by Quincy Godwin
Sometimes I find the things that actually happen to me a bit hard to believe. It’s pretty difficult to relay a course of events when the prose for such is too perfect, or similarly outlandish.
My life has become a thick stew of perfect and outlandish.
I feel like the little brother that rushes in mid-conversation to brag about a deed whose shimmering façade forsakes the truth of the effort, and who everyone disregards without grasping the weight of what was really accomplished.
Following the theme of disregard, I’ll disregard the skepticism that I assume is already crashing against whatever monitor that you’re viewing this blog on, with enough force to shatter it. Hopefully you have a screen protector because your doubt is unwarranted. This really happened, I promise, and if you don’t believe me then perhaps the photographic evidence can convince you.
Okay, I feel like that was a pretty effective build-up to what I’m about to say next. Here goes: I’m a Tanzanian rockstar.
No, seriously guys.
Well reggae star if you want to be technical, but still… pretty cool, right? I’m like if Tom Morello was one of the Wailers, but in Africa, and also a white kid.
To appropriately quote the late Bob Marley, “Me jammin.”
Let me explain my claims.
This past Saturday night I was invited to play lead guitar for an assembly of musicians properly known as Warriors of the East at a club in the town center of Arusha. Now, of course, it was no Madison Square Garden, but as any struggling, mediocre musician (like myself) would know, playing any downtown on a Saturday night is reliably sweet.
I was requested to join this performance by Warriors of the East’s frontman, Ras, whom before Saturday night I had known as Mr. Magare, the other music teacher at Good Hope.
If you were a fan of the spontaneity of my previous wedding adventure, then you’ll be thrilled to learn that I was told about this event the day of, and that I practiced with the band a total of zero hours and zero minutes before showtime.
“Okay, everybody ready?” said Magare as the band took their places on stage and seemed prepared enough to dig in.
“Um, where’s my guitar?” was my way of letting him down.
The lack of rehearsal was criminal. The leader of the band would lean away from the microphone seconds before the four-count to shout chords at me, in desperate hope that my musical competency was proactive enough to find the scale and pull something decently fitting from thin air.
No one cut my line, so I’d like to assume that I didn’t disappoint.
At the beginning of the show there were 5 people on the minute stage, including 2 guitarists, a singer, a bassist, and a drummer. I was not uncomfortable at that point, for I have played far smaller stages with far more people and equipment, and I was cozy in the back corner that I secured for myself. It should be obvious from my melancholic tone, though, that the comfort didn’t last.
As the hour grew larger in number, so too did the musicians on stage. To our prestigious collection we added not only another guitarist, a keyboardist, and a Masai tribesman on vocals, but a man who looked as if he had witnessed and even perhaps had a hand in the creation of the earth.
Naturally on the bongos.
His tired skin clung to his bones like a weary lover, and his colorless dreadlocks rested on the floor when he sat at his instrument. An obvious master at his trade, his reputation and aura demonstrated his skill before he even stepped over the threshold of the venue. Regardless, when he joined in with the others and me, I was captivated by his performance. His hands moved with the fluidity of an attacking predator, and the grace with which he approached the music told me that he has been one with his instrument for much longer than my age.
I was honored to play beside him.
I didn’t catch his name before he stepped back out into the night as mysteriously as he had arrived, where I assumed that he fell into a pile of dust that was swept away by the breeze, taking him to reassemble at the next gig that needed his presence.
By the end there were 9 people on stage, making the Warriors of the East more like the Army of the East.
We performed for all of 3 hours, and though my shoulder ached from carrying the weight of the guitar, and my legs burned with fatigue, I wore a tenacious grin; product of the rejuvenation of spirit familiar to any musician after a solid set.
The experience was superbly rewarding. If I didn’t get anything else from it, at least I can say that I played with a legitimate reggae band in Africa, and feel free to bring me to justice if I’m out of line, but that’s badass.
I am proud of the intricate web of paths taken that I recall as my life that has led up to the paramount moment that I took the stage.
I can conclude with no anxiety that my debut performance on the African music scene went well.