IN TURKMENISTAN

I have returned from the most incredible adventure! Just getting there was an experience in itself. New York to Germany to Istanbul to Ashgabat, the country’s capital city. The people live differently than we do. It made me really value the freedom we have in this country. Of course over there there is no crime like we have, and there is free gas and electricity for all and no homelessness what so ever to speak of.

Will Power with Students at a Music Academy

Will Power with Students at a Music Academy

Are those delinquencies a must in a democracy-in other words if there is freedom of speech, of assembly, and freedom of behavior, does that necessitate a high crime rate? It made me think. In America we value freedom above everything else, in Turkmenistan there is a high priority placed on stability. I traveled the country making presentations, learning so much about what it means to live in Turkmenistan, and of course they had many questions about America, our music, culture, and politics (about one third of the questions were about Michael Jackson, they really wanted to know about Michael Jackson!) These conversations were fascinating-and it wasn’t just me teaching them, it was a true cultural exchange.

The trip culminated with me headlining a sold out concert at the Turkmenistan Theatre. Working with a surprisingly solid jazz-funk quintet, we presented the people with a variety of covers spanning the seemingly infinite gamut of African-American music-a little Sam Cooke, James Brown, Cab Calloway’s Minnie the Moocher. Rarely in

Will Power Live in Concert with the People of Turkmenistan

Will Power Live in Concert with the People of Turkmenistan

the States do I get to perform this music, our folk traditional music, so it was a special treat for me. And the people really opened up. Just telling folks they have the freedom to dance and sing along, clap their hands and express themselves, just giving them the permission to be themselves was all it took for the place to explode into a wild scene. In any concert hall in any part of the world this would have been special, but in Turkmenistan it could prove to be momentous, and I am thankful to have been there.

On the return trip home, I ran into Americans that had been evacuated from Libya. They were tired and slightly stooped “hey, yall just coming from Libya?” I asked “Yeah man, whew” one of them said. It got me thinking about how small the world is. In America, a place like Iran or Libya seems so far away. Across the Atlantic ocean, however, you run into evacuated Americans in an airport like you run into a fellow artist you know during a stop over in Chicago. In Istanbul, there were flights going to Iran, Afghanistan, London, Paris, Egypt, and all of these flights not exceeding three or four hours. I started thinking about the revolutions that are taking place, what they will mean for the world, and how we as Americans, and particularly American artists can positively engage the situations.

A Student Teaches Will Power

A Student Teaches Will Power

On the flight back to America I was reading a Time Magazine article in which they brought up the fact that the young protestors in Egypt were collectively expressing themselves not with verses from the Koran, or traditional songs, but with rap music, rap was their rallying cry. This, our sacred verse poetry, coming from the poor in the South Bronx, has now grown and morphed to where young Tunisians and Egyptians are writing their own rhymes and utilizing them as a positive form of rebellion. Surely as American artists we can play a positive, supportive role here, perhaps teaching them to master the forms that came from us. It is their revolution, and it’s up to them to decide how they make our musical forms theirs to gain their freedom. But we can help. All of us have a part to play in shaping this future.

Will Power

3/2/11

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One Comment

  1. Posted October 10, 2015 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Saw The Rocket Summer last night, and even though I’ve never rellay been able to get into TRS (I came for The Classic Crime!), I must say Bryce is an amazing singer and musician!

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