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I am happy to release today the new video for “Waiting for the Gods” from Journeys No.1

I wrote the song in the year between losing my deal with EMI and beginning the Journeys project. It was a time of stopping. Of allowing the past to settle, and waiting for a new future.

The idea of “Journeys” hit me during the flight back from the US after playing my first shows there. As I drank a little too much red wine I realised that finally I was forming a vision of how to go forward.

Arriving back in Berlin, I locked myself in my room in Neukölln for a week, and wrote the first Journey´s EP.

I wrote “Waiting for the Gods” as the scale of the project began to dawn on me.

“Truth is I don’t know where I’m going next, I look around no view where the sun may set, yet I know these feet must take me far….as evening surrenders to the stars….”

Shortly after recording the song I set off to China in September 2014. Half way through the tour I found myself playing a show in Chongqing, a city of 34 millions people. I came down with a chest infection, and the road to Changsha was long and hard.

Before the show that night, I considered doing something that I’ve never done – canceling a show. I was just feeling really sick, exhausted, and it hurt to breathe.

“There’s a crossroad of which many speak, there’s a devil there I am yet to meet, and I don’t know if I will survive….till I’ve met his gaze with steady eye…..”

I decided instead to take a walk with Ben and just before dusk the light by the Xiang river turned into the deepest, most otherworldly blue. It was a moment to be embraced, and we took 3 takes of the song before the light passed to night.

“There are many miles to walk ahead, flesh is weary, feet have turned to lead, yet our faith is only what we make…..of walking forward hand in hand with fate……

It felt somehow that the song had predicted the moment, and I suddenly felt exactly where I was meant to be. I knew that the show had to go on, and it was one of the best nights of the tour.

…..there ain’t no use in waiting for the gods….

I believe that there are many crossroads along the path of our lives. What I tried to express in the song is that first, one does not have to be afraid of them. Secondly, that sometimes you have to allow yourself to spend some time at a crossroad, in order to understand what junction ahead is right for you.

With love from Nairobi

Jim

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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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I´ve been greatly enjoying capturing some of the impressions and experiences of the varied African landscape on my travels. One of the boons of the Journeys concept is that it essentially removes the budget needed for making “pop” videos.

If I´m honest I´ve never liked pop videos. I say that in respect to the medium – I´ve worked with lots of great film makers and had many happy experiences, and a good pop video is a wonderful communication for song.

But for me personally, reality is what interests me. Experience, insight, moment, joy, spontaneity, and engaging with unexpected things. Even in my early 20´s my heart would drop when a stylist came on set. Let a pimple be a pimple. There is some illusion that the “fashion industry” governs style. I think the fashion industry hangs on to the coat tails of genuine “cool”. “Cool” is always pre-thought, pre-marketing, always connected to real life, the street, necessity, dynamism.

In any all this is really a distraction. The truth is that in life you simply have to work with what works for you. I don´t make enough money to employ stylists, sets, film makers, script writers, and even if I did, its not my area of interest at this point in time.

But put my in a new country and I find that the videos shoot themselves, and create their own language – one that is not guided by anything other than reality and the little gifts it imparts.

Anyway, I´m working on a lot of ideas as I travel, and collecting some moments along the way. This little video I´ve assembled quickly in my little room in Dar Es Salaam, i hope you enjoy!

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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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