Berklee Global Jazz Institute Students Share Their Experience About Connecting to the Roots of Jazz in Africa

The Berklee Global Jazz Institute visited Africa this past March where they got to visit Cameroon and Gabon. During their trip, they visited orphanages, music schools, Universities and performed with local musicians. 

Carlos Capacho, Venezuela, Cuatro

photo 1photo 2I would like to express my sincere gratitude and say “THANKS” for the opportunity you gave me. I really enjoyed this trip with the Global Jazz-Family. Music is very powerful, I remember it like it was yesterday, the energy of the kids in the orphanage, especially after we played, they were dancing and laughing. I will remember this beautiful moment for the rest of my life. The 2 weeks in Africa taught us a lot, even tough we are all from different parts of the world I think we have the same ideas, connections, and direction; we have the power to change lives. I really appreciate everything that the Global Jazz Institute has taught me, I’m learning a lot, this is a dream come true for me.

 

 

Paul Eirik Melhus, USA, Saxophone

IMG_1150If I had to sum up my experience in West Africa in a couple of words, I would use words such as horizon broadening, emotionally fulfilling, perspective changing, and educational. From performing in orphanages and schools, to learning from our mentors and teaching what we’ve learned to other musicians, the trip was an experience not to forget. Playing concerts and teaching in this new environment was a huge learning experience. I learned a lot about gauging a crowd and how to simplify and make my teaching accessible to someone who does not speak good English. I also learned a lot from our master teacher, Danilo Perez. He’s a master at finding what the music is missing and making it apparent to us so that we can change our approach for the next concert. For example, he made very clear the importance of call and response in the music, having a conversation with each other, rather than a one-man dialogue. This manifests much more joy and emotion in the music; it was remarkable to experience the difference. I had never travelled to a world such as theirs, a world of wide spread poverty and lack of necessary resources. I would see strife and traces of hard laborious work in most of the faces we drove passed, especially in the outskirts of Cameroon. Despite this look, I saw something that I would rarely see in Boston or in the states, a strong sense of community in the streets. And I came to realize that this is because of their lack of resources and other privileged belongings, they need each other to survive. This was a stark contrast for me to witness compared to the streets of Boston and other cities I’ve been. That’s not to say there’s not community in these cities, but it was more apparent and widespread in Cameroon. This whole experience, witnessing the inner economical workings of the country, was a huge perspective changer for me. I was aware of this state of poverty, however, to be up close and witness it first hand was much more powerful than any infomercial or documentary that I’ve seen in the states. This made me really appreciate the state I’m in, all the conveniences around me and the way in which I live my life. The experience has given me a stronger holistic view of the world, a view that I plan on developing for the rest of my life.

Chang Min Jun, Korea, Electric and Acoustic Bass

Changmin JunThis picture is of when we went to an orphanage. While we were there we had such a successful performance with them and right after that I took a picture with this boy. He had an amazing smile, it reminded me of angels. It was an unforgettable moment, to share minds and hearts.

 

 

 

 

Anthony Fung, Canada, Percussion/Drums

The West Africa trip was a very rewarding and eye-opening experience that I will never forget. An unforgettable moment was during the orphanage in Gabon that we went to named the Centre d’Accueil d’Angondje. As we first arrived there, we instantly began to introduce ourselves to some of the children by giving them hi-fives or dancing for them. As we started our show, we noticed that some of the children were uninterested. But once we brought some of the children up, we felt an instant connection through the music. I will also never forget all the other musicians and people we met on the trip including the musicians in Cameroon; our guides Kevin, Marietou, Olivia and Matt; our bus driver Colombus; and all the children that we had such an amazing time meeting, singing and dancing with; I will never forget all the good times we spent on stage, at the dinner table, or around town with Danilo, Marco, Patricia, Carl, Sophie, David, Rob, and Marion; I will never forget the cockroaches at 1AM in the morning; I will never forget how close the crew became after spending two weeks in the hot and humid climate. And most importantly I will never forget that we went to Africa to say thank you for all the music that they have given us.

Lihi Haruvi, Israel, Saxophone

The Africa trip of May 2014 was a true adventure. It became very real for all of us on this trip that we can’t prepare for the unexpected, every engagement was a surprise, we always had a plan and the plan has always changed as life is equally and amazingly dynamic. There were a lot of moments and a lot more proofs in my opinion, of how strong music can be in bringing people closer together. A visit to the market became a musical party when us the “tourists” became one with the “sellers” that just moments ago were arguing with us about a price. Another example can be found closer to home, since with in our own BGJI group, every player was from a different country, from a very different culture but we were all able to unite together and became one strong team on one important mission. I feel truly blessed to be able to take part of something so great, and have known and be inspired by people so great as the beautiful artists, human beings and friends that gave me the gift of being a part of Berklee’s Global Jazz Institute.

Witness Matlou, South Africa, Piano

The Africa trip was one of the great trips I’ve been a part of in the Berklee Global Jazz Institute. On this trip I’ve learned a lot and putting in practice, the training, principles and concepts of the institute.  On this trip, I’ve learned to practice the idea of acceptance. To deal and adapt to conditions as they are, without worrying and trying too hard to get comfortable. From dealing with sound in the venues we played at, playing and connecting with the audience. It required a lot of focus and was a must to practice being “present” at all times. It was amazing how the music itself created for us a great connection and intercultural understanding. I do not speak French, but through the music, we where able to communicate with the people of Gabon and Cameroon, on a level greater than a word of mouth. We gave them a gift, which was the “Music” and in return they gave to us the same gift, but by welcoming us into their hearts with trust and appreciation.  On this trip, I’ve learned that giving and sharing isn’t about money and material things, but a way to build ourselves spiritually and have a more meaning full purpose in what we do. I am very thankful for being chosen to be part of this mission.

David Rosenspire, USA, audio engineer
(MPNE Student and Africa trip volunteer)

IMG_3122My experience was incredible, as I’m sure everybody’s was.  From the very start it was a challenge to define my role with the group and to make my contribution meaningful to their ends.  I think that making do with the given help/equipment for each event forced me to improvise, cooperate with people across a language barrier, and to critically examine which things were really necessary in order for the event to happen and for the band to have what they needed.  It was a humbling experience to work with the audio teams in Africa, as well, because they have their own methods and ways of doing things that are designed to suit their needs in the best possible way with the equipment that they have, and in the scenarios that they are presented with.  It was an eye opening experience to see people doing the same thing conceptually that we do here, although in a slightly different way physically due to the environment in which they work.  It forced me to step back and really think about how to cooperate with the guys to achieve the best possible outcome. Above all of this, it was incredible to feel like I was a part of the Global Jazz team, and to witness them work.  I don’t think that I would ever have been able to believe the impact that they are capable of making on their audience (or I should say guest musicians), had I not had the chance to see and experience it for myself.  I’m still in awe of the program, and feel so incredibly lucky to have been a part of the collective experience.

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