Malawi is Beautiful

We drove from Lilongwe to Blantyre today and the countryside was especially lush after heavy rains. Malawi is full of life, people everywhere–walking, riding or pushing bikes loaded with firewood for cooking, selling mangos along the side of the road, tending goats, farming. Nearly 90% of the population practices subsistence farming so the landscape includes a patchwork of small corn fields. Regardless of slope or soil conditions, the people make it work. Corn flour is used to make a staple dish called nsima, which I had my first helping of for dinner–grits, basically.

Yesterday we gave our first workshop in Malawi to a group of about 20 musicians. We were told that people would be reserved, but found them to be extremely open and enthusiastic. We played and talked a bit about what we’re doing and then they sang and played one of their songs. Their music was beautiful and the expression on their faces as they performed was pure joy. Even when we played I would look up and see these huge, unreserved smiles and begin smiling myself.

Resources are scarce here. We brought some guitar and bass strings and drum sticks, etc., but I wish we could have brought more. Much thanks to all the musicians back in Chi and Detroit who contributed.

This is getting long so I won’t go into detail about last night’s concert at the Ambassador’s residence, but it was a blast and I’m psyched to be playing with these fantastic musicians for the next month!

Peace and joy,
Michael

ps. pictures coming when we get to faster internet…

The Road to Blantyre

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Yesterday, in Lilongwe, we gave our first workshop. It was pleasure to see the excitement and love for music that all the participants had. At one point we were treated to a Malawian song. I was glad that they were willing to share their music with us just as we were sharing ours with them.

In the evening, we gave a house concert at the US ambassdor’s residence. It was a lovely setting with a nice piano and beautiful gardens. Our performance was well received and afterward we had ample time to mingle with the guests. It was a diverse group including several other ambassadors and a number of Malawian musicians. Two young musicians told me that it was the first time that they’d had the opportunity to hear live jazz and they were ecstatic. It pleased me to hear an older colleague of theirs explain to them that we played “spiritual music”. I also had the privilege to speak with the French ambassador, who is a big jazz fan, and his wife. Apparently our concert presented the rare occasion for jazz to be heard in Malawi.

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Today we drove to Blantyre where we have a second concert and workshop scheduled. The four-hour drive afforded us the possibility of seeing more of the country than just the urban areas where our activities are scheduled.

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Malawi

Monday was a travel day allowing us to start getting acclimated to being in Africa. We had an early breakfast and checkout since our flight to Lilongwe, Malawi was at 10AM. The trip itself was nice and short and we were greeted by a very friendly and helpful team from the US embassy.

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The drive to the hotel gave us a chance to take in the beautiful scenery of undulating terrain and local agriculture. The sky was somewhat overcast, but the temperature was very pleasant (in the upper 70s) – a wonderful contrast to the snow and cold in Chicago.<

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After a restful afternoon, we were warmly welcomed for dinner by Public Affairs Officer Ben Canavan and his wife. We were treated to a wonderful meal and relaxed, but informative, conversation about the local scene. Tuesday being our first full day of activities, we went back fairly early to the hotel to get some sleep.

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Welcome!

Welcome to the website for the Dennis Luxion + Michael Raynor Quartet! We’ll be posting here during our travels throughout Africa and the United States in early 2012. Use the player in the sidebar to hear samples from our upcoming record. Enjoy!