Keeping the Dream Alive - Africa Rocks!

How to reach out and create your dreams and achieve what you need to do!
| Friday, December 11, 2009
If you have ever been to Africa you know it gets its hooks into you ...the sounds, the aroma, the huge skies, the hustle and the bustle, the laughter, the singing oh yes the singing, the drumming, the sunsets - fill in your own list (you know what I am saying). The hooks stay and you know that one day you will be back!

On Safari  For me it was circa 1984 with a party of thirty - 10-11 year olds, 5 teachers and 5 drivers on safari in Kenya. It was a great time. Some things you do that stay as ever treasured memories. I know this is true for all who went on this trip. 

'Remember that the big game do not worry about the sound of the vehicle engine, but if you speak, the sound of the human voice drives them away instantly!' was the stern warning from our safari minibus driver. We gently skidded around the next bend in the bush track and almost collided with a huge lioness with 6 cubs tumbling and running along behind her. 'Wow! A lion! I shouted in excitement. The driver just grinned knowingly, the lioness and cubs disappeared and the kids in the back glared at me.

We enjoyed 14 days and nights in Nairobi, Nakuru and the Masai Mara. 'Please be careful to put your shoes inside the tent otherwise the apes will steal them during the night!' ' We will shortly be going on our morning jog and the drivers have gone on ahead to check there are no lions currently on the track!' These were the typical morning briefing messages for the excited children. Evenings were full of laughter and entertainment. Strumming guitars and singing songs and listening to the beautiful deep rich voices of our bus drivers joining in. How do they get those harmonies? Must be in their genes!

There was something shifting in my head during this trip something stirring inside me musically and rhythmically which I couldn't explain at the time other than as a total fascination for all that we saw and experienced. On return home these feelings did not subside and I found myself in spare moments scratching out some basic ideas for some African influenced songs.

I did return. But not in the way expected. Some years later as an educational consultant I was in Nigeria visiting schools. The African magic still hit me on arrival but this time accompanied by the sight of ghetto town poverty, street fires and violence and some rioting. I managed the work alright, but we were shocked when some of the people with whom we were working were kidnapped and held to ransom for a while. Next to where we stayed was an oil refinery and one night 500 people died in a fire caused by people desperately cutting into the fuel lines to get petrol which was being rationed by the government. I do not think this even made the world news although the kidnap of an expatriate mentioned above did feature on BBC world news. Again I found myself moved to writing some new song lyrics and tunes.

Next stop Gabon where they spoke to us in French and we were told this is the land of 'plenty yenzi (elephants)'. Two weeks later and I was still waiting to see my first yenzi and I wrote a silly song called 'Ou Sont Les Elefants?'[1] So many other experiences that evoked song writing/lyric writing inspiration - like the evening sitting by the river watching the sun go down and the canoes going by wending homeward with the crews chanting and singing rhythmically in time with their paddling. I recall this scene inducing a feeling of peaceful loneliness that inspired me to write the song 'Far From My Home'[2]

My final night sitting in a hotel beach bar in Port Gentil looking out over the South Atlantic Ocean. Reflecting on what I had seen over recent weeks and thinking back to Kenya. What an intoxicating mix it was!. The music and rhythms of Africa played and played in my head and I thought of all of the half written songs that had come from this inspiration. That was the moment when Africa Rocks! was born. It was like all of the pieces of the puzzle coming together. Yes that is what I would do write an African based musical for school kids. A musical that would throw them into a world of rhythms dance, drumming, drama and great tunes. Something that would, just like the African safari, be an unforgettable experience for them. Something that would inspire them creatively and something that would raise their awareness and understanding about world issues and, in particular, African issues. And maybe, just maybe something that could even trigger some work towards Africa Aid - providing some support where it is most needed.

I guess that half the planet has that experience that I had, over a few glasses of wine, staring up at the stars one night.... 'some day I will sit and write the book!'..... Or complete whatever particular dream had occurred. I wonder statistically how many actually drive ahead and reach out, get going and bring their dream to fruition. 'Don't worry....some day I will do it!'  So here comes my speech ....One of Tony Robbins' favourite quotewhere he mentions 'the road to someday is the road that winds up at a place called Nowhere'.

It took me more than a decade and a whole bunch of Tony Robbins life improvement courses and a lot of reading about how I should be making my life a success before I finally grabbed the live wire and got going on the project that had until that point been mainly been a lot of hot air. Having said that, to be fair to myself, the ideas had been smouldering on and recurring in the moments when I would let my mind wander onto what I really wanted to do. The final trigger also came when I realised how little time I now gave to the creative side of my mind. Like many, my life had become swamped with running to keep up to earn a bigger and bigger crust. One morning I sat analysing how I carved up my time for my daily schedule. And then suddenly I realised there were tears running down my face as the realisation dawned that I was not giving hardly any time for myself and the creative ideas that I would love to pursue. I was full on supporting my family, full on pursuing work projects to the best of my ability but practically zippo time for looking after number one person in my life....me! I came to the conclusion that I was not much use to anyone if I did not look after myself. Yes... I admit it.... I was in grave danger of becoming a boring old fart and going for terminal decline into miserable old git syndrome. To cut a long story short, I changed. Buddhists call it changing poison into medicine and now I feel pretty proud of how it has all worked out.

If you are someone who feels you are falling into the same trap that I was - I will not preach to you... it is your life! All I will say is if you also want to grab the live wire... go see a Tony Robbins Unleash The Power Within conference, read books like Wallace Wattle's 'The Science of Getting Rich' or The Monk That Sold His Ferrari, watch the film 'The Secret' and if you still do not want to change then...mmmh. Hang on a minute... if you are the sort of person still reading this then you want to change that is a given. Someone famous (sorry I forgot who!) said that - "a dream ignored, is one that will haunt you for the rest of your life!'

I started work on the music. It took getting up at 5 and sometimes 4 a.m. in the morning over 18 months, writing away in my small music studio office to achieve what I really wanted to do. And by the way that is particularly important. In all of my studies, all of the life improvement gurus had a common mantra. They would all say  'You can achieve whatever it is that you really want to achieve. So make the choice and decide what you want to achieve!' That is the interesting thing. Most people, I find have absolutely no clue what it is they want to achieve. I mean what it is that they really want to achieve. The only way that you get to understand that simple naive truth is by digging down really, really, really deep inside yourself. Not many people are willing to take that journey. I do not confess to understand why. It is such an important and fascinating journey that makes you want to switch off the news, stop watching crap like Eastenders and start making friends with and being hugely grateful for life.  I love one of the other things from Tony Robbins that helped me so much in the dark times.. 'It is actually completely impossible to experience any negative emotions such as fear, anger, worry etc. when you are expressing or thinking about being grateful for stuff in your world'. Try it! You will be amazed.

The Power of Collaboration. So over a period of about 18 months I put together Africa Rocks! The School Stage Musical. I finished the songs, the musical score, the backing tracks and all of the resources I could think of that would make the show easy to produce in schools even for non specialist teachers. The 18 month journey was great and involved much collaboration with people like Dec Cluskey from the Bachelors, musician friends, teachers, schools and my family. I became obsessed for a while and ate up all things African I could find to help inspire the show. I learned how important collaboration is and the realisation that no man is an island, at least not if he wants to create anything substantial and significant.

One of the brilliant collaborations was with Albert and a bunch of musicians from Nakuru in Kenya. Albert helped enormously by writing lots of African traditional ideas down for me about some African folk songs from his area[3]. He then got together a few musicians from the village to play and record some of the different types of songs. While I chose not to use any of these songs in the show, they were a great source of further inspiration and a great resource for the teachers who produce the show in helping their children learn about the wider aspects of Africa.

Sadly, last year there was an uprising in Albert's village and lots of people were killed and Albert and many others were forced to run away and hide in the bush. After sometime we managed to get back in touch and I believe things are now improving again. To help, I decided to donate to Albert and his relatives a large portion of the license fees paid by schools for performing the show. I think this has helped. We are looking to extend this support in the future through the website and more performances of the show. But to be honest, as much as it is great to help in this way, the prime purpose of the musical will always be to enrich children's lives by getting them to know Africa and to get a greater understanding about how we can all make the world a better place.

I am still on a tremendous journey with Africa Rocks! I am sure that one day it will be a very widely acclaimed show and that is the dream! A dream that the show will be performed to audiences across the world and not just in schools. The school based production are just the start. I will keep collaborating and keep looking for ways to improve the music, the score, the script and all of the resources. I know that all the support I need to do this will arrive and the universe has a great way of supplying all the things you need at the right time as long as you keep the faith in what you are doing. You may be a part of this plan to help promote the show. Have a look at what we have so far at http://www.africarocksonline.com and please feel free to contact me via the website with any ideas or suggestions. Your support would be so amazing ...maybe you know a school where they could stage the show! Thank you very much for reading this, and I hope you have all the success you need in realising your dreams as well. Hang on in there and keep the faith.


[1] This later proved to be one of the most popular songs in the later produced musical AfricaRocks!

[2] You can find all of the songs from Africa Rocks! At http://www.africarocks.com

[3] I have put some of the original tracks onto our website http://ww.africarocksonline.com

   
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