Tariro NeGitare’s United States sojourn
Fred Zindi Music
This year, with more than 4 000 applicants, Tariro neGitare has been lucky to be one of the 25 selected. One Beat is a project that assembles innovative musicians from around the world to the United States of America for one exhilarating month of performances, discussions, interactive music-making events and more. It is an initiative of the United States’ Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs which is produced by Bang In A Can’s Sound Nation.
One Beat begins with an opening residency at Montalvo Arts Centre, where participants collaborate to create original material, record new musical ideas, and incubate their projects. The participants then go on tour, performing for a wide array of American audiences, collaborating with local musicians, and leading workshops with youth. In a closing residency, each OneBeat musician sets out their plans for the future, developing projects in their home countries linked to a mutually-reinforcing network of music-driven social enterprises.
Last year, Hope Masike, together with Blessing Chimanga were the first Zimbabweans to be selected to participate in One Beat. The organisation, which started four years ago, is involved in cultural exchange. It brings together young musicians from all over the world. Flight tickets, food and accommodation expenses are met by One Beat.
This year, with more than 4,000 applicants, Tariro neGitare has been lucky to be one of the 25 selected. She came to see me just before she left for the US and she quipped: “I wonder how on earth I qualified for this project? I am so excited to be selected for this great life-changing initiative and the pressure is on to live up to the required expectations and make the most of this experience”.
I asked her to keep me posted about events during her trip. She has been in the States for 10 days now and here is what she says:
“I left Harare on the 10thOctober.During my long flight, I was reading a book by Brian Tracy called Million Dollar Habits and thought this was a great opportunity to take this time away from everything to create habits that will make me a better person all round! A quote from the book goes:
“You are unique in the entire world. There never has been, nor will there ever be anyone just like you. And what makes you different and special is your mind. It is your ability to think, to decide and to act.
“After a flight cancellation in London which delayed my arrival, I finally landed in Saratoga, California. On the first day I met the other 24 artistes from all over the world.
“On the second day, we started with the crux of the tour by teaching each other traditional songs from our countries. I introduced the group to ‘Chemutengure’, a Zimbabwean traditional song. We were split into pod groups to make it easier. So I literally learnt 5 new languages in one hour. Afterwards we had share sessions where each musician shared their performance ideas in five minutes. I performed ‘Wildfire’, which was well received”.
“We started the third day with some meditation exercises!! Wow wowwow! I could literally feel my body releasing a lot into the atmosphere through breathing collectively with other fellows. It’s complicated, I cannot even begin to explain it. And the activities that followed had a similar effect involving a lot of improvisation. We got into our pod groups and had 2 hours to just play our instruments . . . nothing structured, no rules nothing! Just playing as the spirit led. The results were nothing short of amazing.
“In the afternoon we started curating the performances that we were to present at our forthcoming shows. And the rest of the day was pretty much flexible to allow more time for collaborations and recordings
“Day four was our free day and we went to see trees …yes trees! Huge trees! I have never seen such majesty. I actually went only because I could not get what the fascination over these trees was, but it was in the end worth it. We saw forests full of trees, tall trees I might add, really tall trees. The forests literally looked like scenes from the movie Avatar. Afterwards we then went to the beach to watch the sunset, but my African self was too cold to get into the ocean. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the view and the cold breeze blowing into my face.
“The next day we had a huge dinner with prominent people and other invited guests. The invited guests were Montalvo trustees and stakeholders, and everyone else involved with One Beat who had come to meet us, the fellows. These are basically the people who fund the project.
It was so interesting to break bread with these people and to hear what their motive behind supporting this initiative was. I liked the address by a representative from the US state department who mentioned that ‘artists play an important role in reaching certain audiences and can touch people in a way that no diplomat in a suit can’. This is why they support such initiatives. What was also noteworthy was the fact that the executive director of Montalvo mentioned that only 25 fellows had been selected out of over 4 000 applications from around the world. That certainly made me feel special. Hanging out with these stakeholders also made me start thinking about what legacy I will leave.
“We also met Mark Stewart, an amazing musician who is also the musical director for Paul Simon. His workshop was on sound making and a very profound one it was. He started off by highlighting that it is everyone’s birth right to be a sound maker.
‘‘He also highlighted the importance of musicians saying that we are the repositories of our respective cultures. He had so many nuggets and sound exercises that stimulated so much in my music-making process. ‘‘I took from this that creativity is not a solitary process and so many ingredients are put together to make the final masterpiece. Music and inspiration can come from anywhere so pay attention to life.
“I ended the day with a conversation at dinner with the executive director of Bang in a Can, KennySavelson, who shed more light on the organisation and its operations which have been running for over 20 years. Right now we are busy showcasing the music we have created together to the rest of America.”
We hope Tariro will bring a social-driven entrepreneurial strategic plan to Zimbabwe for all musicians!