Friday, October 28, 2011

inside a Namibian music studio

one hand in the air for the big city
street lights, big dreams, all looking pretty
no place in the world that could compare
put your lighters in the air
everybody say yeah yeah yeah yeah
-Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys

I’m just getting ready to leave Paguel Restaurant with Allison, Julia and Tshuka when I get a call from Sula, inviting me to come chat with him at the music studio. He’s the record label guy that had approached me after I performed at the Playhouse Theatre the other night. He says he’ll get a car to pick me up. I hand the phone over to Tshuka to explain to Sula directions on how to find me. For some reason, Namibians run on a different sense of directions, and every time I give directions, everybody gets lost.

Soon enough, a Volkswagen with “WINNER OF THE BEST FEMALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR AT THE 2011 NAMIBIAN ANNUAL MUSIC AWARDS” pasted in giant letters all over the sides pulls up to the curb for me, and I figure this must be Sula’s ride. I hop in and am taken to the recording studio in Eros Park where Sula shows me around. I bring Allison along, with the intention of introducing her to everyone as my lawyer.

It’s a smallish building but there’s a lot going on in this operation. The Ogopa record label produces and manages top Namibian musicians, publishes the monthly entertainment magazine Red Carpet, and promotes various parties and concerts all over the country. Tshuka had told me that the company is huge, originally based in Kenya and responsible for putting a bunch of African artists on the musical map, before opening up a branch in Namibia and South Africa. Everyone around here has heard of their artists. I pretend I have too.

Sula explains to me that their goal is to boost Namibian artists in order to put Namibian music on the international market. I tell him that we can relate. Just as aspiring Namibian artists often live in the shadow of the more popular South African music scene, Canadian musicians also live in the shadow of the American music scene. Sula introduces me to some of the folks hanging around the studio, including Victor, another producer, a bassist demanding his money, and Frieda and Daphne, the girls that make up the Windhoek R&B duo Gal Level, who are the ones who won Best Female Artists of the Year at the NAMA (and didn’t flip off the press).

Sula tells me he likes my sound, and that they have a launch party coming up at NICE; would I like to play? Hell yeah. Then Sula and Victor take me to the mixing board in the sound booth and play me some of the new tracks they’re producing for the new Gal Level album, and ask me what I think. They explain that they’d like me to work with the label by listening to the tracks and telling them what I think a North American audience would like. I tell them that a North American audience would dig the beats, but not the synthetic guitar tones. They ask me to record some real guitar tracks for the album. Hell yeah. World, meet Gloria Guns, Namibian studio musician.

Meanwhile, musicians and their posses are drifting in and out of the studio all the time, stopping by to talk. Everyone’s incredibly friendly to me, despite the fact that I feel like I’m dressed like an incredible dork - I’m still in my office clothes. I need to stop wearing jeans to Parliament and blouses to studios.