The journey continues and we’re happy to be on board once again. Earlier this year, British singer/songwriter JIM KROFT shared the first part of his ambitious journal with NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION, featuring his travelling experiences from China. It’s part of his overall plan to travel the world within the next two years, armed only with his guitar and a camera. Now, the project continues, featuring JIM KROFT‘s personal diary from his last trip to the African continent.
Once again, it became a project that celebrates independence and the connecting power of music. In the course of the next months we will also witness a new EP by the multi-talent called Journeys #2, as well as a new filmed documentary. And you will find his regular journals right here for your delight. Find all previous entries of his adventures right here.
I am flying somewhere over the baked, parched earth of Northern Africa. My mind is filled with memories from the past – of the endless tower blocks of central China, and the long hours filled by silence after losing my deal. I am apprehensive. I know I should be excited to be flying to Africa, and in time I will be. Our lives are governed by periods of uncertainty, and for now, flying over Ad-dis Ababa, I feel unanchored. The only certainties are that the past has gone, and that the road I have taken for my future, is unmapped. I have done my best to read the signs, to react to chance, and to allow it to lead me.
How did I get here? Well, it’s a curious story. Some years ago, an Italian German anarcho-punk left European and ended up broke somewhere in East Africa. He made his way to Zanzibar and there leased a run down lodge from a local family. The renovated space thrived and became famous across Zanzibar for it’s ‘Crazy Monday’ jam nights. Musicians, locals and tourists alike descended from all over the island, and Red Monkey Lodge became a Zanzibar institution.
Mark came across my music as a result of my affiliation with the Tacheles, where I played hund-reds of shows and for a while lived, back in Berlin, 2007. Fate brought us together, and there we sat, both slightly manic and hungover. And I connected immediately with this man with wild eyes and mischievous grin. It was decided i would come and play a residency in Jambiani.
And so I arrive, and as my feet touch the African earth for the first time, something lifts from me. It isn’t about escaping my struggling career back in Europe. It is simply a sense of belonging. And it is immediate, and tangible.
There is an Africa in all of us*. As of yet I am unsure of its characteristics, its colours, but in time i will understand that it concerns the heart, and that, touching something of its essence, this unders-tanding elevates the continent above its atrocities, its genocides, its revolutions.
It is broader than its border skirmishes, its hunger, and its capacity for insane violence. It is best summed up for me in the Zulu proverb – one is a person through others – a place where, the boun-daries between people are melted under its brilliant sun, and where the capacity for the greatest kindness abound in daily life. The reality is that what I search to discover and illustrate in my ‘Jour-neys’ project – the illusoriness of the distances that divide us – the African continent already knows. And in going there, I discover there is no need to prove my thesis, because it is already there.
I am barely there for hours when I discover this for the first time, and, apt to my life, it’s language expresses itself in music. I came to music late, after my mother passed away in my late teenage years. It came into my life because I had to howl, and any other art form seemed to exist within a disconnect. I discovered in music a house for catharsis, a place where emotion could undergo transference, from one thing to another. And in that, it began for me as the expression of suffering.
However, coming to music late also left an insecurity on a musical level. When I arrived in London I was way off the level needed ‘to make it’, and I had to work hard to swim with larger fish.
An old insecurity had surfaced about going to Africa – because there, music lives within people’s blood, rhythm not something expressed but something lived. Simply put, to get to the heart of music has been a journey of effort for me – where as in Africa it is the first language.
And yet, that very first night I played, something wonderful happened – and which would characte-rise my experience of East Africa. While playing at the Red Monkey Lodge, members of the other bands – Friends of Swahili and Mzungu Kichaa started to groove, and half way through the first song, took to the stage, grabbed instruments and began to accompany me. It was a joyous invita-tion into this language, an entry into a brotherhood. ‘Mr Calabash’ told me afterwards that he just got the spirit, and that he could see that in me, similar to the African musician, ‘to sing is not a thought but a need’.
Every single musician I played with in Africa was a far superior musician than me. But each knew that the heart of where I sing from, comes from the same place – and no where in the world can a musician identify this trait quicker than in Africa.
Hundreds of people from all over Zanzibar came to watch the bands that night, and it was in that first song – Kaleidoscopes Collide – that my African journey began.
And of Zanzibar, though there is too much to write, it gave me the gift of entry – the spirit of accep-tance. And the experience was defined by the invitation of an Italian-German ‘retired punk rocker’ and a brilliant drummer, ‘Mr Calabash’ – who taught me that, if you are willing, Africa will accept you – spiritually and musically – if you go with the heart first.
*someone quoted this to me in Africa – I am not sure its source – but I think it is from Ben Okri – apologies it it is mis-attributed!
Find all previous parts of his Journals right here.