In a recent conversation, I was asked about the place I have visited away from home that has inspired me the most, from a musical perspective. It was a difficult question to answer.
I have fond memories of Buenos Aires, for example. The contemporary music making was appealing, but I was most affected emotionally by the music I heard in the Tango Milongas – places where dance cognoscenti would gather to display their skills. Most of the dancehall music sounded like it was recorded in the 1930s and 40s.
Then there was Zanzibar, where I had the privilege of spending time with students and tutors at the Dhow Countries Music Academy. Again, the music of the moment was fine, but I was captivated by the sound and look of Bi Kidude – a singer I probably would never have known of, if I hadn’t made the journey.
Bi Kidude was remarkable for being a great example of how to age gracefully, but as a maverick within her culture. The footage I have seen of her performances presents a woman who dared to be authentically risqué, regardless of her advanced age.
With reference to the question I was asked about musical inspiration, I don’t think there is any specific culture or heritage that stands out for me. There are many individual artists in different places who create striking work. It is helpful to understand the set of circumstances that inspired them to make beautiful sounds, but the art usually comes from personal spaces, within.