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One afternoon in Nairobi I met a Rwandan man at Pawa 254 called Brian Gisa. It was to prove one of those chance meeting that would change the course of Journeys #2 – not only in terms of adventures lived, but in returning something to me I had left in Uganda 13 years ago.

Gisa is a self confessed Rasta and for whatever reason we discovered in each other a meeting of minds. Maybe that is a convoluted way of saying that we just got on. He is vegetarian. I am not. He smokes weed. I no longer do. He loves music. So do I. We are from different worlds, different beliefs, but somewhere beyond that is a meeting of spirits. It is something I have discovered more and more on my journeys – that a difference in beliefs is in no way indicative of a difference of spirit.

I think in that I find the biggest failure and misguidance of religious extremism. There is nothing more beautiful than difference in this world, and God forbid that we are all ever the same or believe the same thing. What a sad version of the world would be; indeed, one where nature itself has ceased to exist. It reminds me of an interview I conducted in 2006 with John Gray in which he talked about human beings soon entering an age of solitude due to mass extinction.

Anyway, I soon discovered that Gisa has lived for many years in Uganda and is deeply involved in the Arts in Kampala, and indeed across East Africa.

I told him of my adventures so far on the continent, and also about how deep my time in Uganda back in 2003 effected me. Back then I worked for a summer past Fort Portal near the Congolese border. It was a summer teaching, building conservation works, digging wells – and one grave – and incredibly shaping in the formation of a young mans consciousness. I always dreamed of coming back to Uganda, and the more I spoke with Gisa, the more we jammed on certain ideas, and discussed different possibilities, the more I realized that I had no only to delay my ticket home to Berlin, but that I had to follow the road to Kampala.

I arrived deep into the night and was collected by Gisa and his dear friend Bruno Ruganzu who won the Ted Prize for Uganda recently. That’s Bruno in the middle and me leaning on his wheels!

I hit it off with Bruno and the 3 or us have been something of the 3 Muskateers. They have been tremendous hosts, and its been special to spend time with Bruno before he relocates to Canada after special invitation to Bill Gates’s Hero Program. Speaking of heroes, one of the first introduction they made was to a special human being called Charles Obina.

Charles was abducted as an 8 year old by rebel forces and forced into becoming a child soldier. I discussed with him his history, and choked up at the murder of his parents and family. One of the most powerful things about speaking to Charles is his honesty – his ability to look you in the eye – deep endless eyes – and to tell you with clarity and humility of what he has had to do in his life. As a child. I think of my own journey as a human being, how deep certain scars are, how difficult to address, to dig up, to engage with, to transform – and I marvel – yes marvel, at the power of spirit in Charles Obina. Moreover, in a world where music seems to have become a pastime and a background life choice to many people, Charles represents for me personally many of the things I believe about the potential and inherent power of music. First and foremost, he discovered music young, and after escaping from the rebel forces – and discovering about the death of his whole family – he turned to music. It offered, in a world where redemption is too often a biblical tale, a gateway to redemption.

Charles and I connected and quickly realized that we had to play together. We started jamming and Gisa turned up, heard it, and decided he had to make a concert happen. Using his network of connections above ground and underground, he set up a performance for Charles and I and the very next day we found ourselves performing at the National Theatre, and after some songs joined by a pipe pumping howling wind blowing lunatic of a man with a trumpet and desperate wild eyes. The show was a joy, and it seemed the whole of the Rastifarian community in Kampala turned out. Eventually things turned into a free form Reggae night and the evening was spent skanking to poetry and hip hop and singing in many languages.

I feel within the flush of life in Kampala. I am living on the outskirts of town and by day take a Bodaboda motorcycle into the city, and have twice seen horrendous accidents right next or behind me. I wonder in those moments if I am rolling too hard and life is trying to catch up with me, or if I am at a tempo which life keeps me acrest on its wave. All I know is that at present there is little time for second thought, and that I must trust spontaneity and embrace the path which lays itself out before me.

Finally a few things I am looking forward to:

1) This Friday I play a show at The Goethe Institute in Kampala, so looking forward to this! Thank you Carol, Ken and Gisa for setting it up!

2) Shooting a music video tomorrow for Charles Obina

3) Eating my favorite rolled eggs tonight where my digs are in Bukoto market.

Thank you Kampala!

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Today is Sunday in Nairobi. For the first time since I arrived the sky is over cast, the rain has fallen and the air is pregnant with the scent of Petrichor; the deep musty smell of smoke released from the hot red African earth. I am staying with my old friend who runs the office of the French news agency AFP news. I´ve bonded with his dog Zanzi, who he found abandoned on the streets of Juba, barely bigger than his palm, after her mother died shortly after birth. Sat by the experienced stringer and his street dog, I feel a sense of home, and after 5 shows in quick succession in Nairobi, and 6 weeks on the road, I am grateful to stop.

The opportunity to stop never came while I traveled in China, and its made me remember how important it is to factor rest into your travels. The trouble is that usually there is the next gig to get to, as well as the financial reality that your accommodation is only looked after for the quantity of shows you play. Keep on is the mantra.

It´s been a buzzing week, and I´m glad both for the experiences, and the opportunity to notice my tiredness. I was meant to be going home tomorrow, but some shows and opportunities have come up in Uganda, and it felt the right call for “Journeys 2” to follow the road, and let it lead where it wants to go.

Nairobi has revealed something of is characteristics and quirky qualities during my time here. But that said, a little like my experience in Dar Es Salaam, it has been hard to get a handle on – while simultaneously being inherently fascinating.

Nairobi is dangerous, to the point where many call it “Nairobbery”. Everywhere you turn someone has a story of being robbed, and more often than not at gun point. On the way to play at Choices on Thursday night, I was stuck in traffic for hours and called Rashid the promoter. I said that I was thinking about jumping out and going on foot for the half an hour to walk. I was aware of the dangers, but I´ve also never missed or cancelled a gig under any circumstance. He said in no uncertain terms that I was not to do it. I arrived a few minutes before the set was due to start, plugged in and played.

On another occasion I met an ninety year old gentleman called Irving who had been hijacked the year before. A spirited fellow, he had kicked his assailant in the balls before the second robber knocked him down with his gun.

The reality of the dangers means that there is a strong sense of division in the city. There are gates everywhere, barbed wire fences, security guards and checks. I played one show at Tamambo Village market and it felt like playing inside a fortress, or at least inside the departure area after you have gone through airport security. The venue was essentially a restaurant, I was well looked after, and enjoyed getting to know Jan (the owner) and his band.

It has been the type of show that has been integral to making Journeys 2 work financially, but also the type of show which felt somehow distant from the sense of cultural exchange inherent to the idea behind Journeys. But equally, one wants to fix some type of ideal on to what one does, to make everything work in terms of the vision of what you are trying to do. But life has other plans, and the reality that all these things “outside” your vision, are just as integral to what you are doing – after all you are not traveling in search of a fixed experience, but to experience experience itself. That is one has to be open. And as soon as I had “opened up” to the experience available I started to have a lot of fun, especially jamming with “Danger” who is one of Kenya´s premiere bass players, and Harman, an old guitarist of precocious talent and feel.

The show at PAWA 254 on the other hand was the very embodiment of what I had hoped to discover when setting out. It is an arts community, but somehow transcends this due to its organization, structure, energy and the presence of Boniface Mwangi who is one of Kenya´s most famous activist artists and photographers. Boniface has one several international awards for his photography, and especially his courage in being at the centre of events when the shit goes down – like during the elections in 2008. I´ve spent several days at PAWA 254, interviewing some of the members for the East Africa documentary, or talking a little of Tacheles and my experience there, which many of them are curious about.

One of the most special gigs of the tour, we had over 300 people come along, and it was just a wonderful night, and I felt proud to both be a part of it and also because it was the first music event of its kind there. I must also mention the fellow musician I played with, Winyo, who is one of the great musicians I have played with, but also a man of great power and humility, and a with high pitched laugh which is continually accessed and brings alight the surroundings with is echo.

The show at the Goethe Institute was a special one for me both because of the link to back home in Berlin where I live, but also because on a deeper level, it cemented my connection with German culture. After arriving as a pretty lost and deranged feeling young man back in 2007, it felt like an acceptance into one of its most powerful institutions, which is itself the embodiment of how German culture is expressed worldwide. The gig was was lovely, and the showing of around 60 people could have been stronger if not for the exodus of many music lovers to Sauti Za Basara in Zanzibar for the biggest festival in East Africa. I’d also like to extend my special thanks to Maia Von Lekow who I performed with, please do check out this special woman’s music. Apart from being a fabulous musician, Maia has also opened up many doors for me along the East Africa touring route and all before we had even met. It’s pretty humbling to experience so much as a stranger – thank you Maia!

A highlight of a different nature was the book swap party at Creative Garage. What was special for me was that its intimacy was combined with a genuine insight, discussion and open conversation about art, politics, books, life and art in Kenya – and indeed the wider world. It was special to sit and listen, to contribute and to see how ideas and insight connects across borders and culture. Having wrestled a little with the gated nature of Nairobi life, it was just special to be sitting with a local audience, to be invited and accepted, and to have a lot of fun. Though we set up a P.A there was a mood to abandon it, so I sang the songs entirely unplugged. The highlight for me was the crowds insistence to translate the chorus of “Tell Me Where to Begin”, in real time, into Swahili, and to sing along. That was one of favorite and most special Journeys moments so far.

I have now a few days to rest. I am a little under the weather, I guess the road is catching up with me. I have more to arrange in Uganda, but it may well be a case of just getting there and seeing what happens, we´ll see.

I have enjoyed my time so far in Nairobi greatly, and for my small part, and grateful for the way that music has broken down some of the gates, and allowed me to witness what its people think behind it, how they dance, to witness and listen what they think about, and to hear some of my songs sung allowed by beautiful kind people in Swahili…..for the the record Petrichor is the combination of two Greek words, meaning something created by the mix of stone and the fluid of the Gods….alchemy…..a metaphor to me of music and the capacity of culture to break down gated communities and bring people of different worlds together….

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1.

Deep Lows are a signifier that something is out of kilter or not right. Hard as it is, they need to be listened to and observed. You have to be “within” them rather than looking for an exit plan.

2.

When in a deep low the human instinct is to run. One needs to have the courage to be within this state of mind. Our lows are an opportunity, a guide and educator. In the modern world we often try to compensate the low with sex, drugs, t.v and drinking. All of these are in their different ways distractions or ways of attempting to deal with what the subconscious is revealing to us. We have to be willing to see our darkness as revelation, our fear as a road to insight.

3.

Depression often precedes its opposite – revelations, understanding, a break through, balance. Repress it and you shut yourself off to its opposite. Nothing has taught me more about life than my times of anxiety, un-groundedness, and depression. Do not misunderstand – these times have been scary, frightening, painful and sometimes worse. But if what one seeks is a fuller understanding of life, one has to accept at times partnership with the Devil and take his tour through Hades.

View my documentary exploring these thoughts

4.

A life of understanding is to accept, with the deepest part of your being, the acceptance of suffering. We do not want to suffer and we resist it with all our might. But becoming an adult is about accepting the conditions of life and ultimately a universe is comprised of its black holes as well as its suns. Eye ball reality, go head to head with it, accept its dance. To be at one with its best and its worst is to learn to live, to gain a broader understanding.

5.

Why do we so resist discipline? Of one thing I am certain – that greater self discipline leads to a richer life of the spirit. When in a deep low, discipline provides the root and the anchor. We lose our structure and we become groundless. There are some basic truths. We feel better after a run. A walk clears the mind. Less coffee makes us less anxious. Calling a friend leads to connection. A morning without a hangover is easier to cope with. Drugs make a hole deeper. Learning leads to fulfillment.

6.

We never feel as cut off and as alone as when in a deep low. We swiftly fantasize that we are alone, we believe in the lie that our solitariness is our only reality. Call a friend, reach out. The energy of friendship is deeply transformative and though it can´t solve our problems, it bloody well helps.

7.

All problems that we have have already been tackled before. The greatest illusion is that we are insane, cut off, alone. The opposite is true. Most of what we go through, people have already gone through before. We are not freaks, we are just human. But there is so very much to learn from other people´s journeys – we must use this as a resource.

8.

All the tools we need are within us. When in a low we underestimate both our strength and our capacity to solve problems. I read recently that life is a series of problems that area all solvable. Well said. We have to trust in what is already within us. Sometimes we just have to dig a little deeper to discover that trust. In this way depression can be a motivator – the very thing that brings us closer to our creativity, growth, health, and our capacity to trust – both ourselves and the world.

9.

I believe in the role of creativity. I believe that humans are fundamentally creative. Draw something. Write something. Take a dance lesson. Learn something new. Show yourself that you have the capacity to develop. Accept with joy that doing something badly every day for 5 minutes leads to gradual improvement. And when you see improvement you learn something new about yourself and witness anew your capacity to grow, and to change.

10.

Nothing is as revitalizing as our ability to give energy to others. Our aloneness is smashed by our ability to give. We are part of a cycle – we must be willing to give something of ourselves if we are also to receive. Love is a two way exchange, and does not exist unless we are willing to humble ourselves before it, and to take part in its laws.

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