I remember an elder from London’s African music community telling me to avoid being tarred with the brush that music journalists of the “World Music” heyday used for labelling UK based musicians who perform African music genres. The term “home grown” was rather prevalent at the time and the elder alluded to the fact that “home grown” bush is seen to be inferior to other strains of the collie weed.
Obviously I found this idea amusing at the time, but I did agree in principle with the point he made. If his idea is accepted as a truism, then what good could emerge from the creative skills and talents of those of us who choose to embrace African music in our expressive ranges?
My personal journey in developing a creative vocabulary has been highly stimulating and if I had a chance to start all over again, I would do similar things. The cross fertilisation of music from different parts of Africa has been a source of great pleasure to me and I have dealt with many creative challenges through the years that have made that journey worthwhile.
Would this have been the case if I wasn’t based in London? Somehow I don’t think so. Where else would artists from Southern African nations rub shoulders with West Africans who perform the musical idioms of the Wolof, Malinke and Bambarra peoples?
I was also naturally attracted to the music performed by cultural troupes from all over the continent. Sometimes, I would find myself in situations where less informed colleagues would try to dismiss musical ideas I presented for projects, based on their ignorance about the vast diversity of sounds, colours and textures that can be found in Africa. I believe that knowledge is power and eventually, the uninformed gate keepers will discover the new species of African derived music genres that some of us have cultivated through the years. Meanwhile, we continue travelling on our personal paths.