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You’ve got music in you: an open letter to Africa

May 25, 2010

After I got back from Ecuador in May 2008 and Kenya in May 2009, snippets of song lyrics that reminded me of my experiences would get stuck in my head. It was never an entire song. Sometimes it was a verse, sometimes it was just one or two words on repeat, and sometimes it was just an image or an idea.

After a while I started to write the lyrics down, and recently cobbled them together into an open letter (originally intended for Africa/Kenya, thanks to one of my favourite K’naan songs, Take a Minute, but it works for my experiences in developing countries in general). Some of the lines are directly from a specific song, others are paraphrased to fit the style and form of the letter, and sometimes lyrics from very different songs are spliced together.

Dear Africa,

I wandered home with mud on my clothes, saying your name. You don’t see what you  possess – a beauty calm and clear – but it floods the sky and blurs the darkness like a chandelier. You’ve got music in you. I am always thinking of you.

Every time I get on a plane I think my life could change, and sometimes I think it does. Oh, it was so simple to be with you. You showed me the sun, my lungs, my heart. You helped me write this by showing me to give is priceless.

I’ve been spending way too long checking my tongue in the  mirror, but I left all my doubts on the airplane. I’ll offer my arms to yours. I won’t hesitate. (It cannot wait. Our time is short and the minute hand moves faster than you think it does.) I will stand right next to giants and roar aside the lions. I know that the hardest part of flying is right before takeoff, so even if my hands are shaking I will speak with a heart wide open.  I am your pamphleteer.

Naku penda,

Jen

Artists included are: James Morrison, Blind Pilot, The Hush Sound, New Radicals, Maritime, Tilly and the Wall, Switchfoot, K’naan, Jason Mraz, Nickel Creek, John Mayer, Dan Mangan, Novel, and The Weakerthans.

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