Leaving Houston after a gig, I get a taxi to the airport from my hotel. In the cab after stating my destination, the cabbie and I start a light conversation…where you from, where you going….the usual things. I note that he has an African accent and ask where the accent is from. He tells me that he was born in Ethiopia, and I immediately ask him if he ever listens to krar or beganna music, two of my favourite but radical different forms of harp music. He explodes in delight and we start an intense conversation of music, travels, family, and life. He lived in Eastern Europe for 6 years before coming to the US. He loves Houston. He goes back to Ethiopia every year to see his family there and to take them money. I talk about my life and career. Back and forth, we talk the whole trip. At the airport, after paying him and getting my bags we both express our joy in meeting each other, and we shake hands, and we both naturally do the handshake I learned from my west African friends that ends with a finger snap. His delight with me rapidly and smoothly doing this handshake with him turned into a giant and deeply affectionate hug. Although we just met, this old longhaired white musician is hugging a middle age Ethiopian cab driver at the airport with joy. This is the world I live in. This is what the world can be.
This video is of my old friend Alemu Aga playing the beganna.