The earth was red and the sun warm as the bus rolled from Southern Malawi, through Mozambique, and into Zimbabwe. My name is Jacob Bain and I am a musician focused on using music to make a difference. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Zimbabwe (four trips in the past three years) recording music and working with children that have grown up in orphanages, many of them born with AIDS.
Last month I was fortunate enough to travel through three countries in Southern Africa with two filmmakers, James Q Martin and Robert Frost, all of us outfitted in our Royal Robbins gear, which kept us cool and dry under the hot African sun.
“Q” and “Frosty” joined me on this trip to deliver a finished CD to the folks that helped make it, and to continue work on a documentary film, called The Truth About 99 Cents, which has consumed the past three years of my life. The film chronicles the creation of a single song, and how that song can make a difference in a lot of people’s lives.
Music never ceases to amaze me. The way that it can lift your spirit when you need it most, or connect people, is unmatched. I was reminded of these truths during our recent journey to Zimbabwe. It had been a year since I last visited; this year was destined to be special as I returned with a gift in the form of a finished CD, titled A Thousand Kinds of Gold, which I largely recorded during my last two visits to this region.
I returned a proud musician, because I finally had something to show for all those crazy recording sessions that consumed me, and something to share with the great musicians I was privileged to collaborate with. But more than that, the CD represented an unspoken promise that we would meet again and that we would finish what we started.
The children were eager to engage when they saw a guitar. Music runs deeply in Africa, and it is evident in the daily exchanges and interactions. A hummed tune here, a rhythm tapped out on a leg or table there. It was meaningful for me to reconnect with friends and start working on new songs together. Words got written and new melodies were created. Everywhere I turned, music surfaced.
Again and again, unexpected richness emerged once I traveled back to Malawi. I practiced songs with a band called The Magic Fingers, whom I met at a guesthouse in Blantyre. We even played a concert together, and then spent an afternoon recording a song in a studio on the outskirts of town. Two of the boys hummed a chorus in Chichewa, the local language, “Chomwe umafuna ndizakupatsa,” which means, “I will give you everything you want.” Listening to them reminded me, once again, that music is a gift that we share with each other, and with the people that we meet along our journey through life.
Now that I am home with new footage and brewing inspiration from this odyssey, the real work begins. We are deeply engaged in post-production for The Truth about 99 cents. But, stay tuned as my band Publish the Quest puts the final edits on the song I recorded with the Magic fingers. We will intertwine this song as the filmmakers and I cut a special short video from this amazing journey.
Follow us this week as we post images from the journey on Royal Robbins’ social media channels.