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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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Dar Es Salaam slowly unfurls itself. It has been for me so far a city of extremes – of the buzz and energy of the gigs, and some extreme bouts of loneliness.

One of the characteristics of Journeys is how to find balance within the twin extremes of the experience.

On the one hand there is the intensity and busyness. Travel requires energy and alertness. Self reliance requires a heightening of the senses. Doing the documentary work requires an eager eye and an intuition of the rhythms of a culture. Stepping on people´s sensitivities is not something Journeys is about – but equally the reinterpretation of a place through the vista of one individual´s mind is something it is about. So there is a weighing of how to conduct one´s self, say, if you are shooting in a predominantly Islamic City like Stone Town.

There are many people met along the way – sometimes strangers, sometimes hosts, sometimes guides, and sometimes someone just hustling you. It has been a privilege of my life to witness how people are curious about musicians – and sometimes this shatters one´s aloneness beautifully and sometimes it invades your needed moments of inner exile.

Another quality which is high in energy demand is the fact that the gigging terrain is very uncertain when playing somewhere in East Africa or China. First of all you never know what the venue is going to be like before you arrive. Yesterday there were serious power cuts in Dar Es Salaam and my host at Makuti, Mzungu Kichaa spent the day hunting a generator and patching up problems so we could all perform. Where as at another show there won´t be a P.A and you will strain your voice over tourists with little conception of the etiquettes of a concert. Or at another, like last night, you will arrive to a venue buzzing and dancing to a fantastic full band with a local singer giving Whitney Houston a run for her money, and then navigate entering the stage as an acoustic artist while simultaneously the Manchester United game starts in the background. Funnily enough – i enjoy all of these experiences – they provide the soul stuff of Journeys.

But then there is the other side. You get exhausted from the travel, the meeting people, the shows, drinking not a lot, but enough to accrue in your system.

The buzzy-ness of the one side of experience is suddenly met by its opposite. Extreme isolation, a mind unprepared to suddenly meet with negotiating itself. The subconscious is a busy place and is always revealing itself to us – sometimes through feelings of well being and flow. And at other times in revealing its amorphous content through its confusing imagery, dumped suddenly and randomly and without an apparent identifying characteristic. What is it bloody saying?!

I often find that my subconscious is suddenly awakened once I get back into isolation. Sometimes there is a simple of joy of having a day off – such as the day I enjoyed in Arusha. But other times, you spend a day in a hotel room on a foreign continent and you have to simply face what is coming up. Those demons who announce themselves and are not as polite as vampires – who at least have the courtesy of requiring an invitation before entering your house.

I had such a day the day before yesterday which inspired my article 10 Approaches to Depression

It was a day during which I felt like Harry Haller, the central character in Hermann Hesse´s Steppenwolf. Or even more so like Hesse himself, who wrote the book in great aloneness after being estranged from his second wife, wrestling with illness, drinking to much in the evening and living an isolated life in a rented flat in Zurich. For an interesting article on Hesse please check the link.

Anyway I will write more about these wrestlings at a later date. For now, it is helpful for me to express and write about my internal journey. For me, again, the concept of Journeys is not about travel, but about the exploration of how one´s mind, one´s creativity and one´s life is effected and shaped by the ongoing march of reality – in all its shapes, forms, and dimensions. Again, to use Hesse´s words:

“There is no reality except the one contained within us. That is why so many people live such an unreal life. They take the images outside of them for reality and never allow the world within to assert itself.” Hermann Hesse

For now, I am back in my Harry Haller space – writing after the adventure of a long and eventful evening. I played two shows in Dar last night – at Makuti and Q-Bar. It´s amazing how different 2 shows can be in the space of a few hours – but equally enjoyable in 2 very different ways.

Makuti was a very attentive, seated audience and the other musicians quite simply mind blowingly good. I greatly enjoyed seeing Mzungu Kichaa play. We had met while jamming on stage in Zanzibar and I quickly became aware of what a monster talent I was playing next to. Apart from that he is a man of great generosity and humility – one of those people that gives you great faith to know roams the planet.

The second show was at Q-Bar – filled with mania, buzz, dancing, drinking, howling, shrieking and characters from the underworld. It was a lot of fun.

Finally – a final word on extremity. My whole life i have wrestled with the extremes of life, and more so of mind. For whatever – probably foolish – reason, I chose a life which does not often provide me with the very thing that on some level I yearn for – stability. However, I have found one thing. I have found that by continually saying yes to the extremes of life – yes to the adventure, yes when I feel afraid, yes when I don´t feel like doing something – that life has created in some way, its own balance in me. It is not one I fully understand. But I knew right back since school days that I had an unpredictable mind, that at times I felt deeply afraid of. The idea of an office job terrified me – not because of boredom – but because I feared that other people would witness at too close a hand the insanity I felt. And with having mental illness in the family on both my mother and father´s side, I greatly feared being sectioned. This is something historic for me now – through the choices I have made, I feel a distance to these old, and extreme fears. But what has led to this evolution has been a willingness to say yes to life. And if there is one thing I would say when you feel in a deep hole, or an uncertain space. Say yes none the less. Your feet will lead you to the next place and space – if you let them.

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