rhythm with The Dons Cartel

Reggae has been something I’ve enjoyed innocently: Bob Marley weaves himself in and out of my playlists from time to time, like he does with so many others. Recently, though, I was riding in a car with Bob’s greatest hits on the tape deck, and I was struck goosebumpingly dumb while singing along to his music; it moved me in a whole new way. This new reaction to reggae is hardly a mystery, though. I had gained a whole new appreciation for reggae simply because I was now a reggae musician. Continue reading

A Long Day at La Ba! Street Art Festival

So I was sitting at a bar…

La Ba! Street Art Festival

One night of pool and beers with my Ethiopian pals at our favorite joint, Tilapia, I was chatting with the owner, a Brit named David, about music. He had previously shown me a back room which was scattered with drums and amplifiers and a number of other noise makers. As he was organizing tabs, I was asking him when we could meet and kick out some jams, man. Continue reading

Music and Travel: The Makings of a Modern Troubadour

A Musical Conversation Between Enthusiasts

Talk about cultural exchange. Music is a vessel filled with influence, ideas, ideologies, and insights on everyday life; it can be an explosion of passionate feeling on important topics like wars and politics, or a simple, mindless ditty about nothing in particular. Woven into the lyrics, rhythm, and progression of songs past and present is the state of the culture, and the individual, from whence the song sprouted. Walk through the downtown sector of many American city these days, and you’ll no doubt hear the plucking guitars, drum circles, and protest lyrics associated with the Occupy movement. Poke around wine country, and you’ll hear the harvesters bellowing drinking songs about the benefits of low maintenance women. Stroll through the market in an Indonesian city, and you’ll hear live traditional music clashing bafflingly with pop tunes issuing from some nearby boombox… Is that Michael Jackson? Yes it is. Continue reading