“Home is Where the Beat Drops” by Jaci Caprice

“Can I get a window seat?”

It was like Erykah Badu was inside my head as she sang the chorus in that distinct voice of hers on my IPod, as I took a seat in 9A on a flight boarding for Washington, DC. It was time to head back home. As I placed my tote bag with the letters ZIMBABWE written in yellow and red all over it, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat somber at the fact that I was leaving a place that had embraced me so warmly as if to say “welcome home” a little over two weeks ago. I sat back with my head pressed gently against the headrest with the words South African Air written on a neatly pressed handkerchief and draped over the top of the seat—sighed, and stared outside of the window. Yep, it was time to head back home. I wanted to cry, but realized that it had been years since I was pinned with the name tag of a child who is traveling by herself unescorted. “You’re a big girl now, Jaci.”

And really, why did I feel so melancholy in the first place? It had been an awesome experience connecting with the phenomenal beat makers, emcees, dancers, and DJs in and around Harare. It was amazing, the amount of work that we were able to do in such a short time of two weeks. These collaborations, plus the sense of community that was being established in Zimbabwe among the elements of Hip Hop, set the stage to take the Hip Hop culture in Zimbabwe and America to the next level. The goals and objectives of the program had been met and exceedingly so. Heck, we had established a sound of our own called ZIMerican Music! Still, I couldn’t help but feel that I was going to miss it here—that there was more to do, and it was no secret request made out to the cosmos that I was looking to return…soon.

Next Level Zimbabwe Team

How? When? Those were the questions that began to swirl around in my mind as I looked out the little window that framed one last picture of African daily life. Who would understand the experiences that I had just had, and who could I share them with once I returned home? I was on such a physical, spiritual, mental, musical “high”, I didn’t want anything to kill my buzz, and I began searching for ways in which to preserve it. Heck, I figured that I had countless hours to come up with a plan before touchdown.

Getting used to the hustle and bustle of life in America—it’s almost culture shock once you have travelled to other lands! Africa, being more laid back, yet still methodical in movement, was a reminder that home requires you to be in a state of “pop” and “locking” from the moment you hit the ground! Dancing your way through turnstiles to answer questions about where you’ve been and why, what did you bring back and how much, undressing and redressing, unpacking and repacking, getting zapped and prodded with God only knows how much radiation, and finally hoping and praying that Delta has placed your luggage on the plane and that it will greet you at baggage claim (that’s a whole other story!). But I was home, and could only smile and say to myself, “Hmmmm. Strangely enough, I have missed this too!

Beatmaker workshop in Zimbabwe

Arriving back home to Michigan, I began to get settled in. I was exhausted, and knew that it wouldn’t take long for me to pass out once I hit the warmth and welcome of the bed. And I was right. The next morning, I turned on the washing machine and put in some soap powder. I loaded in the first load of clothes that had been my close companions—once they had arrived, that is—on this journey, closed the lid, and walked back upstairs. I plopped down on the couch and turned on my computer. I needed to let my family from overseas know that I had arrived safely.

Doing the math quickly in my head, it was probably around 5 o’clock there. I began to post pictures and video of the various adventures that we experienced—the workshops, performances, and historical excursions, as well as links to some of websites and projects from the beat makers and musicians that I had met along the way. I had discovered several artifacts of Detroit that were evident in the everyday life of the people in Zim, via t-shirts, hats, conversations about Hip Hop, J Dilla, and oh yes, Eminem. So, I thought posting these things would be another way to introduce them to some further fascinations of “The D” and vice versa. There already seemed to be a natural connection in place. In doing so, an artist friend of mine who saw the various postings, asked me if I knew that Detroit has a very strong connection with Zimbabwe—within both the visual and music arts communities, and introduced me via Facebook to a visual artist by the name of Chido Johnson, who resides here in Detroit, but was born and raised in Zimbabwe. He is responsible for establishing the Zimbabwe Cultural Centre of Detroit, which unites artists in Harare, Zimbabwe, and Detroit together in projects that foster collaboration through the arts [for more info. visit http://zccd.org/]. He has established the WAWAD of Detroit, which practices the tradition of making wire cars—a cultural practice popular in the southern and central regions of Africa which includes Zimbabwe. He is also a phenomenal visual artist himself.

Jaci and Chido Jaci making a wire car

I was invited to a dinner party that weekend, and would get a chance to meet him face-to-face. And guess what? He was making SADZA to welcome me back home! Sidenote: Sadza is a traditional dish that is made from corn, which is one of the main staples in Zimbabwe. It is usually served with a green vegetable of some type, and the portion served is pretty sizable. For us here in America, think hominy grits without pepper, butter, or sugar!

Upon meeting Chido, I was immediately taken back to the lands of Africa all over again! We instantly connected through sharing food, stories, project goals to further collaborate with our brothers and sisters in Zim, and laughter—plenty of laughter—and yes, libations! From that moment on, we began to make plans to meet again soon to discuss more in depth the ways in which we could connect our like focus in collaboration with one another. We also spoke about several projects that have already been in the works leading up to the point of our meeting. Two such projects included a collaboration between a native-Detroit artist named Haleem “Stringz” Rasul who dances in the style known as “JIT”, with a dancer named SLOMO who is from Harare, Zimbabwe. In the video, they are seen sharing each of their styles of dancing with one another—much like in a “call and response” fashion—ultimately creating one complete dance that highlights both styles in relation to one another. Haleem is dancing to a traditional style of music that is commonly heard in Zimbabwe, while SLOMO is dancing to music that is a common to the genre in America known as Hip Hop. It is a beautiful collaboration!

[You can see the video by clicking here: https://vimeo.com/119073613]

Another project is called “INBTWN”, which is a collaborative work between Detroit techno DJ/visual artist George Rahme and DJ Pitso (Philani Majama), who is based in Harare, Zimbabwe. In this video, the goal of the project “is an exploration of space, time and music as the artists attempt to produce a DJ set using skype to set up a live feed whilst the DJ’s play and mix music together in real time.” This project was curated by Kumbulani Zamuchiya and Chido Johnson

[This video can be viewed by clicking https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alqn-iAyxI8].

In continuing to “vibe” with Chido, we further discovered that we knew and had met some of the same people in Detroit and from across the Atlantic, including an amazing dancer by the name of Plot Mhako, whom we had worked closely with while alongside his dance organization called Jabilika Dance Trust. Plot, Chido, Haleem, and an Emcee from Detroit by the name of “Bryce Detroit”, and were in fact working on developing some upcoming projects in collaboration with one another! I was super excited to see that a connection between the two continents was already established—one that stretched far beyond what I could have ever imagined would be one that day when I took off to return home!

AND IT DON’T STOP! Chido and I have made plans to work together t in support of the various communities of musicians and artists in both Zimbabwe and America who continue to support one another in full filling their dreams as producers, beat makers, and in the many other facetsof both the visual and musical arts. —The beat makers that I was able to work with are now focusing on establishing the terms within their own community with respect to the diversity of the group by developing a code of standards as to what Hip Hop looks like, feels like, and sounds like in Zimbabwe.

As for me, I am currently mixing the final master of the “Beat Maker’s Anthem,” which is the final collaboration between the beat makers who were a part of the Next Level Beat Maker workshops. A copy of the mix will be given to each member once completed. The song will also be used for a collaboration between the beat makers and a few of the dancers who were also a part of the program, who have asked to develop a dance for it. This is truly the soundtrack of what cultural exchange in Hip Hop sounds and looks like. It will be posted soon at www.soundcloud.com/jaci-caprice. Check back often!

Jaci teaching hip-hop production techniques

I am also pleased to have found out that one of the beat makers in the workshops, Nyari ‘Ftr’ Mazango, will be participating as a beat maker as a part of the Next Level Global initiative that will bring the different elements of Hip Hop from around the world to the United States! I am so proud of him. He is ready, and I know that he will shine! There are so many talented artists throughout the world, and I am excited to see the impact that this will have globally—right here at home [Check out his music: https://soundcloud.com/ftrftrftr].

It is truth that the bridges built will continue to be traveled coming from both directions, and proves that miles are non-factors in relationship to the exchanges that will continue to occur between us at many levels. We will find that we are all home—because that is truly where our hearts are.

Huge thanks to Mark Katz, Paul Rockower, The University of North Carolina Music Department, Kelly McCabe, Thando Sibanda, The U.S. Embassy and State Departments, The Republic of Zimbabwe, Magamba Network, Jabilika Dance Trust, Chido Johnson, Sabrina Nelson, Haleem “Stringz” Rasul, Juan Gomez, Kane Smego, Ken Fury, Plot Mhako, Petna Ndaliko, and the many talented and genuine artists, musicians, dancers, and supporters who continue to share the same heartbeat.