I had been warned about the rainy season storms before coming to Jamaica, but nothing prepared me for my first experience of a torrential, Caribbean downpour. It must have been during my first week in Kingston, and I remember standing by the window in awe as the building was hammered by sheets of driving rain. And now, on my very last day in Kingston, the rain is once again coming down in buckets. As I stood by the window, the last three months seemed to come into focus in a new way.
Living and teaching in Kingston was a true cultural experience. Although Jamaica is influenced by the seemingly inescapable spread of American pop culture, the country has such a specific and irresistible sense of style. One friend said to me, "you know, everyone wants to be like Jamaica," and in a way, he might be right. Looking beyond the many day-to-day challenges, I was struck by one aspect of Jamaican culture that I found to be truly remarkable. Everyone, and I mean everyone, loves music; it's so vital to the culture that it's almost a prerequisite for living. They particularly love their own home-grown artists, but their overall, deeply fundamental connection to music seems to transcend genres. For Jamaica, music is not a cultural extravagance or a leisure activity, it is a part of being, it is something elemental. This kind of relationship with music is something I will take with me when I go.
Just a few weeks ago, I played a little concert for the kids in which I performed several Afghan folk song duets with Kim Mai, my wonderful girlfriend. I could see that the soulful melodies of Afghanistan captured their imagination and set their toes tapping. Just yesterday, I caught one of my students crouched over his cell phone, he was listening to a recording of our concert he had made on his phone. As I listened closer, I could hear him humming along to one of the Afghan folk songs. It was a moving moment for me, and in a very personal way, it seemed to bring my journey full-circle. Who knows where I will end up next, cello in hand, ready to discover similarities, not differences. Wherever it is, I hope to share and revel in the ultimate human language, music.
|Conducting the orchestra|
|With two of my cello students, Devoy and Micah|