It’s an ambitious project, full of heart and passion. British songwriter JIM KROFT is travelling the world within the next two years, armed only with his guitar and a camera. It’s a project that celebrates independence and the connecting power of music. During the next months the musician will give regular updates about the trips exclusively on NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION. Find out more about the initial idea behind JIM KROFT‘s Journeys project in the first part of his journal and find the other entries of it right here.
Chongqing. Have you ever heard of it? I hadn’t. My bus transports me on a great highway which dissects the heart of the city and its inhabitants with brutal efficiency. Dystopian tower blocks dominate the horizon as far as the eye can see, blackened by smog and the grit of human industry. Woman labour in little plantations next to the highway, tiny futile patches of green as if placed by drunk Gods playing a world building simulation game.
Today I am one of Chongqing’s 34 million inhabitants. And I have a show to get to. I have flown into the centre of China that morning. Safe to say I’m feeling disorientated – geographically, but also on the back of the residency in Beijing – and a fine farewell from howling Jack. Bleary eyed, I realise its probably not possible to get much further from home…and I smile at the memory of my little flat somewhere in Neukölln.
I look out from the bus and I wonder if any of its inhabitants are staring back at me from the high rises. I wonder about their lives. I know nothing about them – their joys, their sorrows, their aspirations. But I know that today I am a brief participant in one of the great human social experiments.
Later I will walk past an old man. He is staring blankly at the urban sprawl surrounding him. It’s as if he doesn’t recognise it. And why should he? Chongqing hardly existed 10 years ago. It has emerged quite suddenly as an industrial capital, at the bequest of the Chinese government. It is drawn in the language of 20th century modernity, but with few of its lessons learnt – a Le Corbusien nightmare.
I can’t help but wonder what I am doing here amongst the grey, the gloom and the smog. I knew when setting out on my journey that I wasn’t seeking the idealised version of life which seems to be projected on Instagram. I wanted to play gigs in the little “nooks and crannies” of the world, where music doesn’t always get to. But in this very moment, I am within the disconnect, and it is not as poetic as when dreamed. Reality rarely is.
I arrive at the show, it is the biggest of the tour and it is outside, and the crowd is vast. I am taken aback, shocked out of my isolation and my musing. There is an air of anticipation and curiosity that I have never quite experienced at a show. It’s tangible.
I don’t know it as I strap on my guitar and take to the stage, but more than any show I ever play, this gig reconnects me to the source emotion of what brought me to music. And even more so, it brings shape, expression, validation to what I have set out to do with Journeys.
I arrive on stage in Chongqing in the centre of China. I am standing before 1000 expectant faces. I’m playing a shocker. Breaking strings, and voice in tatters from too many late nights, too many trains, too many strains, hotels, air conditionings, howling & hangovering. Yet the crowd is carrying me and whatever it is that I am expressing is not of me or mine. It is representative of a greater idea, and it is just my privilege, for today at least, to channel it….or be allowed to channel it….or just be a part of it.
I believe in the power of music. No, beyond that. I believe in the importance of music. At its inception rock n roll had incredible transformative power. It channeled the elixir, recreated the imaginations of its listeners, embodied their hidden “thought dreams”, existed in dialogue and relation to a society deep in change.
I only play to a fraction of the 34 million inhabitants of Chongqing in the industrial heartland of central China. But I am playing to dreams and longings that are far beyond the concrete towers and urban sprawl. I am playing to that very thing that we call our humanity. That is beyond environment. Beyond time. Beyond creed, borders, wars and walls. It is in the unconsciousness of children. It is in the memory of our fathers. And it is potential of our present moment. We lose it too often, and at our peril. But on that stage, in the middle of God knows where, I connect, for the briefest moment, to the very core of music.
After the show a young Chinese girl comes up to me in a fluster. She is wearing an army uniform and has made herself late for military training to be at the concert. She gives me a gift, says “Xie Xie, Jim” and runs off to the barracks. As she disappears, as suddenly as she comes, I have the feeling that today music has continued its subtle dialogue and continuing influence over our lives, and in that, our ongoing history.
Find all previous parts of his Journals right here.