MatthewVanitas Posted August 28, 2015 Share Posted August 28, 2015 (edited) I'm going to be living in Liberia, West Africa, for maybe around a year or so. After this maybe going back to Latin America, South Asia, or maybe the company will expand business regionally and I'll be spending some time in Sierra Leone, Ghana, or Nigeria. One of my broad life goals is to be a "patron of the arts" in my own small way, and to that end I've given away interesting folk instruments to performing musicians in various countries to try and get those instruments more exposure, like I've gifted Appalachian dulcimers to several Canadian gigging musicians, and just shipped a Portuguese guitarra (like a big mandolin) to an American professional folksinger who likes strange instruments and alternate tunings. On a wider scale, the one time I really got going, when I was living in Newfoundland I ended up teaching workshops on Appalachian dulcimer for several months, exposing probably 50-100 people to the instrument, plus a few hundred people saw me play gigs on the dulcimer at local pubs. While doing the workshops, I bought the cheapest dulcimers I could find on eBay and shipped them up to that Canadian island way out in the Atlantic, and as I went along sold them to students who took to the instrument, increasing Newfoundland's dulcimer count by about 30 instruments (and I'd bet money there were no more than a dozen dulcimers, largely unused, in the whole province prior to my arrival). So I've had some small successes in spreading my joy for interesting instruments around the world, and I've long intended to try some more ambitious projects when I'm somewhere where people have time on their hands and I have spare cash on hand to try to spur creativity. Since I've been playing concertina more these days, I have some vague intent of doing some concertina-type projects. In Colombia the button accordion is quite popular, so I'd had hopes there of finding an accordion repairman open to unusual commissions, and see if it'd be economical to have him build a run of small square Hayden concertinas, thinking that there are at least a few other Hayden fans in the world who'd spring at the opportunity to have an unusual Duet for a low price. Unfortunately we weren't in Colombia long enough on this hitch for me to try that, though we may get back there. Here in Liberia the average daily wage for a laborer is $5, someone like a plumber or construction foreman might make $15/day. Given that a large part of what makes concertinas pricey is the labor involved, that had be pondering whether I could make use of the labor market here. Either to find a skilled craftsman, provide him a couple sacrificial Stagis to study, detailed photos of various designs of vintage instrument, and see if he could start building some interesting concertinas of better quality than the Chinese, of types not economical to have mass-produced in China, that he could then ship to North America and Europe (plus several for me). In particular, I have a possibly impractical vision of getting a guy set up to make a few dozen tributes to the old Wheatstone Duett square concertina, but in modern Hayden format, and with hybrid reeds (figuring I could buy a crate with enough reeds to make a score of them and carry the box down with me next time I come down from Europe). I'd venture to guess there's got to be at least a couple dozen people in the world who would want such an instrument if they could be made for $500ish to a reasonable quality standard, and with ready-made reeds this seems the kind of thing that was just made by skilled cottage labor 150 years ago. I don't know if this is a completely unrealistic idea, or plausible if I find a craftsman who's good with detailed woodwork, pays close attention to measurements, and can follow instructions. On the musician end, I had the thought of buying a crate of cheap 20b Anglos from China, having a local craftsman QC and tweak them, and then using them to train a number of local people on concertina to try and get the instrument a toe-hold. Likely by finding folks with time on their hands who could use a music hobby, like kids in an orphanage or the blind. You frequently see blind folks here with a shekere (gourd shell with a loose net of cowrie shells), beating a rhythm and singing for alms, so I'd imagine some of them would enjoy having a different instrument to make them stand out and accompany their singing. At the absolute minimum, I plan to at least get my own concertina out here. I have a 20b plastic-bodied Stagi at my house in Texas and waiting to get US Postal Service access to have it shipped out here via the embassy. And once I get that there are occasional expat jam sessions held at local pubs, so I can do some playing locally, and maybe see about partnering up with a local Liberian guitarist to do some pub gigs. Concertina actually has some history in this region, as Liberia is a former US colony and neighboring Sierra Leone and Ghana were British colonies, so local folks in port towns traditionally played instruments they got from the foreign ships, like banjo, harmonica, and concertina. According to books/articles I've found online, the concertina was among the instruments used to develop the famous Highlife genre of music in West Africa, so getting some going out here would not be unprecedented. So I bring my situation and ideas to the group here to see if anyone has any suggestions, or whether folks think concertina is just not the way to go here due to the difficulty of sustaining any concertina tradition in the future without my direct intervention. Would I be smarter just to have some cigar box ukuleles built (or simple box Appalachian dulcimers) and teach kids in an orphanage to play those, and/or get a crate of a hundred tinwhistles and distribute those around to try to spur some musical experimentation in the area? There are some good NGOs here already working with local traditional music, and/or helping local hip hop musicians develop their careers, so I'm looking less to make any big movements, and just find some small ways to cross-fertilize some musical variety into the region. Edited August 28, 2015 by MatthewVanitas Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
Join the conversation
You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.