Sad news

Just received a very sad and shocking phone-call from a friend in Edinburgh to let me know that Duncan Senyatso died last week. Duncan, you may remember, was the Botswanan guitarist and singer that I played with at Greenbelt last year – a fantastic musician and a very generous and patient man, putting up with me taking ages to get my head around the rhythms of his songs, laughing and joking, and being very generous with his praise when I finally got the songs right. He also played a vital creative part in what was one of the best gigs I’ve ever done – my ‘global footprint’ improv piece at Greenbelt, along with Jez Carr, Patrick Wood and Andrea Hazell. He sang and played guitar beautifully, miles outside of his musical comfort zone, but he fell into the a-rhythmic improv setting like a natural.

We’d talked at some length last summer about the possibility of getting British Council funding and taking the same project out to Botswana to tour with it, to do workshops in schools on improvising and music technology, and see how the marriage of the two musical worlds would work. Yet more regrets, to go along with the regret that the Global Footprint gig wasn’t recorded.

Simon, who rang me, was the mandolin player in the band last year, and has known Duncan for more than 15 years, and is flying out to the funeral.

if you click the link above, you’ll see just how highly regarded he was in Botswana. A big loss to the music world in that part of Africa, and a musical partner I shall be sad not to see again.

That’s Duncan on the left, with Rise Kagona in the middle.

Blimey, has it been that long???

Well, what’s happened since I last blogged? Well firstly, my hard-drive is fixed!! Yippee!! I got loads and loads of offers of help from blog-readers, one of which was an offer from Ted to fix the drive if I shipped it to him in Portland, Oregon. So I did, and he fixed it, and shipped it back, and all it’s cost me is a the cost of the new drive and shipping each way. Amazing. Huge gratitude to Ted for that!

For all of last week, I was on Lindisfarne (AKA Holy Island), off the coast of Northumberland, teaching at the Borders School For Life. The idea behind the school is based on the Scandinavian folk high school idea, where learning is pretty much for the sake of learning, rather than for the certificate that you get at the end of it.

The theme for this week was spirituality and ecology, the the many talks, classes and workshops took in themes of the Celtic history of the Island and Northumberland (Lindisfarne was pretty much the first home of the Celtic Christians in England), some stuff on the wildlife in the area, the notion of nature as sacrament, and some other ecological and economic stuff.

There was also a strong creativity thread, which included garden design, all sorts of arty things, and me doing a series on the parallels between music and language, and how to see music as an extended metaphor for communication – looking at music theory and improvisation and examples of language and conversation… It went very well, and much fun was had by all. The rest of the tutors included lots of experts in their field – professors of economics and sociology, design lecturers, authors and the director of the centre for human ecology! All round a marvellous week, and one I’m sure I’ll go back to next year whether I’m teaching or not…

Since getting home, the small person and I have been to a friend’s wedding, and installed a waterfall in the garden, that given the current heatwave has been doubling up as a foot spa. mmmmmmmmm.

So this week is going to be lots of teaching, getting back up to date with the duo album with Theo Travis (artwork nearly finished, just final touches needed on the track mixing), and then off to Italy for a gig on Thursday night!

SoundtrackThe Cure, ‘Disintigration’ & ‘Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me’; Cloud Chamber, ‘Dark Matter’; Phil Keaggy, ‘Acoustic Sketches’; Bruce Cockburn, ‘You’ve Never Seen Everything’; Paul Simon, ‘One Trick Pony’; Gary Peacock and Ralph Towner, ‘A Closer View’.