(Non-Arabic speaking readers can access English subtitles for this video by using the “captions” button located in the bottom right corner.)

Better, together.

My colleagues and I reach the small, withered doorway of an old apartment building in central Amman after a precarious decent down a steep set of craggily concrete stairs. From outside we can hear a group of voices talking over the dim hum of a grainy radio, though access to the building is obstructed by a canopy of wet, drying clothes strung about a low lying chain of crisscrossed metal wires.

Inside, surrounded by the building’s unfinished walls, fifteen or so men are gathered around the makings of a modest dinner. Though they have little – just black beans and rice – they are quick to invite us for supper. We politely decline and instead ask to see the rest of the two-bedroom apartment that the men share.
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Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 Audio, Thoughts, Video 1 Comment


Since March, my time in Amman has been dedicated to launching and growing Sound It Out! (SIO) the music and theatre based language learning program that I introduced in my last post. Now in its third month, the project has begun to find its rhythm. Each week, a local staff of musicians, theatre artists and language instructors collaborate to offer 25 music and theater sessions for 400 displaced and disadvantaged children in Jordan.

The SIO team is currently working on a short video piece about the project, which I look forward to sharing once complete. In the meantime, I’m excited to introduce “Creative Refuge”, a summer long blog series examining other music, theatre and arts initiatives that work with refugee youth in Jordan.

AptART’s Camp Colors

Zaatari Refugee Camp, AptART 2014.

Jordan is among the most water poor places in the world. According to the United Nations, any country with an annual water supply of less than 500 cubic meters (cm) per person is considered to have “absolute scarcity” of water. Jordan’s annual per capita supply registers at just under 150cm.
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Thursday, June 5th, 2014 Thoughts No Comments


SIO music instructor Owais Omari with student in Amman

Unexpected Findings

I am sitting on a classroom floor at the primary school in Yaffa – a hillside village 20 miles from Amman – listening to thirty children play with various percussion instruments at nearly deafening decibels. Without too much trouble, my colleague Sami softens the group’s excitement and the students find a steady yet powerful unified beat. He begins a call-and-response exercise meant to teach English letter names and sounds, layering fun rhythms with nonsense syllables and short English words. The children shout eagerly in reply, their focus interrupted only by their laughter.

I am awash in a sense of relief. The class is the first session in a new program that has been months in the making. But the experience is also a surreal one. I did not plan to teach English while in Jordan, nor did I intend to design and implement a language program for several hundred children.
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Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 Thoughts 2 Comments

Pa’ Picar 005: Lucas Silva, Palenque Records

Lucas Silva, who also goes by his DJ alias Champeta Man, has pioneered record production and cultural promotion for the Afro-Columbian community in Colombia since 1996 with his label Palenque Records. Already with a catalog of close to twenty releases and several more in the works, the label focuses primarily on Afro-Columbian projects while also extending to champeta, Pacific and African sounds. Silva is passionate about finding music that’s forgotten by the record industry or that has never been studio recorded, and reaching out to the communities where those musical traditions still thrive. Throughout his projects, his work centers on enabling Afro-Columbian musicians to become working artists and to have a global platform to share their traditions.
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Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 Thoughts No Comments

Tamale, A City Easy To Fall In Love With

Tamale, in the center of Ghana’s Northern Region, is one of those cities that it’s really easy to fall in love with. At between 250,000 and 500,000 people, it’s just the right size that it’s easy to get to know the feel of the place, and to become very familiar with a couple of neighborhoods, but still feel like there is plenty left to explore. The people here are very kind and polite; even the dominant local language, Dagbani, sounds friendly. Part of the greeting etiquette is the word “N-naa,” which is said as one syllable with a heavy, elongated accent on the “aa” sound. It is impossible to be angry at someone when you say “N-naa” to them. The genial demeanor of the people, the small-town feel the city achieves despite its size, and the fact that is the economic center of the northern half of the country, dealing primarily in agribusiness, make it a popular home base for ex-patriots overwhelmed by the intense, sprawling rush of the national capitol, Accra, on the country’s southern coast, and for international NGOs that deal with more rural populations.


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Thursday, December 5th, 2013 Thoughts 3 Comments


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