Musical Compilations Along the Route - Syria to Rwanda
December 19, 2011 GMT
London To Cape Town Musical Compilation - Syria

Have managed 154 entries on this blog. How did that happen? I never imagined it would become such a labour of love. I just try to keep it going by scribbling down mundane events with hopefully different or odd angles.
It certainly prompts strong memories of the journey from time to time, and occasional intense desires to be back on the African continent.
One of the triggers for that is music.

I collected quite a bit along the route, was introduced to more on the way, and already had a good smattering of African tracks on my MP3 player as a starter.

So I thought I'd assemble a compilation of meaningful music from each country we wandered through.

Starting with the Middle East, and


A country now very much in the news, sadly.
Accounts on the internet indicate that the Middle East and North East Africa are now more-or-less inaccessible by overland routes from Europe. Although the occasional truly independant traveller still reports crossing from Turkey to Jordan in a day, albeit not allowed to carry cameras or satnavs of any sort. So we were pretty lucky with our timing.

I can't say we actually came into contact with much Syrian music, but this is a case where I already had a few examples myself. Here are the Youtube versions. Hopefully these will bring a different impression of the country to that presented on the news these days:

This one has many very familiar photos - I want to be back there!
I hope their situation has a peaceful resolution.

Abdullah Chhadeh.

Abdullah Chhadeh and Syriana, his collaboration with Nick Page.
Nick Page also features in Ethiopian tracks later on.

Syriana - more intense memories of Syria.

Next up is Jordan.

Posted by Ken Thomas at 08:46 PM GMT
Musical Compilation - Jordan

Wherever you find yourself in the towns of Jordan you'll hear recordings of the Quran being sung. Everywhere.
From someone's radio, from computers sitting idle on desks in offices, from cars in traffic. And from Mosques of course. It was always very melodic and relaxing as the sounds drifted all around.

Here's an example.

Beduin entertainment at Wadi Rum.

And at Petra, inside The Monastery.

Next, dependant on time and internet access on the remote Holy Isle, is Egypt.

Posted by Ken Thomas at 09:38 PM GMT
January 12, 2012 GMT
Musical Compilation - Egypt

There's a wide range of music to be found in this big country. Here are just a few samples from Youtube.

A piece composed by Yasser Abdel Rahman.

The Temple of Horus. Amir Khosrowshahi plays the Egyptian Ney (reed flute).

Ancient ritual music with modern instruments.

'Masreat' (Egyptians) by Omar Khairat.

And another piece played by Amir Khosrowshahi on a ney made by himself.

I've had a soft spot for the ney ever since seeing it played by skilled Iranian musicians during the Rumi Festival in London many years ago.

A video of Bedouins in the Sinai.

Posted by Ken Thomas at 10:31 PM GMT
January 14, 2012 GMT
Musical Compilation - Sudan

Well, we were pretty well immersed in musical interludes in Khartoum, resulting in daughter Caroline, and Beau, deciding to live and work there.
Here's a selection of Youtubes. Including a clip I uncovered featuring the two of them.

'Meroe' sung by Rasha Sheikh Eldin. Featuring the pyramids at Meroe.

Friday afternoon prayers at the Hamed el Nil mosque in Omdurman (across the river from Khartoum).

Some Sudanese hip hop at Papa Costa restaurant in Khartoum, where Beau and Huila played to a full house.

A view of Khartoum at election time and hip hop at Papa Costa's.

Music and politics in Sudan - and memories of Khartoum pavements and the tea-and-zalabya (doughnut) stalls.

What a surprise to find this...... No music, but plenty of birdsong. And at 0:35 appears Caroline and Beau chatting to a local visitor..... Didn't know there was a camera around!
(Beau's bike just visible behind. And McCrankpin's armchair appears at left of picture at the end, tent just behind)

Not very Sudanese. German band 'Elegant Jazz Trio' perform at the Sailing Club a while before we arrived.

Abdel Gadir Salim (western Sudan) sings 'Bissarma'.

As we approach the Ethiopian border here's a Sudanese song, 'Zanoba', performed by Ethiopian singers and dancers.

Posted by Ken Thomas at 09:09 PM GMT
February 05, 2012 GMT
Musical Compilation - Ethiopia

There's an amazing variety of music to hear in Ethiopia - so many colourful styles. All, as far as I can see, unique. And not widely known outside the country.
We were lucky enough to be in Addis Ababa when the Goethe Institute arranged a big open-air concert to celebrate a hundred years since the first recordings of Ethiopian music.
There are dozens of great youtubes of popular artists. You may like these few.

Azmari is widely popular. It's a call-and-response style. The two vocalists improvise entirely as they sing short verses about each other, complimentary, joking or otherwise humourously insulting.

The african drums and masinko (1-string Ethiopian lute) always feature.
It's popular in 'folkloric' bars and we got involved in a performance in a bar in Gonder, the three of us and a local wearing an England football shirt.

The singer is Bethlehem Dagnachew, the dance style is Eskista.

More Eskista - there's a lot of it in Ethiopia.

And more, on stage in a talent show. Performed by Mahlet Wagnew.

More from a different setting in Gonder. Featuring Gizachew Teshome.
Some scenes shot at the sixteenth-century castle of Fasil Ghebbi, where we spent a little time.

Eskista again, featuring Tadese Mekete amongst many others.

Scenes from Gonder.

The last eskista - maybe. Watch the little performers at 1:43 and 3:08.

Shem City Steppers.
Nick Page collaborated with many Ethiopian musicians to form 'Dub Colossus' for the western market.

Tizita is a traditional Ethiopian folk song. The title means 'memories'. Sung by Azmari singer Aster Aweke.

Some Ethiopian jazz.

The Homeless Wanderer.
Ethiopian pianist Emahoy Tsegue-Maryam Gebru.

The first classical solo pianist in Ethiopia, she is now in her 80s and has lived since the 1950s in the Ethiopian Orthodox monastery in Jerusalem. Still peforming.
She became known in the west through the release of the 'Ethiopiques No.21' CD.

Sung by Ejigayehu Shibabaw, an Ethiopian singer who achieved international fame under the name 'Gigi'.

Posted by Ken Thomas at 08:45 PM GMT
February 08, 2012 GMT
Musical Compilation - Kenya

Continuing on this musical journey we reach Kenya.
As I've trawled through lots of East African music on my MP3 player, and assembled these clips together from Youtube, they've triggered a huge number of memories of the trip. Especially some of these following tracks.

But before the music we'll start off with this video. It's filmed at Jungle Junction in Nairobi, the overland travellers' popular stopping place and 'Home from Home'.
And it must have been shot shortly after Caroline and Beau had returned to England but before I departed for the west and Uganda.

Here's the line up:
At 1:12 McCrankpin's Yamaha gets a wee bit-part, all under cover.
At 1:49 we have a nice close-up of Caroline's bike, and her faithfull mascot. That's followed by Chris, the owner of Jungle Junction, setting off on Beau's bike to ride it to his storage facility where it was kept while Caroline and Beau were back home in England. (They returned to Jungle Junction in the summer of 2011 to pick up their bikes and ride them to Khartoum where they now live).
On a trip like this you often see people wielding camcorders, and take no notice, and I don't remember anyone particularly filming at Jungle Junction, but it looks like the author gets a walk-on part around 5:53.

Now, let the music commence........

We'll start with this one which I found on a compilation CD many years ago. It came to prominence in the film 'The Constant Gardener'.

Kothbiro by Ayoub (or Ayub) Ogada. The title means 'rain is coming'.
I've added another version of this same song at the end, such a powerful piece.

Ni Kii Kiega, a Kikuyu folk song. Adapted by the singer Eric Wainaina for this good cause that makes a change from motorbikes.
He's taken on various political campaigning rôles with his music, including fighting corruption in Kenya.

Jungle Junction is situated in the Nairobi suburb of 'Junction'.
A long walk or short bike ride away is the huge Nakumatt supermarket. I lost count of how many times we went shopping there - all the western stuff on the shelves. On one occasion the rains filled the valley road between Jungle Junction and Nakumatt with mud, but I had a good rear tyre, recently fitted.
Very appropriately this video is filmed right up against the aisle for bicycles, mopeds and scooters - plenty of tyres in the background. And Eet Sum Mor biscuits are to the left, four aisles down.
Eric Wainaina again, with his song Twisti.

I'll check if he has a date free to perform at my local Waitrose.

No apologies for posting this one again. It's impossible to hear this without remembering so vividly the friendly and sunny streets of Kericho, with this tune always wafting out of the bar opposite the hotel and drifting up the sandy streets past the tailors pedalling their sewing machines on the verandahs.
And the equally friendly streets and hotel cafe in Kahama, Tanzania, where I heard it again and finally found out what the title was.

Isanda Gi Hera by Tony Nyadundo, in the Ohangla style.

More Ohangla. Adega by 'Bongisa' Nyakwar Nyoguda.

Kenyan and Tanzanian music are closely linked, and influenced by styles from Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Nyama Choma by Samba Mapangala. Who was born in Congo and brought his music to Kenya via Uganda.
The title is often the only word you'll see on menus in small shack cafes. It means 'grilled meat' in Swahili.

A little way beyond the Nakumatt supermarket is the restaurant 'Carnivore'. Live music is usually on the menu.
Here's Samba Mapangala again, one evening last year.

Achicha Moimugakse by Lilian Rotich.
The Christian religion is still very strong in Kenya, particularly in the west. And Gospel music as well.
Lilian Rotich is one of the leading exponents.

Sina Makosa by Les Wanyika, a mixed Tanzanian/Kenyan band.
In 1971 the successful band 'Simba Wanyika' was formed in Tanzania. The name is Swahili for 'Savannah Lions'.
Over the years it broke up and split into various offshoots, moving to Kenya. This is one of its many reincarnations.

Last one, Kothbiro again. Sung by Cypriot singer Anna Vissi and a black singer who I've been unable to identify.

In Dholuo, the Luo language:
Rain is coming.
Bring our cattle in.
Dear children, bring our cattle in.
Our worldly belongings.

Posted by Ken Thomas at 08:12 PM GMT
April 02, 2012 GMT
Musical Compilation - Uganda

For the four weeks or so I was in Uganda, the World Cup was on every TV. No one was tuned to music channels. But you could still hear a bit in the urban streets and cafes.
Which reminds me of an incident that shows how Africans always seem to look after each other and everyone else.
(I'm pleased to see there's an Australia-to-Germany trip report on this forum saying the same thing).

This incident happened in the crowded bar of the camp site in Kampala.

One evening, the England v Germany game was on. On the TV, with all the razmatazz of the buildup and pre-match pundits.
The bar was fairly packed, mainly with Americans.
Now as I've said before I don't follow football, and all this match build-up stuff on the TV was putting me off. Not many bets seemed to be on England.
Then the match started, and although I know nothing about the flow of the game, it didn't look good. So at an anxious moment in the game I slipped quietly out of the bar to find something more interesting to do.
Now the bar was pretty busy. At a guess, 100 or so people in there. Only two or three barmen were holding the fort, handling food orders as well, and were kept 100% occupied.
Well, the next morning I popped in for breakfast. Straightaway one of the barmen, who was on duty the previous evening, called out to me, "Hey, how come you disappeared during that game last night? That was your team wasn't it??"
The barman had noticed that one, out of a hundred or so customers, was no longer there during the match. How did he do that? While constantly serving everyone else?
They keep an eye out for you......

So, from village life to big bikes and bling. Featuring Clever J:

Bakiga traditional dance, performed at the campsite where I stayed on Lake Bunyonyi:

For a complete change of tack, here's the preliminaries of a big Ugandan wedding on Lake Victoria:

A few Ugandan bikes, and a big overland 4X4:

Like Kenya, Christianity features strongly in Ugandan life. A choir sings in English:

Traditional Busoga dance from eastern Uganda:

Clever J is a big name, here's another youtube. More bikes on the streets this time:

Samite, singing 'Mutoto' ('Young child' in Swahili):

This is a Ugandan/Tanzanian song. Sung, I think, in the Malagasy language of Madagascar. It's a sad song:

Traditional folk song and dance of western Uganda:

Samite again, playing the mbira:

Posted by Ken Thomas at 06:20 PM GMT
April 03, 2012 GMT
Musical Compilation - Rwanda

I only stayed in one place in Rwanda - Solace Ministries Guest House in Kigali.
I thought I'd only stay 2 days, enough to find a cash machine if one existed, but on the second day I decided that wasn't enough and stayed about a week.
There's something about the place that took hold of me and kept me there. It's a support and refuge centre for those traumatised by the Genocide. So it's set up to be very welcoming and accepting of anyone who arrives.
Including paying visitors like me, who can stay in a first-rate guest house and take part in anything going on that they wish, more or less. The income from visitors makes a significant contribution to the running of the centre.

When I did finally depart, I sensed a strong feeling that really, there was no need to go yet, I could stay another 3 or 4 days - or more .......

And, there's music. Quite a lot of it.

During 2009 a music centre was established here. It was found that music gave a lot of comfort to those arriving for help and counselling. Music is deeply embedded in African culture after all.
So a recording studio was built by volunteer musicians and technicians from England, mainly Sussex.
And the Solace Gospel Choir was established. The members all having been affected by the Genocide.
One of their songs accompanies the home page of the Solace website here.

So this entry will take a look at Rwandan music through the work of Solace Ministries.

Here's a Youtube of the project to build the recording studio:

During my visit a concert hall was under construction, below the guest house. It was already in use by the Solace Gospel Choir and many other musicians in its partially-finished state. It's completed now.
Anyone staying there, like me, was welcome to sit in on any of the morning practices, like this one just warming up:

(This is a group of orphaned head-of-households)

And musical gatherings like this one, in the part-finished hall:

All these people have been affected by the Genocide.

The music floated around the building like silk in the breeze. Very relaxing and etherial.
During the day various music classes practise under the tutelage of the volunteer teacher and sound technician from England.

His 'day job' was to work with British charities to raise as much money as possible in as short a time as possible to equip the ministry with sufficient musical instruments so that all students wishing to learn could be accommodated.

Empty classrooms can be used by visitors to listen to the lesson next door or to access the free internet service.

One day during my visit, the volunteers, mainly Canadian, had asked the students to suggest things they'd like to learn about the West that could be covered in a single day. The consensus came back that they'd like to see what a western wedding was like. So after dinner on the evening before the event the volunteers got together to plan and rehearse a complete wedding ceremony that they would perform for the students.
Roles were allocated for bride and groom, best man, vicar, bride's dad, choir and organist and so on.
Well, after breakfast the next morning, some unexpected situation arose requiring the volunteer playing the bride's dad to head off into town for a while. A few eyes peered in my direction. I wasn't sure about that - I hadn't been around the previous evening for the rehearsals. Well, one of the others who had been there stepped forward and I could breathe again.
And what a magnificent event it was. I was out for most of it but returned in time for the start of the reception complete with simple buffet, ending when the bride and groom departed in their 'golden coach', the bride throwing a bouquet into the crowd of guests.
The students, who played the guests (all affected in some way or other by the Genocide) gave a very heartfelt and emotional ovation - their appreciation and enthusiasm could be felt by everyone, and drifted around everywhere.

So that's what this place is like. I sat in on a few morning practices by the choir and listened to individual lessons for singing and for piano.

Back then, the Solace Gospel Choir had just released a CD which was on sale in the guest house.

Songs Of Solace can be sampled and purchased here.

And a track seen here:

Since my visit, Dicken Marshall from Brighton has established a recording and production company so that the rights of Rwandan musicians to their recorded works can be properly protected. Income from sales goes to the artists and contributes to the running of Solace Ministries. Rafiki Records has now released a compilation CD, 'Rafiki Sampler', featuring Rwandan musicians, survivors of the Genocide, who previously had no access to recording or production facilities.
Tracks can be heard here,

and the CD, or individual tracks, purchased here.

Here's one of the bands on Rafiki Sampler, The EAC Troop:

And Sophie Nzayisenga who recorded at Solace Ministries can be seen on the BBC World Service here. (You may be prompted to select player settings)

Rafiki Record's website is here.

A write up in The Independent newspaper is here.

And a nice video of the journalist's visit:

The title frame above and the scene near the beginning (at about 18 seconds) were filmed in the corridor below the guest house and bring back many memories.

With the hall now completed, a counselling session, held every Wedneday, is underway:

Not always appropriate for visitors to attend, but the singing drifts all around the building.
Not easy to get on the road again, even though another African country awaits not far away.......

Posted by Ken Thomas at 03:25 PM GMT

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