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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 6 Comments

Sakasaka Music’s First Digital Release – Abu Sadiq

It is my great pleasure to announce the release of Sakasaka Music’s first digital album, available April 15th, 2014. A compilation of Abu Sadiq’s songs from across his career, the tracks for this album were chosen by Mr. Abu and I. As you’ll recall from a previous post, Mr. Abu is one of the most well known singers in the Northern Region, and this release makes him just the second Tamale-based artist to have his music for sale online.
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Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 Video No Comments

Demonstration in Remembrance of Berkin Elvan

Turkey held municipal elections on March 30th.  Leading up to the vote, Istanbul was energetic and tense, strung with campaign banners and aurally cluttered with the propaganda songs that blared from party vehicles cruising neighborhoods every afternoon. The Prime Minister blocked access to Twitter and YouTube. Protests were held in honor of Berkin Elvan, a teenager who fell into a coma as a result of police violence during last summer’s Gezi protests, and were broken up time and again with tear gas. No one was sure what would happen.

The vote itself passed peacefully, though with numerous allegations of fraud that included power outages in forty Turkish cities as the votes were being counted. In spite of all this, the AKP, which has been in power since 2002, managed to garner more than forty percent of the vote. Most people I’ve spoken to since the election accept the results with a deflated kind of resignation.
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Monday, April 14th, 2014 Video No Comments

Profile: Invasión Tropical

Para leer en español, click aquí.

Earlier this month, I was honored to DJ alongside Bogotá mainstays DJ Criollo and DJ Mixiticius at the second edition of the Invasión Tropical (Tropical Invasion) series (tagline: “Venimos en Son de Paz” (“We Come in Peace”)). These two artists have been holding down the alterna-Latino scene at progressive venues across the city for some time now. I met them at another party concept they hosted at the bar Latino Power called La Universidad de la Champeta, which was designated to create a space for Afro-Colombian music that’s historically found its home on the Atlantic coast, but is now emerging as a force on national and international levels with the complete takeover of champeta urbana.
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Monday, April 7th, 2014 Video 2 Comments

After Some Hurdles, The Wooden Band

So for the past few months, my primary focus has been on attempting to foster a live music scene here in Tamale. I haven’t had much to write about until now, so here’s a brief update on some of the hurdles I’ve faced and what I’m doing now.

Back in November, I started holding three to four rehearsals a week with several popular local singers. Rehearsals were intended to provide singers with the opportunity to have their own backing band, so that they could start playing live music instead of the standard playback or “miming” shows that dominate the music scene here. My plans for rehearsals were ambitious: to have seven to ten rehearsals a week, giving each singer the opportunity to rehearse at least once a week. As it turned out, holding even three rehearsals a week turned out to be a challenge. To organize a rehearsal, my routine went like this: call the singer and all of the bandsmen at around 10:00 am the day of to remind everybody about the rehearsal and make sure they show up at the scheduled time, usually between 4:00 and 6:00 pm. Text messaging and email are rarely used here, so organizing group events like rehearsal takes quite a lot of phone time, especially if one of those people has a conflict or needs to adjust the time. If that happens, then each member of the band needs to be called again, and the times re-verified. Of course, people can’t or don’t always answer their phones, so this process usually got stretched out over at least a few hours. Then the scheduled rehearsal time would roll around, and, frequently, everyone would be about an hour or more late, and it was not uncommon to have at least one no-show. As I discovered through this process, and confirmed with my Dagbani teacher, it is apparently less rude to say you will come and then come late or not at all than it is to say you can’t come, which seems akin to rejecting an invitation.
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Monday, April 7th, 2014 Video No Comments

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