It’s been hard getting my head around being in Africa. As a child I used to pour over atlases, comparing the sizes and populations of the countries and trying to imagine what these places were really like. The political boundaries imposed onto the vast plan of the continent seemed to have been drawn out using a ruler and compass. The Sahara doesn’t heed politics, but when its indiscriminate sprawling is cut geometrically into shapes each one takes on an abstract identity. When the plane descends it’s like zooming in on a global map, as big and as detailed as the real thing. The filigree network of roads begins to throb with traffic, and soon tarmac is racing beneath.
I began my first full day in Zambia with an inaugural jog. It’s typically a great way to get your bearings and is often made beautiful by the low morning sun. However at 6.30am in suburban Lusaka the streets were already bustling with people. People who had things to do and hard days’ work ahead. Jogging is a symptom of having more food than you need and not enough work to occupy your body with in the day, so I couldn’t help but feel I was making a statement about my privilege by running around the city for no good reason. My recollection of the experience centres on the man who shouted “Where are you going?” It was evinced not long after when I turned back on myself that I had no idea.
We got into the Academy at 8.30. The day’s teaching had already begun and I started by sitting in on piano lesson for a total beginner, aged 8. Katherine, the teacher moved through the basic principles of notated rhythms and pitches with slow, confident strokes, and Leilani caught on well. At the moment she is limited by her experience of piano playing, but in the next few years her playing will improve to match her capacity for teaching, and I’d love to see where her musical journey takes her.
Apart from that my encounter with drummer “Chacks” stands out prominently. Because he was free I asked if he could demonstrate some drumming. This led to a geo-historical tour of drumming styles around Africa and the world at large. Phenomenally impressive and incredibly loud, Chacks’ musical personality was out of place in the quiet and modest surroundings of the Academy. Nevertheless, he relishes the chance to impart knowledge anybody happy to receive it, and the Academy is fortunate to count him among its many excellent musicians.