Benin

Members of the band including myself recently collaborated with students and teachers from CIAMO (International Center for Art and Music in Ouidah) and filmmaker Jon Fine and Sarah Dupont on a music + video project (still in progress) to promote methods of malaria prevention. Last year, malaria killed over 400,000 people on the African continent, so it remains a serious problem which destabilizes families and ruins lives and communities on a mass scale. The song and video outline the most effective steps that families can take to protect themselves: protect all members of your family, particularly children under 5, with a mosquito net from dusk until dawn, go to a community health clinic to get checked if you show symptoms.

I received a demo of a song recorded by Sim de Souza and his students at CIAMO last year. The melody and the lyrics - in French and Fon - were beautiful, the bridge, the verses, everything made sense. What we did was speed up the tempo, and suggest that they change the chorus from "We're afraid of you, malaria" to "We'll beat you, malaria". We wrote some horn lines, and tracked drums, bass, guitars, and horns in New York. Then, we sent the track to Angelique Kidjo, who recorded the verses on the song.

In late March, I as part of a four-person US-based crew, flew to Cotonou, Benin, to begin filming and recording the project. We spent our first night in Cotonou and a meeting at the US Embassy, where we met several partners from UNICEF, USAID and ISMA, the audiovisual college in Cotonou. 

Arts Collaboration to prevent Malaria

In the upcoming months, I'll be in collaboration with musician/cinematographer Jon Fine of Freed Pictures, members of Antibalas, Angélique Kidjo, UNICEF, and youth from CIAMO (International Center for Art and Music) in Ouidah, Benin, West Africa.

We'll be putting together a song and video that educates the public about the benefits of using mosquito nets and basic health practices to prevent the spread of malaria via the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. While malaria can be found in tropical areas across the world, according to the World Health Organization, "Sub-Saharan Africa carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2015, the region was home to 89% of malaria cases and 91% of malaria deaths."

We are tracking rhythm and vocals in New York and will be doing additional vocal and percussion recordings in Benin, hopefully in late March of this year. Video production will be happening simultaneously.

Stay tuned.

Source: http://www.ciamo.org/

Oct. 1 - NYC - Carnegie Hall: The Music of Bill Withers

Along with the Antibalas horn section, I'll be part of this tribute to one of my favorite singers of all time, Bill Withers. I'm honored to be part of an amazing cast of singers and musicians, including musical director Greg Phillinganes.

I've been working transcribing and arranging horn parts off the "Live at Carnegie"record and "Hits" for the four piece section including my colleagues Jordan McLean, Ray Mason, and Jas Walton.

MORE INFO: http://www.musicof.org/

October 25-26: 2 Panels in Washington DC

I'll be on two panels at two different music / policy conferences this October in Washington, D.C.

At the Music Cities Convention, on Sunday, 10/25, I'll be on a panel titled "The Artist's View" with Joyce Linehan of the City of Boston, Michael Orlove of the National Endowment for the Arts and Ben Herson of Nomadic Wax and Rebel Music. We'll be talking about music, and cultural policy that supports it (or doesn't). I'll be sharing my experiences working as a professional musician (and sometimes educator) in NYC since 1994 and Austin Texas (2005-2013).

The next day, I'll be at the Future of Music Policy Summit at Georgetown University on a panel titled "Music And Education: Advancing The Future". The panel is moderated by Ken Umezaki and includes the panelists:

In this one hour session, we'll be discussing the following three themes:

Rethinking Music Education’s core values: 

  • What are some the key ways educators, administrators and foundations are rethinking what music education represents within the educational systems? (examples: STEM vs STEAM, treating music as a language not a skill, catalyst for learning creativity and collaborative skills etc.)  
  • Does this translate to preparing students for the creative, global and personalized economy that is more likely to a bigger part of the economy?
  • What are the implications for arts education overall?

 

Change: 

  • What is happening that is transformational within the practices of music education?  
  • What are some of the important actual initiatives that are taking place in schools and elsewhere? 
  • Are these new approaches serving, students, educators, musicians and the music industry better than the traditional systems in place today?
  • What are some of the key things you see in the "future" impacting music education?

 

The Role of Technology: 

  • What are some of the important developments in technology as applied to music education to:
  1. better educate current and future music makers;
  2. create music;
  3. market and distribute music. 
  •  Is there a technology “renaissance” happening music education?
  • What are some of the key initiatives needed to better integrate music ed tech into the hands of students?

Upcoming collab: Fabrizio Cammarata

This September, I'll be headed to Palermo, Sicily to work with singer/songwriter Fabrizio Cammarata on his new album. We met a few years back on my first trip to Palermo and he and I have stayed in loose touch since then.

 

I'll be bringing some flutes, 1-2 one, some percussion and a few gizmos and we'll see what we come up with.

I am very excited to get back to Sicily. I was able to make a week-long trip after Questlove's Afro-Picks back in 2011. I spent two nights in a grimy hostel in Catania, then took the train across the north side of the island to Palermo, where I met up with Christoph Storbeck, Fabrizio's manager. I spent four or five days there getting to know the town and meeting some musicians and getting lost in the ancient delicious weirdness of Palermo.