I heard an interview that struck home on NPR this morning with French-Algerian guitarist Camel Zekri.
When I think about the kind of musician I want to be and the kind of musicians I want to encourage my students to be, his story resonates with me. Both his thoughts about musical categories:
“Jazz is a word — it’s not the music,” he says. “Why not salsa? Why not bossa nova? Reggae? You can’t say this is not jazz. It’s an encounter of people who have given us music. It’s not one person who has given us this music. It’s a meeting of different people and cultures.”
Even moreso, his desire to connect with people through music.
That’s what interests Zekri — human encounters. Like so many children of immigrant families, he found it hard to bridge the cultural divisions within himself until his own guitar taught him how. He set aside classical technique. He changed the placement of his hands. He expanded the scale to encompass Arabic, Berber and African sounds.
To me its the model of the musician’s role. To quest after mastery, to resist definitions, to courageously seek a personal vision, and to embrace the power of music to connect.
This is the way forward.
I recently came across an organization in my town called Colored Pencils that is seeking to create these kinds of encounters through art in our community
You can read and listen to the rest of the interview and see more videoclips of Zekri here.