We played a festival recently that gave us a room for the night, which is always nice. We get to our room and we're about to crawl into bed when I happened to look up. (I wish I didn't). See that "little dot" in the upper left hand corner?
Oh. My. God. let me get the zoom lens...
So this guy was right above our bed... He was the bigger than the size of my whole hand... The problem was that the ceiling was about 10 feet off the ground, so a newspaper wouldn't work. I thought, maybe I could throw a pillow at it. But then I realized that might not kill him. Not only could he probably catch the pillow and throw it back, but I didn't want to piss him off right when we were about to go to sleep. (Plus, he had two somewhat smaller cousins on the other side of the room).
There was nothing I could do except make a deal with him. Don't mess with us and we wont mess with him. Here in Africa, roided up tarantula's that make their homes above your head isn't necessarily a reason to give you another room - at midnight - when there are no more rooms left anyway - and whoever you ask to "take care" of the spider probably won't appreciate the fight anymore than I would so.... I basically swallowed my privileged and chalk it up to another TIA (This Is Africa) moment and gave thanks to God when we woke up the next morning alive.
We are extremely grateful to be in this magnificent country. It's our third time touring South Africa and yet, sometimes it still feels like it's our first. I get that feeling every time I come to Africa. We've only spent about 13 months in the Motherland. Mostly in Kenya and South Africa, but also Botswana, Uganda and Egypt. Africa is so big and so diverse it doesn't even feel like we scratched the surface.
The more time I spend here, the more I see how much I don't know.
This tour is more regional than the previous cross country tours we did in 2013 and 2017. Instead of living backpackers to backpackers, we are going to base ourselves between the Garden Route and Cape Town.
The Garden Route is a beautiful drive that reminds me of the Pacific Coast Highway in California or HWY 101 in Oregon Country. The Garden Route goes east to west starting in Cape Town all the way to Port Elizabeth.
Our first AirBnb is located in Wilderness, which is right in the middle of the Garden Route.
Katie and the baby are doing great. The pregnancy is normal and we are so happy to be here right now. We are both nesting pretty hard right now. It still doesn't feel real that we're going to live in a house for 5 months... Our bodies are still slowly winding down from the road.
Last month we had a midwife appointment at our house. I walked out to greet our midwife and immediately heard (not just her American accent) but a mid-western accent. An American accent is easily identifiable to a lot of people around the world (mostly because of pop culture). When she told me she was from Milwaukee, Wisconsin - living and working in South Africa, I knew there was a good chance we might have some things in common.
Our midwife told us about how her her best friend saved up some money, quit their jobs and flipped a coin to decide where they were going to spend the next year of their lives. Heads is Vietnam, tails in South Africa. Tails is was. It didn't even take the full year for them to realize that they wanted to live in (the Garden Route of) South Africa so they went home, saved more money, came back out here and bought a beautiful plot of land on top of a mountain. Her and her husband grow their own food and live in one of the many communities that are rooted in African village life.
Our midwife was one of the few people who totally understood why we came to South Africa to have our baby. She understood so much that she didn't even ask any questions. She laughed because she said she would do the same thing too.
It's been nice playing shows along this beautiful coast. I love the South African music scene. I'm blessed to feel welcomed here. The music and story lines go deep here. Those lines of communication run through the veins that travel the length of this vast continent.
We are blessed to be a witness.
To be continued...
Katie and I would like to begin with Gratitude. Thank you all for another great year. We are going to take some time off the road and go live in South Africa for the next 5 months. We rented an airbnb on the Garden Route (Dec/Jan) and a small flat outside Cape Town (Feb/March). We'll use this time to create new art, write new music and learn how to be a family. That way we'll be ready and full of new life when we come back to USA next spring/summer.
I booked a few local shows and festivals during our time in South Africa. We can't wait to reconnect with our friends and community out there.
Thank you for showing us what is possible.
Brian, Katie & New Baby.
2018/19 SOUTH AFRICA SHOWS
23 DEC - Kaainmans (Wilderness, SA)
28 DEC - Wild Spirit New Year Festival (Natures Valley, SA)
29 DEC - Wild Spirit New Year Festival (Natures Valley, SA)
30 DEC - Wild Spirit New Year Festival (Natures Valley, SA)
31 DEC - Wild Spirit New Year Festival (Natures Valley, SA)
1 JAN - Wild Spirit Backpackers Lodge (Natures Valley, SA)
2 JAN - Kaaimans Restaurant (Wilderness, SA)
5 JAN - Surf Cafe Plett (Plettenberg Bay, SA)
7 JAN - Fairy Knowe Backpackers (Wilderness, SA)
12 JAN - Scarab Craft Market (Sedgefield, SA)
19 JAN - The Surf (Plettenberg Bay, SA)
21 JAN - Barleycorn Music Club (Cape Town, SA)
22 JAN - Quay Four on V&A Waterfront (Cape Town, SA) 7pm
26 JAN - cafe Roux (noordhoek/Cape Town, SA) 2pm
27 JAN - The Brass Bell (Kalk Bay/Cape Town, SA) 3pm
09 MAR - Cafe Roux (Noordhoek/Cape Town, SA) 2pm
10 MAR - The Brass Bell Kalk Bay (Cape Town, SA) 3pm
15 MAR - ReForest Festival (Platbos, SA)
16 MAR - ReForest Festival (Platbos, SA)
17 MAR - Reforest Fest Family Weekend 2019
23 MAR - Scarab Market (Sedgefield, SA)
Please give a like/follow to the Brian Ernst Music + Journey4YOUth page(s) for more music, tour and non profit updates. Also - Katie just started a new page River of Humanity for all of her handcrafted jewelry.
I want to thank all of you who have helped build the stage I step on every night. It's a special stage - a sacred stage - not seen with the eyes but felt in my HeArt.
I feel it when I'm playing on the front porch at the local watering hole or on the old band shell in the city park. I feel it when I play at the summer music festivals and community concert series. I feel it in the gymnasium over at the high school and in the grass at the farmers market on Saturday morning.
I feel it on the cold concrete, down in the youth detention center and over at the Moria Refugee Camp. I feel it standing in the dirt, underneath the baobab tree in Kaswanga Village, Kenya. The stage I physically step on looks different every night, but the Reverence is the same. It doesn't matter if I'm playing for 2000 people or 2 bartenders, I know who put me there and Why. That's what makes it Sacred. Thank you.
"Nothing Left To Lose"
I've seen some things that I can't forget.
Feels like a buried hatched beneath my chest.
I've seen the best and worst of Humanity.
I'm still holding onto hope because I still believe.
A couple things that I conclude.
A couple times I've been called a fool.
Gonna see this world with both my eyes
Means seeing this world through anothers' eyes.
I'm singing to you. x2
You and you and you
I'm singing to you
Singing to me too.
I'm singing to you.
I got Nothing Left To Lose.
It's getting real hard trying to find my place.
Getting real hard, trying to relate.
In a vast wasteland of apathy.
Cause there's a couple things that we'd rather not see.
I'm gonna speak up and sing out loud
Gonna sing it up and sing out loud.
Gonna see this world with both my eyes
Means seeing this world through anothers' eyes.
And, thank you to everyone who has helped us by sharing our music and videos over the years. This is a multi-culture, multi-faith movement, grassroots in nature and as ancient as the common bond that connects all of Humanity. What effects you also effects me because we (as humanity) are all in this together.
This has been a crazy summer. Lots of shows. Lots of visiting with people. It's becoming harder and harder to find time to rest (or self care). I send out my heartfelt apologies to everyone we didn't have time to see. Our tours fill up quickly with gigs and dinners. Everywhere we go, it seems like there is less and less time.
The only way one can sustain themselves on the road is with solitude.
Solitude, and natural re-charging is more important than money. Money is actually what drives us to insanity. It drives humans to do unthinkable things like - sacrifice the little bit of time we have here on this earth to slave for the almighty dollar. And, I am not excluding myself. I am guilty too.
Money is man made. It is the root of all evil.
Gods Creation though...
That is where we worship.
And - one day - we will gladly go back to the Earth.
We are so grateful.
This is crazy.
Life is moving so fast.
Faster than I think we both thought.
Every year revolves around the summer tour.
When the van starts going west, there is no stopping until the calendar runs dry.
(which is a good thing)
Summer is here in full force.
We have lots of gratitude to give out to our friends in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Montana. Everyone. Thank you. For real.
Photo: Sam Crump // The Art Garden Benefit Show (Salt Lake City, UT)
We also had the pleasure to do an interview and three song performance on Park City Television. Thank you Terry Burden for having us on. We love coming on the show and spending time with you. Here is the interview below.
It's the most wonderful time of the year. That is our annual summer tour across this beautiful and diverse nation. We are grateful for all our south east coast friends/family who supported us so much this past spring and early summer. Thank you.
Being out west to us is a breath of new life. Both Katie and myself resonate more in the mountains. We love being in wide open land - where you can see 20 miles in every direction. It's been called Big Sky because it stretches from horizon to horizon.
The land out here awe inspires the curious and commands the respect of even the most unaware traveler. Being out here reminds me of how small I am. Which is something I need.
We really enjoyed being up in Colorado. We are super grateful for all the good people up in the mountain towns. Places like Carbondale and the Roaring Fork Valley. Penny Hot Springs and the glorious, White River National Forest, under the shadow(s) of the mighty adjoined twins - Mt. Sopris.
Over to the four corners area, Durango and the beautiful rivers flowing through the San Juan National Forest. This is our Holy Country. All of ours. Past, Present and Future.
"Walking to the path of the artist is also to walk to the path of the people. Part of walking this path is to also see the harder parts of life." - Max Ribner
There isn't anything easy about going into a jail.. even if it's just to speak and share music.
Walking into the youth prison system reminds me of walking into the Moria refugee camp. Thick concrete wrapped in razor wire. Security cameras and security guards. Slamming doors of hope and despair...
(Natural or otherwise).
We had enough time to load in and do a quick soundcheck (and jam) with Miss. Amber Hall - who has found her life work serving these young brothers inside the youth prison system through her program "opening pathways to healing through rhythm and music."
About 50 young men walked into the room. They were between the ages of 13-17 doing anywhere from 1 to 2 years. A few of the guys were loud and excited, a few were disengaged but every one was respectful. They have had a few other musicians and bands (including members from Medicine for the People and Rising Appalachia) come in and perform/speak to these guys - to which I give thanks to all the artists, activists and musicians who came before us because I can see (and feel) the work being done in these young men.
I try not to say too much in the beginning. I just start by playing a song. One instrument and loop at a time. From the guitar to the beatbox, to the chain and didgeridoo - the energy shifts and I feel these guys getting into it. As I'm building up my song one of the brothers starts rapping from the corner of the room. I couldn't hear exactly what he was saying (but the authorities in the room were trying to encourage him to keep his lyrics clean).
The moment I began my lyrics, I look up and see that almost all of the guys had their heads up, respectfully listening and receiving what was being delivered.
Be Set Free
In between songs I spoke about some of our experiences in Africa, and working with refugees in Turkey and Greece. I told them that I've seen enough to gauge where my life sits on the social equality scale. And, because I believe my life (the good and bad) is Mickey Mouse compared to a lot of people I have met - including most of these guys - I had respect for them.
I asked them if they're given much respect? The answer I was given was a collective grunt, moans and cynical laughter...
I told them I respected them for a few reasons.
1. For giving me a space where I can vulnerably speak and sing from my heArt. (how often do men do that)?
2. I respect the difficulty and challenges that they have gone through and I respect that their life (path) is a lot tougher than mine and had I been born into their situation, I could just as easily be sitting among them.
It's crazy to see how far a little respect can go.
I tried to encourage these guys to use this time to learn as much as possible, and that figuring out what you don't want to "do" is just as important as what you want do (with your life). I told them to look/read up on Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. (two of my personal hero's who spent significant time incarcerated) because this world desperately needs radical people who are for peace and for social and spiritual good.
I felt a lot of things yesterday but the one thing I felt more than anything is Hope.
I have Hope in the good that is in each and every single one of us - whether we're incarcerated in the youth prison system or incarcerated in our own paralysis of analysis. We all have a tremendous ability to persevere. That's one of the things that make us human. When we start seeing ourselves in others (and others in ourselves) all of a sudden, names, labels, social class/caste becomes irrelevant. People are not longer prisoners, or refugees, or homeless, or gay or Christian or Muslim or any of that. They are because we are. Human.
During the last song I offered the mic up to anyone who wanted to rap over my beat. The only requirement was they couldn't use any inappropriate language that was derogatory or violent towards anyone. We (as in the whole room) insisted that the one brother who was rapping earlier to come up. He had this big white smile and although he wanted to rap into the mic, he said that he couldn't keep it clean.
We were all really trying to get him to come up. And he finally did... He grabbed the mic and spit one line. Just one rhyme. One time. And because I respect him (and his privacy), I cannot use his name - or his rap, because they are his.
I will say though...
His rhyme was simple and profound.
After he said his one line he looked back at me, flashed that smile and said he couldn't keep it clean so he gave the mic back. I think we were all a little disappointed (I know I was) because I wanted to hear him rap. This young man has skill and he has something to say. But, I respected him because he chose to respect the rules.
As the song/beat continued on, we asked if anyone else wanted to come up on the mic. We could tell a few of the other guys were thinking about it, but didn't. So Miss Amber comes up, grabs the mic and passionately pours out "I will make a change" lyrics to a song that embodies what we (and so many others) believe in: being the change we want to see in the world.
The show ended quickly and the guys had to go back to their regularly scheduled program. A few of the guys came up to me as they were enthralled with the looping pedal. I gave them a quick demo as to what it does and how it works and let them do a quick voice loop to get the feel for it. Building live musical beats. I could see their light bulb go off.
That's the power of art, music and storytelling.
As we started driving to our next show, I looked in the rear view mirror to see the razor wire fences disappear as I turned down the street. I had to stop and acknowledge the feeling that has become very consistent throughout our travels. That is the overwhelming amount of privilege and favor I have been born into (because of my race, "religion," nationality, sexuality and even my career).
I felt it in the refugee camps, at Standing Rock, all throughout Africa and even back at home in the friendly confines of suburban America. Yes, I have been given a ridiculous amount of privilege but what I am I going to do with it? And more importantly -> Why?
Privilege isn't something to be ashamed of.
It's something to be aware of.
This visit is part of nonprofit Compassionate Saint Augustine's ongoing work at the St. Johns Youth Academy and Amber Hall's music program,"opening pathways to healing through rhythm and music."
Thank you Amber, Sister Rachel and everyone who made this happen. I believe in the good things coming.