Happy Leap Day! I figure since the 29th only happens once every 4 years... it's kind of like a gift - out of time, so to speak. And this is certainly a day "hors norme".
It starts with an early call (8:30) to head over to a local radio station KalakFM for a quick and dirty interview. We are immediately impressed by the hosts of the show Alphonse and Else whose réparté is clearly well practiced and dynamic. Their energy wakes us up and gets us wanting to bubble over with excitement along with them. They ask some good questions too, and get us to sing a little something live over the air. Short but sweet though, within 20 minutes we're out of there, and thankfully have time to go back to the hotel for a bit and chill before our next engagement.
And what an engagement! We arrive with a touch of trepidation because we've been told we're going to a rehabilitation and treatment center for children with physical disabilities (whether congenital or acquired) - we're afraid it might be a tough crowd, though we're eager to do what we can to bring a little light and levity into this kids lives.
It turns out our worry was for nothing - once again we've been brought to a top quality facility where it's immediately clear that these kids are NOT wallowing in despair for their discomfort and disability, but rather they are well cared for, bright eyed and EXTREMELY enthusiastic to get a chance to participate in a live music event performed by these exotic Americans - something we're told they usually only see on TV.
Before we hit the stage, we're taken to meet Mme Grace - the head of the facility. We sit comfortably in her anteroom which proudly displays large photos of the pope, and the president of Cameroon. I'm sure to take a picture with the pope (so to speak) to send back to my grandfather who will be extra proud to know that I helped serve his faith through our shared vocation of jazz music :-)
The kids have the time of their lives as we "Take the A Train" down the "Route 66" via "Georgia" and "Chicago, Chicago". We throw in a couple of French tunes too, assuming that they will understand the language a bit better (though many Cameroonians are Anglophone as well). And after the big performance I am LITERALLY flooded by a gaggle of little kids, ranging from about age 3 to 13 who all want a hug or a hand shake from this mysterious white lady who brings music from afar. It's quite overwhelming, but I am extremely happy that we have shared a moment with these kids and brought them a moment of respite and joy that we're told they will remember for a lifetime (and I believe that! I still have VERY vivid memories of the various entertainers who came in to perform for us when I was growing up in the isolation of the Saudi desert - their music was an oasis to us, never to be forgotten!).
But they day is far from over and we still have duties to attend to - so we make our exit amid the rush of kids still eager for contact with us. Jeff wants some rest at the hotel, so Mignon and I go to a lovely little restaurant down the street that overlooks a gorgeous little park and she grills me on my life and times. I probably shouldn't talk so much, in the interest of saving my voice - but she gets the conversation going, and I can't help waxing on about my passions :-)
We go on so long that before we know it, I miss the window for any real down time, and we head straight on to the next venue where we'll be giving a masterclass on "The business of the music business". This is always a touchy subject since Jeff and I both feel like we're barely managing to make a living at this as it is... still... we do have a fair amount to say on a couple of the major points regarding musicianship, stage presence and the importance of cultivating one's network of contacts. I give a quick overview about basic principals of web presence, and our new friend Glen from the Embassy steps in as well to share some experience and advice on getting press coverage and exposure through media channels. Perseverance and striving for excellence are some of the watch words of the day.
But these folks, mostly amateur and professional musicians themselves and also hungry for what we have to offer in the realm of technical skill, so after a couple of ours of blah blah about the music industry, we break off into groups - Jeff takes the instrumentalists to give 'em a shot in the arm to beef up their knowledge of chord progressions and some alternative ii-V-I cycles for the blues. I head upstairs with the singers to give them a crash course in understanding their body as an instrument - working with the respiratory system, and giving them more awareness towards freeing up their vocal mechanism for more flexibility and power. They are all clearly very appreciative for the information, and only regret that we have such a short while to do it in.
But not to worry - now that we're all clear on the importance of the internet and of cultivating one's "professional garden"... we exchange contacts so that we'll be sure to stay in touch and they can feel free to ask follow up questions as they come along.
All in all, today we get the sense that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship - collaboration between us and these local musicians.
But by now we're "exhaustimagated", as I like to say when the work "exhausted" seems just too short to make my point ;-) So a quick dinner of some DELICIOUS fresh grilled fish at The Bunker restaurant and nightclub... then back to the hotel. I've agreed to meet some of the musicians for drinks at 10, which is in about 5 minutes now. But hopefully it won't be long before I'm off to BED. We've got an ULTRA early call and a 6 hour drive ahead of us tomorrow... so... time to call it a night!
Categories: Cameroon Chronicles - Mar 2012