I was just contacted by American Music Abroad asking for some thoughts about our tour for their next newsletter, which made me realize… gosh, we haven’t done much writing about tour since we’ve been back. So here are the beginnings of my reflections, a few broad strokes about the absolutely fantastic experience we had. More to come!
Windborne’s experience with American Music Abroad was incredible. I think Will summed it up well in our debrief when he said that it felt like we were not just doing really cool work, but good work, meaning that we could see the positive impact that our presence and our music had on the people we met. Sometimes the moment was brief–a shared smile over an autograph or photo after a concert in Turkmenistan where we were treated like total rockstars, or street kids dancing in the plaza and singing along as we did a sound check for our oceanside concert in Angola–and other times, we got to develop deeper relationships.
In Kyrgyzstan, we were lucky enough to tour with the folk group Ustatshakirt, and the connections we made with them both musically and personally will stay with us for a long time. Whether it was sharing rhythm games while waiting in the airport or sharing the stage in front of a packed audience, we bonded across boundaries of culture and language.
Likewise, when we worked with a church choir in Angola, our mutual enthusiasm for singing overflowed the crowded classroom as we taught them American folk songs and learned Angolan hymns in a song-swapping session that could have gone on for hours.
One of the most powerful experiences was performing a local folk song at the end of our concert program. For us, an important part of being cultural ambassadors was to learn about the traditions of the countries we visited, as well as sharing the music we brought with us from the United States. Our goal was to learn a folk song in the local language of each country and perform it in concert, which was definitely nerve-wracking at first… to stand on stage in front of hundreds of people and sing our arrangement of a well-known song in a language we had just begun to wrap our heads around… but each time, the response was incredible. The audience would erupt into cheering and applause as they recognized a familiar refrain, and then they would sing along with us. In Turkmenistan, we were even asked to leave a copy of our arrangement with the national conservatory. It was humbling to be so warmly received as musicians and individuals everywhere we went, and we are so grateful to have had the opportunity to share our little slice of American folk music and culture with audiences, student groups, and fellow musicians from around the world.