It's mid-day and I am in the prison with the boys. We are in a circle.Two of the inmates act as translators. We are talking about music and sound, and how music can make one feel alive. I like to tell stories about great artists who were once in prison and used their experiences to create great art. I try to explain that Miles Davis once said, "Don't play the butter notes"- meaning: have no fear.
We begin. The hope is that the boys will write a song for the Holiday celebration in the next few days. There are some procedural things which need to be worked out. I am not that good at this stuff.
Among some gentle suggestions : please don't smoke your notebooks; can you pull your pants up so you are not naked; please don't piss in the gutter right next to someone. I am starting to realize that the boys appear like they want the attention. I am learning slowly that this makes them feel cared and perhaps they are starving for this attention.
The process of songwriting is slow to start. Since we don't have instruments, we only use what is here: bucket lids, wet blankets, pencils, the ground, their bodies and their voices. The boys start to hum. One boy who looks like a boxer, punched in both eyes, starts to drum on a schoolbook, biting his lips. Another starts singing in a voice with an earthy grit that twists and turns you sideways. One boy starts singing an octave higher. The boys get up on their feet. Sounds join together, creating this melody of want. Some of the boys start to dance, closing their eyes, isolating each movement. Their dance is like jazz. I stand back to watch.
The abundance in here blows my mind. Each boy in this group is crazy talented. Right now, there is no more smoke from the stove in the courtyard. The sun is not blistering. I'm not worried. The only thing I feel is this joy coming from the circle of sound.
One of the boys tells me that I should consider Kachere my second home. They remember my name now. The sweetness in this place reminds me that no one wants to be forgotten. I wish that everyone who reads this could experience what I am, because it reminds us of the joy of listening.