Yeah. Just in everything you do and your approach. I'm proud of you guys‚ in that you're a representation of America‚ and that you travel to places like Ghana and Nigeria and you're determined to learn and you're respectful. And in doing so‚ you take something from these cultures that's very sacred‚ and you bring it back and share it with people in America. That's what I sense.
That's a great compliment. Well [laughs]‚ yeah‚ definitely those are the intentions there‚ for sure. And certainly through the experience of traveling to West Africa‚ I think it became a lot more clear what our intentions were and why we would be doing this music. I do feel that it really does connect people and it really can be a regenerating experience. And I feel that it really was a gift to the Ghanaian people‚ for instance. I mean‚ especially them because I lived there for a year before. I studied traditional music for a long time‚ and I think that was really apparent to them in what I'd done with the Aphrodesia's music‚ but I feel like it was really a gift to them because not only did they recognize the songs but‚ you know‚ bringing a more Western approach and a more modernized version of their songs‚ that they're just really‚ really excited. It's like their cultural heritage is important. Because what's going on in Ghana right now is that the majority of young people aren't really interested in Ghanaian tradition anymore‚ and they really just want to be American. They're making hip-hop‚ which is cool but also a little bit sad. And so I feel like in offering them the music that we do‚ it's kind of showing them that they can have both in a way‚ and that their traditional music is cool‚ you know?
Yeah. You've kind of gotta take it from there to let it evolve.
Yeah. And I… God‚ it's hard to be in this country. I like it in West Africa a lot better.
Do you really?
Yeah. I get sad here because I feel like our culture is so isolating; people are so isolated. People just stay in their houses‚ you know? There are some people that just don't ever leave‚ and they have their social life or their communities by watching other people do it on TV.
[laughs] Right.
I was just talking to this cab driver from China‚ and he was telling me how they live. A family of eight will live in one tiny room on these bunk beds‚ and that's it. They don't hang out in their houses; they're out all day long in their communities interacting‚ and then they go home to sleep. In this country‚ people spend so much money and there are these big empty houses that one person just sits in. So the community‚ it's the complete opposite extreme in West Africa. It's like you can't ever be alone actually. It's really hard to have privacy. It's hard to be alone there. [laughter] Both are important for‚ you know‚ people like us‚ but I'm definitely a really social person‚ and I really thrive off collaborating and having creative relationships. I wouldn't want to do it by myself.
Yeah. That's really interesting to hear. How did you get this way? [laughter]
Well‚ I mean part of it is that I was born this way.
No‚ but‚ I mean‚ you grew up in Pennsylvania right?
I grew up in Harrisburg‚ Pennsylvania‚ youngest of five kids‚ so I probably got this way through being the youngest of five kids. My sisters were really into pop music‚ so my sisters when I was around four‚ they were ten and eleven years older than me‚ and I was born in '72‚ so this was the late '70s. They were really into disco. They taught me how to disco dance. I was really‚ really dedicated to pop music at that time‚ and listened to American Top 40 every Sunday and really knew all the words to the songs. And my sister started getting into hip-hop‚ and she took me to my first concert - Sugar Hill Gang‚ Kool and the Gang and someone else…
Was this in the early 80s?
I was probably 7 years old‚ and it probably would've been '79 or '80‚ yeah.
Wow. That's cool.
Yeah. So being part of a big family and having teenage sisters when I was young‚ that was part of it. And also being so connected to music and the community that comes from pop music.
Yeah‚ definitely.
[pauses] How did I get this way? I don't know.
Well‚ I've never gone to West Africa‚ and I think there's an element of me being an American that has this fear. I read something you said before about becoming fearless, not only about going out and seeing the world‚ but also about being an artist‚ being a musician. So what was that like getting to that step‚ where you said to yourself‚ "I'm going to go to Africa. I'm going to live there and study over there as a white American."
Yeah‚ it was a bit intimidating. It took a while. And there were times when I never felt comfortable really. It's like a whole other level of self-consciousness there because you are the minority‚ and everybody knows that you're American. And all the eyes are on you‚ so it's like a whole new level of self-consciousness. [laughs] So. yeah‚ that probably kind of pushed me out more.