Armchair Travel 2013

The debut post for Blog was July 1, 2012. Happy Anniversary! There has been a variety of topics covered, some more popular than others, thoughtful comments, and positive feedback.

Last August, one of the posts (Thinking of Travel: Armchair and Otherwise) explored how to get the most out of travel planning by using fiction to get ideas, learn about a place, or get lost in imagining a vacation in a place and culture whose physical geography may be out of reach. The topic of armchair travel will be revisited in this post by going on a musical excursion. Music of another place, music in a place we know, music of the diaspora. Any of these categories will be an expedition to people and places worth listening to, reading about, or even planning a trip of a lifetime. Clearly, this list will not be all-encompassing and complete. It is meant to start the reader's own journey of research. Please feel free to add lists, ideas, favorite musicians in the comment section.

Andy Palacio of Belize
Ready? Let's go! The first stops are in Central America: Belize, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and the island of Roatan. One common denominator of these places is the Garifuna people. The Garifuna are descendants of Caribs and West Africans and whose language is Arawak in origin. The musician Andy Palacio (December 2, 1960 – January 19, 2008) has been instrumental (no pun intended) in trying to save the Garifuna language and culture through the medium of his music and that of The Garifuna Collective and The Garifuna Women's Project. Palacio's last album, Watina, is filled with the plaintive longing of home, exuberance for life, and love of his people. Listening to any of the albums found through the links above will take you on a holiday far from your daily life.

Next stop: Mali. Malian music is well-known for its variety, quality, accessibility for a world-wide audience. The music of Mali is ethnically diverse, but one influence predominates: that of the ancient Mali Empire of the Mandinka (from c. 1230 to c. 1600). Mande people (Bambara, Maninke, Soninke) make up 50% of the country's population, other ethnic groups include the Fula (17%), Gur-speakers 12%, Songhai people (6%), Tuareg (the music of Terakraft will leave your head bobbing...desert rock!) and Moors (10%) and another 5%, including Europeans. This link will take the inquisitive listener to ten groups to begin a wonderful audio journey.

Head over to Senegal, listening to Baaba Maal's album Nomad Soul or Cheikh Lo's Bambay Gueej . Never been to Sierra Leone? Don't know enough about the pain and suffering of people living through a civil war? Check out the remarkable stories of survival and hope with Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars in their album Living Like a Refugee. For an evening (140 minutes!) of "The Finest African Ballads from Ethiopia, Sudan, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Mali, Egypt, Guinea, Western Sahara", check out Desert Blues 1, Desert Blues 2 and now Desert Blues 3!

Before heading south, let's take a quick trip over to Cape Verde, a string of islands off the west coast of Africa. Cesaria Evora's haunting voice will lead you on a side trip to Portugal and will be a reminder of the colonial role played by Portugal in Africa and South America. A list of her albums and videos can be found at this link.  

Now let's head south! Not to the usual music mecca of South Africa, but first to Zimbabwe. Oliver Mtukudze has been performing since 1977. Like many musicians, he is a reminder of the fine line artists often tread when they want to both express the needs/feelings of their communities, but dare not openly criticize a government for fear of reprisal. And now on to Angola. The musician Bonga,considered one of Angola's greatest artistic legends, will take you on a musical, and historical, journey with influences from Angola, Portugal, and Brazil. Ah, Brazil! Virginia Rodrigues.
Virginia Rodrigues
Ms. Rodrigues has produced four albums and, again, she is a reminder of the linkages between African and Portuguese cultures and history.

One final musical stop today will be with The Toure-Raichel Collective, a collaboration between Idan Raichel (of Israel), Vieux Farka Toure (of Mali), Yossi Fine (of Israel), and Souleymane Kane (of Mali). The album was the result of sessions in Tel Aviv. Music is an amazing bridge between cultures, a testament to the ability of people to create and thrive, regardless of the trials of everyday life.

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