BRIDGES was inspired by my first experience traveling cross-continentally, in 2015. I visited Ghana and Kenya to study abroad as a Dartmouth undergraduate. While in Nairobi, I was privileged to meet an artist named Pedro Brian. Our encounter evolved into an album of songs composed collaboratively with artists across the continent. This project was essentially my undergraduate thesis, aided by my incredible advisor — professor/ethnomusicologist Ted Levin. For the written component, I completed an ethnography, delving more into the inquiries that propelled the endeavor, and detailing the collaborative process. Authoring a 100-page text in accompaniment to the music deepened the entire experience. It engages questions of diaspora, intercultural collaboration, and identity formation.
Along with six artists from different African countries, the album features the voices of students from the Global Village Project. GVP is a school serving teenage refugee girls, who have travelled from Burma, Somalia, Ethiopia and several other nations. My involvement with the school initiated in 2015, and has been a complete blessing. Upon the album release in 2017, my collaborators and I decided that proceeds would support relief efforts, in the wake of hurricane Maria. Each subsequent installment of BRIDGES will continue in this vein, with an emphasis on aiding communities in Latin American and the Caribbean. Philanthropic engagement is a central aspect of my artistry, and I’m dedicated to finding creative, compassionate ways to contribute. Finally, BRIDGES included a community discussion at Dartmouth. I hosted this discussion with the aim of inviting many voices into a dialogue around multiculturalism, the African diaspora experience, and music activism.
BRIDGES is the first of what I intend to develop into an ongoing series of collaborative albums. The sequel is taking shape gradually and organically, as I continue to travel, encounter gifted artists, and collect new ideas. Some aspects I intend to retain are cross-cultural collaboration, partnering with schools to feature student voices, prompting community dialogue around central themes, and philanthropic engagement. My vision for BRIDGES was always to bring people together; to transcend barriers and create something beautiful. Additionally, this work is bound intimately with my personal aim to build bridges, aspiring towards a more empathetic, collaborative, and compassionate future. The album liner notes, ethnography text, and full discussion transcript are included below.