Although the music I am playing and composing today does not sound like the one from Ghana or Kenya, this music culture in its great diversity still has a great deal of influence on me.
In 2008 I went to Ethiopia and to Kenia in order to create the music for a modern dance piece. The choreographer Angela Guerreiro formed a new dance ensemble with dancers from Ethiopia, Kenia and the United States. We did several performances at Addis Abeba and in Nairobi at the Goethe Institute.
During my stay at Nairobi I tried to meet as many musicians as possible to learn from them, to play with them, and to share our knowledge and our experience about music.
We played different African rhythms and it was always surprising that it was absolutely prohibited here to improvise or to change the traditional rhythmic phrases. Whenever I was about to change my part, the ensemble stopped and friendly advised me to stick to the pattern. After a while I began to understand and respect their approach and from this point on we all had a good time. Nevertheless, after the rehearsal, back home in my appartment, I could not resist to try out some improvisations based on the rhythms I had learned during the session at the national theatre.
At the “Bomas of Kenya” I bought some instruments like marimbas, kalimbas and different drums. Soon I tried to play it through some of my loop machines and FX-tools creating a strictly pattern based electronically charged music based on these acoustic African instruments. Going back to the National Theatre I showed the musicians my first sound ideas with this setup. Everybody were very impressed and they liked it a lot. But nobody hit on the idea to play with my combination of traditional and electronic instruments. They preferred to continue to play in the traditional style.
For a moment I was confused about this reaction. Later on I found an approach to comprehend their attitude. The role and the local value of music and a musician in africa and europe are genuinely different.
In many african cultures music is still a very important medium to pass on important cultural roots to other people, especially to next generations. The individual musician blends into an an ensemble or serves the communication of traditional styles instead of expressing him/ herself.
My attempt of inventing a new sound stands opposed to this. It is driven by the eagerness of a european creative mind to find unique ways of expression. My approach was appreciated and liked but did not result in the locals’ curiosity to come up with their own sounds and patterns with the help of my setup.
Two days before I went back home to Hamburg we met again in a bar sharing one of these extraordinarily tasty Nairobian coffees.
I am very honored and happy that he invited me for the “Barabara” project which now has started.
I am very interested in the internet culture and her influence on social practices on the one hand and on the individual self-conception on the other hand. So i find it most exciting to offer a plattform to people, where there can test and reflect themelves and enhance their identity also.
The first ideas were about bringing the experiences, learnings and feelings of the journey to others – visitors of the website – who could not participate in the adventure, besides the obvious aspect of documentation. This works best by showing the particularities of the country, the music and the tradition, people and landscapes etc by using moving images. So i decided to shoot everyday some parts of the journey. From the video material good moments should be selected, cut and uploaded to the website every evening when possible. The film material will be shooted with a professional camera and can be used for further purposes later.
Barabara means ’street’ or ‘road’ in kisuaheli. We found it is the according word to describe the metaphysic part of the project. Going on the road between african and west european cultures, between different worlds of music and just beeing on the road from west to east of kenya.
In the course of time the ideas and concepts grew and grew. Now we have launched Barabara.FM in the first version, which is dedicated to document the process of Sven’s work, to show the experiences of all involved parties in the journey and to open up a dialog. I will shoot the sessions and meetings with the traditional musicians of Kenya and try to show their way of living and thinking as far as it will be possible.
We appreciate comments and suggestions and are always very interested in the opinion of the website visitors. In the 2nd or 3rd Phase the website will integrate the visitors input in a way, we have not decided yet. Maybe one of you will deliver the the idea.
Finally, what i’m thrilled about, is the fact, that all people we talked about the project get the african fever too. So we found many supporters for this project: people who want to publish the record, people who want to make a documentary on TV, others helped to make flyers and last but not least the very nice two from Goethe Institute Nairobi, Johannes and Marie do everything to prepare the travel at its best.