Rob May from Community Albums invited myself and Phil Barker (bass player) to join him on a trip to Burundi to help train young musicians. Staying with the Salesians, a Catholic order whose focus is on schooling for children, Rob has been building a studio. One of the priests (a passionate guitarist) has been encouraging young musicians and then finding them work in the local bars and clubs. Over the years he has become a father to many, many musicians – in fact every night we visited a different club and he seemed to know all the musicians!
I was there to help the drummers, with teaching, sorting out drum kits, working in a studio, practise and tuning. On the first day I spent time swapping drum heads on the 2 kits they had and meeting some of the drummers and musicians. All drummers were given new sticks – a simple thing but we were to learn very needed. Most drummers bought cheap Chinese sticks which didn’t last – so they were very pleased with new sticks. During the week I was amazed at the skill levels I found even when sticks were down to spindles!
Phil Barker did a wonderful job encouraging the bass players and a highlight was seeing the face of one of the bass players, Passer, who had been brought a new bass guitar from England. That gift will set him and his family up for a long time!
The small studio was just 3 rooms – an entry – a control room and a drum room but sufficient for them to record great music. Rob had brought new gear for the studio and spent the week with Kimo, the resident engineer showing him lots of new tricks. During the week the musicians collaborated on writing a new song and with my influence they recorded some of their traditional drums in the verses – I think I gave them an insight in bringing the traditional and the modern sounds together.
Every night we would visit a different club and the mzungus (white people) would do a turn on a couple of numbers to the excitement of the people and club owners!