Conservation Music Lands in Maseru

With sore shoulders and tired legs, completely weighed down by our gear and equipment, we ambled into Maseru like pack mules. It is still difficult to catch my breath and decipher my thoughts and feelings about this place. As an outsider with a callow amount of international experience, the warmth and camaraderie is present enough to bask in. Impoverished or not, the people here remain highly optimistic, but not credulous or unaware. There’s a certain glimmer in their eyes that indicates familiarity with their situation, as well as a tenacity to live their lives peacefully and with gratitude, something that is all too rare back home in the states. The culture shock is intense, yet gratifying. I am coming to realize this is exactly what I have prepared for, and now understand how important these last few months of hard work and planning have been.

To soften the arrival, we touched base with an American friend, Adam, who lives here year-round with his family. It was comforting to connect with people who have seen life from both sides and fully assimilated into the African culture. We caught up for a few hours, and then luckily remembered that we needed to figure out a place to stay for the night. As fate might have it, Alex got in touch with his friend Ntate Tau, alerting him of our presence in the city and asking for a place to crash. Without hesitation, he invited us to join him at his home, which interestingly used to be a Russian Embassy building, and now has been converted into a makeshift recording studio/office space for local people and businesses. Here, everyone seems to come and go as they please, including us, but in such a way that it feels normal, not threatening. Integration is key to our project so we followed intuition and set up our living and work space here for the next few days. After getting somewhat organized, we headed into town to pick up a few essentials. It’s a small city, but brims with life and emanates a sense of western city living through the presence of a shopping district. The traffic reminded me of the gridlocked roads back in the states. Luckily, here, the motorists are a bit more forgiving to pedestrians. Although, due to my lack of direction in these parts and the flipped road patterns, I still feel the need to keep my head on a swivel. Once we picked up everything that we needed, we hustled back home to chill out and get our groove on.

While stumbling back into HQ, it was hard to ignore the raw beats and musical tones vibrating from one of the other rooms. We had to check it out and, just as we thought, we were lucky enough to find some fellow musicians who were also staying in the building. I guess we caught a second or third, or maybe even fourth wind, and over the next few hours, we listened and jammed to some new, very unique tunes. The talent here is extremely natural and inescapable. It seems like everyone can sing and play, giving us all-day, endless access to amazing material. Following the local songs, we ripped through some Bill Withers, Clapton, and even Daft Punk. Since the night was still young, on African time, we decided to make our way back to Adam’s nearby home to share dinner with him and his family. His children were emphatic and energetic, and easily kept us awake and entertained despite our energies drifting due to intense jet lag. They even donated their 57 rand, an equivalent of 4 US dollars, to the cause. We scarfed down some tasty grub, and then Adam introduced us to his home studio. It was decked out with anything a musician could ever need – a drum set, hand drums, guitar, bass, MOOG synthesizers; this place was a dream. We shared a few drinks, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to jam on the wide array of instruments to our heart’s content. This was truly a welcoming party that I will never forget. As the night came to a close, we were taken back to our place and fell right into bed.

Still adjusting to the time change, both Alex and I hibernated for 12 hours straight and woke in the late afternoon. We hadn’t felt this amount of sleep in months, it was much needed and well deserved. In order to jump start our systems and assimilate ourselves into the culture a bit more, we decided to take a stroll around town and get a better feel for our surroundings. We checked out a few local digs, and then circled back to the music mansion, where we were pleasantly surprised to see our friend, and local chef, Dougie. He offered to fill our bellies with blue cheese bacon burgers, so without the slightest bit of hesitation we took a seat. Interestingly enough, the first gentleman we ran into upon arriving here at Ntate Tau’s was none other than Dougie himself. Unfortunately, since Alex was last here, Dougies grub hut down the road shut down business. Now he lives here in the ex-embassy, and runs his own operation out of the kitchen. The man is well known and his food highly praised, for good reason. We will definitely enjoy his efforts again in the near future.

Following the meal, we journeyed downstairs into the recording studio to hang out with a group of musicians, called Lekhalong Music, who play a popular style in Lesotho called Famo. It is almost always accompanied by an accordion, and sounds unlike anything I have ever really heard. With a style similar to folk music, it is then modernized a bit by usually incorporating rap verses. For the next couple of hours, we watched them practice their verses, while the accordion and bassist played their respective parts. The melodies and rhythms they were producing were jagged and difficult to pinpoint, but not unstructured. The bass playing is literally all over the neck, with virtually no repeated parts. We let them do their thing and made our way back upstairs to be greeted by Tau and others who had been out at a gig earlier in the night. We all decided to top the night off by grabbing some street beers and jamming in the rehearsal room. For a good 3 hours or so, we all played along to some familiar songs like Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose” as well as some off the cuff arrangements. It was a night I won’t soon forget.

The next few days consisted of general exploration in the early daytime, experiencing the street food and checking out local shops. The street food is one aspect, amongst many, that I will never get enough of. My first taste was from a local woman who sets up shop out of the back of her car, it certainly was the first trunk I have ever seen stuffed with buckets full of meats and sides. The grilled pork, rice, slaw, sweet potato mash, and sweet peas were tastefully reminiscent of the soul-food one would see back in the southern United States. We ate until our bellies were full, almost too stuffed, and then made the walk back to our dwelling. After digesting and kicking back for a few hours, Tau let us know that Tsepo Tshola, a local musical legend, was on his way through town and wanted to stop by and chat with us about Conservation Music. Everyone here knows Tsepo’s music, and to have his involvement was a prospect that we were ecstatic about. At around 11pm, the man himself made an entrance into the main dining room in a way that only he could. Theatrically sincere and boisterously wise, Tsepo talked passionately for hours, running through a gamut of subjects as naturally as they come. As we centered the conversation around collaborating with each other, his excitement and willingness to help was a relieving extension of trust and brotherhood, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have him on board. After another late night, or shall I say morning since the sun was rising,  it was time to pack it in and get some rest.

The entire week continued to overflow with serendipity as musicians kept walking through the door to connect and collaborate. Morena Leraba and Pitso Ra Makhula, who have both worked with Conservation Music in the past, were just two of the many faces that we are excited to see mixed in the bunch. Bhudaza, another highly regarded musician within the surrounding areas, also stopped by. He is generally soft spoken, but confidently expressed his interest to stay in touch and collaborate on some music together in the future. Things really seemed to be falling into our laps at the best possible time, and we were riding that wave of fate as long as possible. Unfortunately, with spirits high, my hard drive took a dive and crashed as we were finishing up some work on the local hotel’s wi-fi. Panicking, and unable to find an adequate replacement drive, I was unable to get any real work done for the rest of the week. My fears quickly faded away as we gave into the adventures and opportunities that were constantly presenting themselves.

On Thursday, we finally secured a car. The beast is a 99’ moss green Nissan Xtrail, so we aptly named him Liam Nissan. Even as a godsend, it was not without its flaws. The wheels were horribly misaligned, causing the steering wheel to oscillate while driving. One tire was flat, so we changed it out with the spare, which now needs to be replaced. Two out of three of the A/C control knobs were completely jammed. An attempt to rectify the problem caused one of them to snap off completely. All that said, we couldn’t be happier with Liam, as he’s made our lives infinitely more mobile. For our first trip, we decided to drive down to the Maseru Market, where the hustle of the city gathered en masse, rendering mobility without bumper to bumper contact nearly impossible. Within mere minutes after arrival, the sites, smells, and sounds all coalesced into a sensory overload. Our main purpose was to find me a replacement hard drive, but we unfortunately still had no luck. Regardless, we deemed the trip a success as we were able to experience a sort of urban liveliness, which was further enhanced by an unexpected downpour of rain. As the sun began to peek out of the clouds, and the rain showers moved on, we continued to make our way through the remaining vendors in order to investigate and admire the diverse crafts. One booth that caught my eye, and satisfied my curiosity, was what seemed to be some kind of dark holistic medicine display, adorned with myriad elixirs, animal skins, and garments that might be seen on a mage or shaman. We could have stayed here all day and perused through the endless choices, but we were apprehensive to purchase anything and left the market with not much more than a handmade wallet and an empty 25L jug that we plan to use for water reserves. After spending time in a nearby hotel, we ventured out to a nearby club called the Cuban Linx. We met some new friends, had a couple drinks, and then were later invited to another club down the road called 4Forty. This place was a little bit more happening and kept the vibes high with a DJ set outside, allowing people to shake off their week to some good music. This was our opportunity as well, so we joined in.

Despite sore legs from a night full of twisting and turning,  the next morning we woke up early to make our way down to the Roma Trading Post Lodge located in Roma, Lesotho. Here, renowned mountain bikers who are associated with The Lesotho Sky bike race event, teamed up with Velosolutions, a track building and marketing company, to put together a Pump for Peace event for the track’s opening. It was complete with music from very talented artists from all over the region, who performed on a stone stage facing the glorious view of basalt mountains. We arrived at the tail end of a set by Bam Bam Brown, a singer/guitarist from Cape Town, and we became instant fans. The next act happened to be none other than Morena Leraba, who’s blend of modern hip hop beats and lyrics, with a traditional rural wardrobe, made for a truly unique performance. As the music pressed on, adults and children alike weaved and bobbed through the newly installed pump track. This, paired with the overflowing music, drinks, and food, all proved to be more than a spectacular setting for a newcomer like me. We continued to meet some new and interesting artists, while also catching up with some friends of Alex’s from his previous stay.

As we continued to make new connections, and rekindle old ones, the next group up was a reggae band called Tidal Waves. Also out of South Africa, this extremely talented group completely stole the show with their tightly knit dynamics and amazing production. Their own version of Wish You Were Here deeply resonated within my heart. As the sun set and the crowd began to disperse, we set up a moonlight jam session with some of the artists who had performed just hours earlier. Switching off between instruments and musicians, we jammed out renditions of songs by Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, and even some originals. The lights of the stage coupled with the night sky made for a once in a lifetime visual and auditory experience. All of us then made our way to the main building for some homemade, catered Indian cuisine. We ate and continued to meet more people before migrating to the fire pit outside. The musical collaborations and connections resumed late into the night until we laid down in our respective areas of slumber. The next morning we woke up early, with scratchy lungs due to breathing in smoke from the fire, and made our way back to Maseru to use the day as a much needed resting period. The nap naturally extended past our alarms, and sunset, so we forced ourselves out of bed for a few hours of cooking, eating, and catching up on a few small tasks. After a few hours, we ended up crashing as the weight of the previous week dissolved into our dreams.

With the week coming to a close, we are extremely happy with the progress that we have made so far. The hard work has really paid off, and we are scheduled to conduct follow-up meetings with many of the artists that we have met. Our plan is to solidify collaborations with them and talk about how we can move forward together. Aside from that, it is hard to ignore that we will be traveling to Swaziland in just another week for the Bushfire Festival. There, we will be part of their Legacy Project, in which we will be writing and performing music with different artists, as well as conducting workshops with anyone interested in learning an instrument, or simply yearning to play along. From everything that I have heard, I am sure this festival will be a beautiful and life-changing experience. Other than that, we will keep enjoying the opportunities that present themselves in a most positively disruptive way. As a skeptic of coincidence, the amount of linked events that happen almost daily here are more than enough reassurance that we are on the right path. I am truly excited for what the universe has in store for us from here on out. Stay tuned to hear about it in our next field update!


RT if you feel that music can foster a sustainable world! Together with the village band Sotho Sounds, #African celebrity Tsepo Tshola, and many more, CM is creating that reality in #Lesotho.
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This post was written by Christopher Volosevich and edited by Charlie Ross for Conservation Music.

About Conservation Music

Our Musical Nonprofit For Conservation
of Conservation Music

Facebook Twitter Instagram Linkedin

info@conservationmusic.org

Conservation Music is on a mission to produce and promote musical media that educates listeners and viewers in conservation and sustainability, with an emphasis on rural developing communities, and to serve as a platform for similar efforts. Currently, the organization primarily collaborates with musicians throughout Southern Africa, catalyzing songs in local genres and local languages regarding local conservation issues in countries like Lesotho, Botswana, Angola, and more.

About the Editor

Alex Paullin

of Conservation Music

Facebook Twitter Instagram Linkedin

info@conservationmusic.org

After years of soul-searching and months in the African wilderness with the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project, musician and geographer Alex Paullin combined his foremost passions and founded Conservation Music, a non-profit aiming to foster a global culture of sustainability using music as the messenger. Throughout his life he aims to expand the Conservation Music movement globally, in hopes that his lifetime will see and hear songs of conservation being sung throughout the world.

A Harmonious Resistance Creates Global Solidarity for Standing Rock

A Harmonious Resistance

For more than a year, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been at war with natural gas’s close comrade, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), over the development of the controversial $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, which has frequently been referred to as “DAPL.” (Many resistance members call it “the Black Snake.”) The approved project designs developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and supported by the U.S. Government, have allowed ETP to push all the way through the state of North Dakota down to the edge of the Missouri River.  

Despite their clear-cut plans, an unanticipated tribe of Native Americans sparked a spiritual resistance residing within the Sacred Stone and Oceti Sakowin campgrounds. The movement gained public attention and increased energy due to the high risk of a pipeline burst. If a leak were to occur, it could then contaminate drinking water for millions of people. As you can see, no longer was this just a local issue, environmental and human rights activists filed in from all over the world calling themselves the “Water Protectors.”

Weapons of Peace

As tensions began to rise, support on both sides developed further and further. Tens of thousands of people joined the camps in solidarity of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, while police departments from surrounding states joined forces and ramped up their control tactics. With little physical chance against the onslaught of high-powered water hoses, rubber bullets, tear gas, and sound cannons, the water protectors decided to fight back through strong beliefs in the ability of music, dance and prayer to call on spiritual support. In many Native American cultures, it is commonly believed that their music has been passed down from the time of creation and has carried on many spirits of its past. Through playing this music the tribes trusted that they were able to connect with these spirits and call on them for support in a time of need. Supported by the power of the people, they began using music to call in assistance from all realms of existence.

The strumming chords, beating drums and singing loud voices vibrated through the mountains, valleys and rivers, activating a new beat in the hearts of thousands around the world. Peaceful protests and rallies sparked like a raging wildfire. At one point, herds of wild buffalo serendipitously stormed the fields during a tense period between police and protesters. Writers, photographers, videographers, actors and musicians were flocking in to support and contribute their efforts towards fighting the well-oiled DAPL machine. They played at benefit concerts, posted YouTube videos and created hashtags such as #WaterIsLife and #DefendTheSacred in order to stimulate a global movement.

Conservation Music was able to sit down with Max Ribner, an avid water protector and brass musician for the massively popular band Nahko and Medicine for the People, to speak on the power of music at Standing Rock. While travelling around the world, Max speaks to music venues, audiences and local communities on the importance of clean water and the “ripple effect” that they can create by “looking at their water locally, their local Standing Rock.” He believes that art, especially music, is very pivotal in relaying a message and inspiring others because “the sounds and tones take people to a different dimension, by binding them together and allowing them to look past the spectrums of diversity.”

Max strongly feels that the movement did not end at Standing Rock, and that “the water issue is not at one place, it is in thousands of places that need to be protected in this country, and outside of this country.” He trusts that “music has a way to weave, and that weaving basically creates a spark in someone’s body or their consciousness to actually do something.”

Another iconic musician that was involved with, and unexpectedly visited, Standing Rock was Dave Matthews. He had been assigned a visit to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s school as part of an Obama-administration program, and as he said, “I was just somebody who wanted to use some of my strength as an artist to inspire some kids, that proximity [to the pipeline] was completely coincidental (Greene, 2016.) After witnessing peaceful protestors experiencing intense resistance from the police forces, Dave knew he had to be a voice for the voiceless. He did just that by organizing a benefit concert, in which all of the proceeds went towards supporting the efforts of resistance throughout the brutal winter. It was through these peaceful tactics and a global showing of solidarity, that the water protectors were able to remain strong against the unlikely odds.

The Final Setback

Shortly after the Presidential Inauguration, President Trump signed the documents that the USACE needed in order to advance the review and approval process for the section of DAPL that has yet to be built. After issuing a final evacuation date of February 22nd, the camps were raided by armed forces and any remaining campers were arrested. Despite the outcome, the water protectors have counted this one as a victory. The battle at Standing Rock is being viewed as the beginning to a global movement of standing up for clean water and indigenous rights. Communities around the globe are prepared to ride this wave by continuing the fight through financial and legal approaches. Many individuals have already divested from banks that are invested in the pipeline, in order to “gut the snake.” This tactic has been mimicked at a larger scale by several cities divesting from these banks as well. Musicians, such as Nahko Bear of Medicine for the People and Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas, are also remaining involved by creating songs dedicated towards raising awareness. The #NoDAPL movement has climbed many mountains in order to inspire and awaken millions of people towards fighting for what is right. A wave of renewal and awakening is spreading, creating space for the teachers, musicians, writers, artists and activists to rise and make a difference.


RT if you believe in the power of music to #StandUpforStandingRock ! #WaterIsLife #NoDAPL @ConservationMusic http://on.natgeo.com/2mSnUhF
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This post was written by Charles Ross for Conservation Music.

About Conservation Music

Our Musical Nonprofit For Conservation
of Conservation Music

Facebook Twitter Instagram Linkedin

info@conservationmusic.org

Conservation Music is on a mission to produce and promote musical media that educates listeners and viewers in conservation and sustainability, with an emphasis on rural developing communities, and to serve as a platform for similar efforts. Currently, the organization primarily collaborates with musicians throughout Southern Africa, catalyzing songs in local genres and local languages regarding local conservation issues in countries like Lesotho, Botswana, Angola, and more.

About the Editor

Alex Paullin

of Conservation Music

Facebook Twitter Instagram Linkedin

info@conservationmusic.org

After years of soul-searching and months in the African wilderness with the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project, musician and geographer Alex Paullin combined his foremost passions and founded Conservation Music, a non-profit aiming to foster a global culture of sustainability using music as the messenger. Throughout his life he aims to expand the Conservation Music movement globally, in hopes that his lifetime will see and hear songs of conservation being sung throughout the world.

 

 

 

Sources:

Chappell, B. (2017, February 09). Tribe Reportedly Files Legal Challenge To Dakota Access Pipeline. Retrieved March 03, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/02/09/514317352/tribe-reportedly-files-legal-challenge-to-dakota-access-pipeline

Donnella, L. (2017, January 25). Dakota Access Pipeline Foes: We Aren’t Done Fighting Yet. Retrieved March 03, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/01/25/511476889/dakota-access-pipeline-foes-we-arent-done-fighting-yet

Hersher, R. (2017, January 24). Trump’s Move On Keystone XL, Dakota Access Outrages Activists. Retrieved March 04, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/01/24/511411653/trumps-move-on-keystone-xl-dakota-access-outrages-activists

Greene, A. (2016, November 17). How Musicians Are Joining Fight at Standing Rock. Retrieved March 04, 2017, from http://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/how-musicians-are-aiding-standing-rock-protests-w450699

Levine, V. L. (2014, January 31). Native American music. Retrieved March 04, 2017, from https://www.britannica.com/art/Native-American-music

Imagery:

Photo 1: Taken by Charles Ross

Photo 2: Stands with Standing Rock! Peaceful March & Rally Seattle, WA. Taken by John Duffy is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo 3: Provided by Max Ribner

Photo 4: Taken by Avery White, Uploaded by Paul Weaver. Source

How Music Inspires and Empowers Rural Africans to Steward Their Environment

The Power Of Music

We all have a song that we never forget. Maybe it carried us through tough times. Or perhaps it reminds us of good times we’ve had. It may have taught us an important lesson… maybe even at just the right time in our life. Whatever the reason, it stays with us.

Music is complicated. With no single home in the brain, it sparks various zones simultaneously, a symphony of synapses firing on cue, as conducted by your own individual mind. Together with the artist you are listening to, you are painting a singular image… one that encapsulates your thoughts and your emotions at once. This leaves an imprint on your psyche that’s remarkably hard to forget.

Music is simple. Since we began our human journey, music has stood the test of time as a fundamental universal language. Song and dance bring us together in spite of our differences, giving us something to share regardless of our means. We can use it to help clear our minds and focus. We can use it to inspire our minds with ideas. We can use it to help us move on from the thoughts that don’t serve us. We can use it to help us remember ones that do, and to teach them to others. It just works.

Our auditory systems, our nervous systems, are indeed exquisitely tuned for music.

As Oliver Sacks, acclaimed neurologist and author of the bestseller Musicophilia says, “Our auditory systems, our nervous systems, are indeed exquisitely tuned for music.” So I ask you this: if we’re so well attuned to music, and we use it in so many ways, aren’t there other ways to use it? Can we harness the emotional power, memorability, and universality of music to an even greater end?

Children-in-Seronga-with-homemade-guitars

Those Who Need It Most

Ever had a bad day and improved it by listening to the same song on repeat? Music alleviates suffering, even if it’s only as long as the music lasts. Is there a way to use music to alleviate suffering long-term, and not only suffering of the mind? Can we harness its characteristics to alleviate the suffering of those for whom suffering is a way of life? Can music provide those in poverty with the means to take action, and to gain the crucial knowledge that will lead them to be part of the global solution? Furthermore, can it give them a voice within our often lofty global conversations?

We are living in a world in which the people who are bearing the brunt of the backlash for humanity’s decades of decadence have contributed the least to it. On top of this, they know the least about it, as a result of lack of access to the wealth of information that those of us reading this blog have at our fingertips. And even if they did have information regarding the local, landscape, national, regional, continental and global issues that they face, they have few or no systems in place to be able to ignore them, adapt, or even survive.

An ethos and a knowledge of sustainable development is increasingly crucial for all of us. However, there are many families for whom falling out of balance with the earth that sustains them has grave and immediate consequences. As an informed scientific community, can we reach them with research alone? What bridges the gap between research and learning for those who are lucky to be able to read? For those whose history is riddled with abuse by those who quested for such worldly knowledge in less culturally sensitive times?

We believe in the power of music.

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Bringing Environmental Knowledge

Conservation Music is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization on a mission to teach and inspire the world to live environmentally sustainable lifestyles through the power of music, with a special focus on rural, uninformed subsistence communities in the developing world. This includes outlining specific steps to take to better steward the earth as subsistence community members, as well as promoting a general environmental ethic.

We collaborate with artists around the world to compose, record, produce, and create music videos for songs of sustainability in local styles and local languages about local conservation issues. We then seek to add to the global appeal of these songs, to reach the world with inspiring messages from these countries.

We seek to empower the voices of rural musicians and national celebrities alike to reach many thousands of people with messages that everyone needs to hear, broadcast nationally via radio and television, and globally via new media and media partners. In collective harmony, we are planting the seeds of a brighter future in the hearts and the minds of each individual listener, musician, and partner.

The village is the focus, and the world is the stage. Conservation Music first and foremost seeks to reach the communities needing ideas for sustainable living the most. But our impact doesn’t end at the edge of the village. Our rural friends are becoming part of the solution, and their voices can and will inspire other people all around the world.

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Conservation Music is very excited to join the conversation at National Geographic Voices.
Thank you for reading our first post on this platform, please tell your friends! And stay tuned for:

  • More posts about the power of music and the arts to play active roles in shaping our world for the better
  • Songs and music videos from Africa and all around the world
  • An upcoming webseries and missives from the field as we adventure across Southern Africa and collaborate with local musicians
  • Virtual Reality experiences – join us in the field and in the studio as we harness the power of music to teach conservation!
  • Partnerships with the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project and many other dedicated conservation groups in Southern Africa
  • (Long term) Our expansion into other developing countries all over the world!

You can learn more about Conservation Music at www.conservationmusic.org and on social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! If you’d like to partner, contribute, or otherwise get involved with Conservation Music, please email info@conservationmusic.org. Thank you! ~Alex

About the Author
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Alex Paullin
of Conservation Music

Facebook Twitter Instagram Linkedin
info@conservationmusic.org
After years of soul-searching and months in the African wilderness with the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project, musician and geographer Alex Paullin combined his foremost passions and founded Conservation Music, a non-profit aiming to foster a global culture of sustainability using music as the messenger.

Currently, the organization collaborates with musicians throughout Southern Africa, catalyzing songs in local genres and local languages regarding local conservation issues in countries like Lesotho, Botswana, Angola, and more. Throughout his life he aims to expand the project globally, in hopes that his lifetime will see and hear songs of conservation being sung throughout the world.

Source: CM NatGeo Voices

On Returning to America

It’s been two months since I arrived near Washington, D.C. to be greeted by my family. This has been a tumultuous time in America. Civil liberties are churning, ebbing and flowing as outraged citizens march to protect them and an unwilling government seeks to rescind them. National lands being made ripe for the picking by fossil fuel, timber, and mineral companies… A plan to abandon the United Nations… The White House Climate Change website replaced by promises to drill… All EPA grants frozen and employees banned from posting online or speaking to reporters …For those of us working globally towards progress and balance for the Earth and its people, it is a very bleak beginning to an era that’s only just begun, with truly international implications.

But at Conservation Music we are only getting started with our mission. Now more than ever, the grassroots must rise up to eclipse the actions and views of misguided positions of power. We’ve just completed 2016, the third consecutive hottest year on record, and many are still blind to it. Some blind themselves willingly. But many of the ones struggling to get by in the developing world truly don’t know any better. Through the unifying power of music, we can spread sustainability to those who need it most in increasingly difficult times.

2017 is shaping up to be an incredible year for our team and our supporters. We’re in the midst of an increasingly successful crowd-sourced fundraising season, including online giving (click here!), numerous checks being written to Conservation Music and sent to our address, and incredible benefit concerts all across the State of Virginia! Take a look at those events below:

In addition to our grassroots fundraising efforts, we’re forming important partnerships and applying for grants. We’ve grown from a one-man motorcycle operation to a team of volunteers from all walks of life. We’ve structured our organization and are constantly becoming more efficient, and we’re finishing projects from 2016 to start our 2017 slate fresh. And oh, what a beautiful slate it will be… we depart the first week of April!

Make no mistake, while we are excited for our organization’s development and goals, we are also witnessing the start of what may be a very dark time for global conservation and sustainable development. But as a community of musicians, producers, photographers, filmmakers, writers, and creatives of all sorts, we at Conservation Music and our partners are doing our best part to continue the momentum of positive change for the future.

If you want to get involved, click on the links below:

Thanks and Godspeed,

Alex Paullin

Founder/CEO/President

CMP Month In Review : August 2016

Featured Photo by Thalefang Charles for Cross Okavango Delta Expedition.

Okavango, Okavango, Okavango… The Conservation Music Project glided into August aboard a mokoro, a week after launching from its birthplace of Seronga with the Cross Okavango Delta Expedition (CODE) on July 25th. It was a scramble to reset and repack in Johannesburg after arriving from Zambia July 21st! (The Zambia project, Tushange Isamu, was done alongside Greenpop, a Cape Town-based environmental education and tree planting group. More on that in another post!)

The Creative Crossing

CODE 2016 marked the first official “Creative Crossing” of the Okavango Delta, in hopes of supplementing research efforts to understand and conserve the place with poetic and musical messages to bring more Batswana (people of Botswana) on board, as well as to inspire a global audience. As many of you know, the Conservation Music movement was crystalized in Angola, en route to the Delta, aboard a mokoro in 2015 with Dr. Steve Boyes’ Okavango Wilderness Project (OWP). At the time of this writing, the OWP crew is pulling their boats through the deep, muddy wilderness as the water that carried our crossing continues to drop during theirs. You can follow along with live updates at www.intotheokavango.org.

The CODE 2016 crossing was quite special… a group of 15 Batswana was joined by just a single foreign member, Conservation Music founder Alex. In general, the Delta is visited and run by either foreigners or white Botswana nationals, and one intention of CODE is to inspire more Batswana to visit and invest in this incredible national heritage site. Needless to say, it was an honor to be made the exception and join the team of creative celebrities, media professionals, and polers from Botswana to produce a song and music video throughout the two-week crossing.

EricPoleVideo still shot by Alex Paullin.

The song is entitled, “Okavango Oa Moxa,” which means “Okavango You Are Beautiful” in seYei, the mother tongue of famous four-string guitarist Stiger Sola, who was born into the lineage of the baYei, also known as the “Watshara,” or “The River People.” This tribe is said to have been the first to break into the Delta long ago, bringing 6-meter long wooden mekoro (mokoros) to enter the deep, wild paradise that the land-based KhoiSan bushmen in the region left alone.

Indeed, Stiger Sola himself was born inside that very wilderness… his aunt assisting his young mother to deliver him on an island, as his uncle waited aboard the mokoro, long ngashe pole in hand. They were still far from the village of Sharobe, the place where he was meant to be delivered, which would soon become his home. Thus a legend of Botswana was born in the heart of the same inspiration that our expedition was seeking…. We brought him back into the wild with a guitar.

Stiga River

Photo by Thalefang Charles for Cross Okavango Delta Expedition.

The other musical celebrity on board was HT Tautona, a Maun-born rapper who grew up on the cattle post but made his claim to fame in Gaborone, Botswana’s capitol. For HT this trip was like returning home, but finally seeing the Delta he grew on the edge of the right way… by mokoro, in the depth of its wilderness. His lyrics describe the overflow of emotions upon returning to this place “like a pen without ink” and being filled with inspiration to write. HT was a major team player and was easy to find helping in the kitchen.

HTKitchen

Photo by Thalefang Charles for Cross Okavango Delta Expedition.

Last but not least, as a surprise addition to the music team, multi-talented poet Leshie Lovesong spoke up during a fireside brainstorming jam session with a poem she had written, which now serves as a deeply emotional opening to the song. Once she was brought aboard the music team, she also lent her voice to the chorus, responding to Stiger’s calls of “Okavango, Okavango, Okavango” with Stiger’s own declarations to his mother, the Delta, of her lovable, everlasting, beautiful nature, and her role in his existence as “a way of life.” Leshie’s own way of life took quite a shock in the wilderness… prior the expedition she had never even been camping.

LeshieSmileEle

Photo by Thalefang Charles for Cross Okavango Delta Expedition.

Conservation Music is extremely excited to be part of Botswana’s 50th anniversary celebrations. As we speak, the new song “Okavango O Moxa” is being registered with the Copyright Society of Botswana (COSBOTS) so that the artists involved can earn their royalties and protect their rights when this song hits the radio in September. The music video shot in the Delta is soon to follow, and will we broadcast on Botswana Television (BTV) and on Youtube and Vimeo. The song and video will also be made available on iTunes and Google Play soon!
Overall the Cross Okavango song project has been a resounding success. The tune is set to be a hit, the video will be made up of some incredible moments with people and wildlife out in the deep wilderness, and new opportunities are coming up rapidly as this project gains attention. We cannot wait to release this song and video, and hopefully do it all over again next year.

What’s Next On the Horizon?

In the meantime, lots of other things are happening too! For example:

Conservation Music Presents Sotho Sounds @ Rocking the Daisies

For instance, Conservation Music is preparing to bring our old friends the Sotho Sounds from Lesotho down to Cape Town for the massive Rocking the Daisies* music festival! The festival runs from the 7th-9th of October, and we’ll be rocking the Hemp Stage in the Green Village area on Saturday from 2-2:45pm. The Sotho Sounds are a group of rural musicians with enormous heart and talent, and we are extremely excited to give them the chance to perform for such an audience, and hopefully to sell some of their handcrafted merchandise!

FYI, preceding the festival opportunity, we are discussing a collaboration in Lesotho with an American celebrity musician. More on that soon!

SSCrawfurdPhoto by Jacob Crawfurd of Crawfurd Media.

Zambian Tree Song “Tushange Isamu” Release with Greenpop

Quite close to the release date for “Okavango O Moxa” in Botswana, we look forward to releasing the tree planting song and music video recorded in Livingstone, Zambia alongside Greenpop. In July, the song was composed and performed by the Mosi Oa Tunya band, alongside members of the Golden Leaf band as well as Conservation Music’s own Alex Paullin. September is Arbor Month, so this release is very relevant!

ZamStagePhoto by Lee-Ann Olwege.

Return to Angola with The Okavango Wilderness Project

Conservation Music looks forward to returning to Angola in October, following Rocking the Daisies festival in Cape Town. The Okavango Wilderness Project (OWP) is bringing several research teams to survey the Angolan catchments of the Okavango watershed. We are grateful for their continued enthusiasm regarding the power of music to foster conservation ethics in the minds of the people living in the region, where decades of aggression have scarred both the people and the landscape. The beauty and importance of the landscape there are something to be proud of, and we look forward to encouraging that pride alongside OWP and National Geographic.

AngoVidVideo still shot by Alex Paullin.

The Elephants’ Playground

As soon as we beached on this island I named it the elephants’ playground… Dozens of tall, regal, royal fan palms dot the place, evermore dotting the ground with their fruit. I tasted this palm fruit today, which lived its life high off the ground, tucked away between its crunchy outer shell and the large ball of vegetable ivory within. As I write this, the trees that surround me are shaking the as elephants ram them to bring down these bittersweet morsels.

Two nights in a row now we’ve slept with the elephants near. Today I ate their fruit. Tonight I ponder if they will come visit me here. Last night they had already past when my head hit the pillow… but before my tent was up I had been with them like never before.

The images are clear in my mind… I will never forget, thus yet again I can relate to my elephant friends. The herd of fifteen-odd adults and adolescents with their two wobbly-trunked younglings in tow had just passed by our camp as the light became golden. I found a perch atop a standalone turret, a sandcastle built up by termites for years. I was hoping to watch the herd crossing the river en route to the flats near Jao Village, Djedibe, the place that made me think this afternoon that we would not see any wildlife this evening. From upon my tower I watched them turn towards me.

An elephant’s moment is longer than others, but to them it must have felt like an instant as I slowly felt my heartbeat picking up as they grew closer, tree by tree. Through the zoom lens of my camera I had watched from afar as they brought down a tree for the babies to eat from. At this point the naked eye was plenty to capture this larger-than-life moment… they were standing right in front of me.

The matriarch had given me her blessing. We had been making frequent eye contact as I focused my intention on peace, love, and respect for the herd. These emotions undeniably mingled with fear… what if the villagers nearby had been in conflict with these animals? Or if a young male in the herd had been spited that day? Or a mother grew defensive, or her mate had a toothache? But consciously I focused on peace, love, and respect. Any negative visualizations must pass by as glimpses, not to be focused on.

But even when a youngling stood less than two meters below me, it’s trunk reaching up for a leaf near my dangling foot, and was startled to find me there, spreading its ears out and stumbling back, the mothers that surrounded me stayed calm. A significant look here and there, a bit of a head shake, perhaps a raised trunk. We were sharing the space. I was granted a point on the plane. For a moment, even less than an elephant’s instant, I could feel like a part of the herd. As the sky became dim, they moved on. Their wind tunnel breathing and near-silent footsteps that were filling up my ears had grown distant the moment the matriarch pointed her trunk in the direction they had come from. Only two of the herd were nearby when she pointed, but as one they all departed. An ultrasonic rumble of the stomach was the real cue. The herd had moved on through the trees, but our mother remained there with me, locking eyes for an eternity. I raised my hand. She raised her trunk and went.

On assignment for The Conservation Music Project and Cross Okavango Delta Expedition. Follow @crossokavango and @intotheokavango for more stories like these.

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On Leaving Angola

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Finally, some time for reflection. Beginning with where to begin…

The last few weeks in Angola were a little bit hectic. To begin with, it’s a difficult country to work in for myriad reasons that need not be listed here. Suffice it to say that aligning and maintaining a group schedule with the band was very challenging. Still, albeit down to the wire, we came out with an epic multilingual composition, the footage to pull together a nice video, and anticipation of another project somewhere down the road. I look forward to finalizing our work soon.

The flight came unexpectedly, by means of a debacle. The sudden, unexpected goodbye stirred up emotions of nostalgia, loss, and longing at the same time as excitement and alacrity. These emotions tend to lead us to a deeper place within ourselves… despite the setback for the Project, I am grateful for the chance to sit down and reflect in this way.

Angola is a place with many problems. Widespread poverty, collapsing infrastructure, stark corruption, a broken economy, a big-brother government, and crippled cultures are a few. Though signs of all of these revealed themselves to make this project difficult, I am proud of what my friends and I accomplished in Menongue. As I’ve mentioned in the past, there is another Angola emerging, although slowly and out of the view of the public, with an eye toward the future. It’s the toughest place I’ve been to for an innovator, tourist, conservationist, or outsider in general, but that doesn’t stop us all, and it couldn’t stop us from creating an ode to the wilderness here. Hats off to the guys in Progresso (the band) for becoming Angola’s first Conservation Musicians.

The morning I flew from Luanda, my friend Kerllen showed me a spot on the “Ilha” where we could jump into the ocean while our breakfast was prepared. It was the first time I had ever been in this side of the Atlantic, and the first time I had been in an ocean for over a year. As our plane traversed the skies above Johannesburg en route to the airport, the morning’s mental snapshots of faded-but-colorful hillside favelas gave way to expanses of fire flecked darkness away from the streetlights, and an ever-building skyline on the coast became an assemblage of shining silhouettes, surrounded by a sea of black and white, yellow and red sparkling civilization.

And so I arrived in the City of Gold with the salt of the Atlantic in my hair and in the creases of my eyes. ~Alex

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CMP Fundraiser 2016

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Dear Friend,

We’ve been very busy here in Africa, from Lesotho to Botswana and Angola. Along the way, I’ve been fortunate to realize my current life’s calling – using music to encourage conservation in developing countries!

Together, myself and many talented players from Lesotho, Botswana, and Angola are collaborating to write inspiring and educational conservation music. Through the radio airwaves, we are able teach these lessons to everyone, regardless of their reading ability, or how distant they may live from urban centers. Our videos will be given to local TV stations and promoted online for those with a little more access!

As I write this, an official non-profit organization is being registered in Virginia. I’m taking what began as a dream and creating a reality, with hopes of empowering musicians, improving our relationship with Earth, and inspiring anyone who comes across our story.

I’m proud to say I’ve managed to self-fund the evolution of this effort for a year now, since leaving last April. Now, for my second consecutive birthday on the African continent, I’m reaching out for help with my first fundraiser ever! It’s an online “crowdfunding” campaign at Generosity.com.

So, if you believe in what we are doing, there are a few ways to help out!

1. Donate – The fundraiser is open! Everything helps. Even small donations have a big impact out here! https://igg.me/at/TzZiOMoqSFk

2. Share on Facebook – The more people who hear about us, the more likely we are to meet our target.

2a. You can also share to Twitter!

3. Share with your community – Call your friends, talk to your family, tell your co-workers, make an announcement at your organization’s event… help spread the word!

Thanks so much for reading, and if you choose to get involved, thank you SO MUCH for your help! Let me know if you have any feedback or questions, I would love to hear back from you!

One love,
Alex

Happy Earth Day!

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From all of us here in Angola, HAPPY EARTH DAY! A day to reflect on our nature as humans, and what we can do to help nurture it. We hope you enjoy this quick 1-minute clip of the work we’ve been doing here!

The Conservation Music Project is founded on the belief that every person on the planet has a gift that can be used to do something much greater than ourselves. We’re using music to speak to the heart and the mind about caring for the planet, in many different languages! This section is in Umbundu, which is spoken further North and West within the Okavango basin, and speaks of the wealth of fish, frogs, and crocodiles to be found in Angola’s rivers.

Also, speaking of days for reflection and celebration, tomorrow, the 23rd of April, marks the one year anniversary of my touchdown in Lesotho! Since then, I’ve been blessed to experience 4 other countries in Southern Africa, especially the privilege of meeting such a wealth of wonderful people everywhere I go. I am so grateful to everyone I’ve met along the way.

On top of this, on an even more personal note, just 11 days away is my birthday, May 3rd. This year, I have decided to launch a my first ever Crowdfunding campaign, for the Conservation Music Project, the night beforehand. Even the smallest donation will help to empower musicians from all over Southern Africa to impact the earth in their own unique, positive way! Just something to think about, I will be keeping you posted on this!

If you enjoyed this video, please LIKE and SHARE to support these awesome musicians and pass on the positive vibes! Thank you!

Gravação de Amanhã – Recording’s Eve

Hey! The past few days have been a bit slower production-wise, mainly on account of the various band members’ day jobs. Not to worry, though, I’ve spent that time improving my audiovisual knowledge and practices, as well as beginning to map out our first upcoming video!

On that note, we’re recording our first track tomorrow! You may have heard the preview clips in my previous post. If not, you can find those right here! Very excited to get the ball rolling on some nice audio production.

I’ve also reached out to Angolan celebrity Matias Damásio, who according to my contact has expressed interest in the project. If all goes according to plan, we’ll be able to work with Damásio to prepare a conservation production in time for World Environment Day, which will be hosted in Luanda this year. That would be great! Here’s a clip of Matias Damásio at work:

Now I’m off to see the band at their weekly Friday night gig at Ponto Verde bar. Tchau!

Primeira Composição com a banda “Progresso”

Today went well. It started with myself and Abias, lead composer and keys player for the local band Progresso. After a quick jam to break the ice and a couple of phone calls, we had a couple of other composition-minded individuals with us, each with different strengths. I enjoyed getting to know the different roles these guys could fill as composers… different languages, lyrics, and melodies were brought to the table for myself and Abias to sort through and organize. Firstly, here’s a preview of the chorus, which has a more modern feel and is sung in the link language Portuguese as opposed to the various regional languages:

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/258524836″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true&show_user=false” width=”100%” height=”135″ iframe=”true” /]

 

Next is a bridge in Umbundu, whipped up by a kindly schoolteacher sporting micro-dreads by the name of Tchingualele. Umbundu is spoken further north within the river system, and this part will be the flow between the chorus and and language spoken further down the river system, Nganguela.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/258524827″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true&show_user=false” width=”100%” height=”135″ iframe=”true” /]

 

And finally, for now at least, here’s one of my favorite parts of the song. This part will be both accompanied and a cappella at different points. The language is Nganguela, the most widely spoken in Menongue, and perhaps in Kuando Kubango province as well. It’s closely related to Chokwe, which is spoken in many of the villages interviewed by The Okavango Wilderness Project this year, which is good, because we want this song to be understood by as many of the people of the region as possible!

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That’s all for now, folks. I took some video as well, but I’m completely out of steam for the night. I’ll get on an edit ASAP to show you a bit of the songwriting process that led to these clips! ~Alex

Progress with Progresso

Today I met with Abias Cavuvi, band leader of the soon-to-be Conservation Musicians Progresso. We set out a plan, and agreed to meet tomorrow to begin to compose a new tune about protecting and respecting the numerous rivers that radiate out from the Angolan highlands. Especially those heading south towards the Okavango Delta!

Here’s a clip I scrapped together from some odds and ends of footage that I captured while I sat in on a band practice about a week ago. The style is Kwasa Kwasa, a particular rhythm and dance which has spread out from the DRC since becoming popular there in the 1970s. The first time I heard it was down in Seronga, on the edge of the Delta, composing the first CMP conservation song ever, Ke Rata Okavango with Gongwe Wamana. As soon as I heard this Progresso tune, I recognized the style!

Like I said, it’s scrapped together, but I hope you enjoy it! ~Alex

Sneak Peak: Angolan Conservation Musicians “Progresso”Today I met with Abias Cavuvi, band leader of the soon-to-be Conservation Musicians “Progresso.” We set out a plan, and agreed to meet tomorrow to begin to compose a new tune about protecting and respecting the numerous rivers that radiate out from the Angolan highlands. Especially those heading south towards the Okavango Delta!Here’s a clip I scrapped together from some odds and ends of footage that I captured while I sat in on a band practice about a week ago. The style is Kwasa Kwasa, a particular rhythm and dance which has spread out from the DRC since becoming popular there in the 1970s. The first time I heard it was down in Seronga, on the edge of the Delta, composing the first CMP conservation song ever, “Ke Rata Okavango” with Gongwe Wamana. As soon as I heard this Progresso tune, I recognized the style!Like I said, it’s scrapped together, but I hope you enjoy it! ~AlexAlso found here: http://www.ntrepidmedia.net/progress-with-progreso/

Posted by The Conservation Music Project on Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Song for Menongue

Screen shot 2016-04-09 at 11.30.21 PMIt’s 4a.m. in Menongue, Angola. The stars are in full form this morning, the Milky Way extending towards the road that my colleagues will take out of the Angola today. If only the road were as smooth as the Via Láctea, as they call it here, perhaps they wouldn’t need to leave quite so early.

The National Geographic supported 2016 Okavango Wilderness Project biodiversity survey of the Cuanavale River and its surrounding sourcelands is complete. The remaining team of scientists, producers, ba’Yei polers, and my colleagues in logistics are going back home. Myself? I’m alone in Menongue.

The reason is that for the next 3-and-a-half-odd weeks, I will be working with Angolan musicians to help spread awareness of some of this river-clad region’s most glaring environmental problems. I truly believe that through music, the world can learn so many lessons. By transcending language and literacy, by speaking as much to the heart as the mind, and by harnessing the learning power of rhythm and repetition, musicians can teach and inspire like nobody else. Thus, in 2015, The Conservation Music Project was born, and now, with the generous help and advice of the leadership team at The Okavango Wilderness Project, I have a chance to work with players from a deeply troubled country, and create something positive, informative, and looking towards the future.

The issues the we’re hoping to tackle initially are:

  • Water Conservation
  • The Bush Meat Trade
  • Burning the Countryside

I will be documenting everything on this blog, on Instagram, on Twitter, and Facebook. Please feel free to contact me through any of these means if you have any questions, ideas, or suggestions! Best, Alex