Music has a unique language, one that brings about the shared attributes of cultures and diversity and it is no wonder often referred to as a universal language.
Last week Heart Society, an American group was in Tanzania on a tour that took them to Arusha (Makumira Teachers’ College) and later to Tasuba in Bagamoyo.
This was their first time in Africa and to them this was a journey of exploration and education in both artistic and social spheres.
When the visit to the continent was announced, the trio: Teneia Sanders the lead vocalist, Rita Brent the drummer and Nate Henson the base guitarist were full of excitement.
“May be it was just what we were waiting for for a long time and we rubbed our hands with glee,” says Rita Brent.
Just like in Tanzania, their African experience also took them to Nigeria where they held workshops and performances in Abuja.
“Our interactions with the people and the school children that we have been with has been very fulfilling because we have learnt as much from them,” says Teneia Sanders.
Their performance on the final day at the Bagamoyo arts school- Tasuba was one that further entrenched the philosophy of music as a universal language.
“They have only been here for two days but they managed to perform with the artistes here at the college and the fusion was just mesmerizing in many ways,” says an official from Tasuba.
According to Teneia Sanders, they have learnt new ways of doing music and it is something that they cannot wait to incorporate in their music.
“We are currently working on our next album and we see this journey influencing some of the works in the album and above all telling the story of our African experience is something we are willing to share musically,” says Teneia.
But wouldn’t the new sounds affect their music?
Rita Brent who grew in the same neighbourhood with Nate Henson says one of the things they have learnt over the years is not getting tied to a particular genre.
“Here I have learnt how to handle certain drums differently which gives me a whole new sound and I don’t think the genre that I do should limit my expression,” she says.
American music abroad
This was not the first time that an American group had come to Tanzania under the American Music abroad programme.
Jeff Ladenson is the cultural affairs official at the US embassy in Dar es Salaam, he says the group was selected as part of the programme that takes American artistes abroad.
Speaking to the Beat, Ladenson said American Music Abroad artists represent the new generation of musical ambassadors; reaching beyond concert halls to interact with other musicians and citizens around the globe.
“Cultural diplomacy is very important to the United States Government, because it allows us to establish cultural ties with the people of Tanzania,” says Ladenson.
According to him the collaborations that the artistes do is testimony that there is exchange of ideas and cultures.
“Every year, approximately 10 ensembles of American roots music in different genres are selected to embark on a month-long, multi-country tour, where they engage with international audiences through public concerts, interactive performances with local musicians, lectures and demonstrations, workshops,” he says.
American Music Abroad activities focus on younger and underserved audiences in countries where people have few opportunities to meet American performers and experience their music first-hand.
AMA bands have traveled to more than 100 countries around the world since 2011.
Heart Society, based in Mississippi, was founded by wife-and-husband duo of Teneia Sanders-Eichelberger and Benjamin Eichelberger.
Founded in Phoenix, AZ in 2014, the couple initially performed limited engagements while Benjamin pursued a full-time career as a pilot and flight instructor.
Increasingly discouraged with a lack of fulfillment in their lives, the two realized they wanted to share their music and message of positivity with a much larger audience.
In 2015, the duo completed a successful crowdfunding campaign to buy a 32-foot travel trailer, then took a huge leap of faith: Benjamin quit his job, the two sold most of their possessions, and together they set out in pursuit of their musical dreams.
They say, Heart Society is more than a band; it’s a movement. They celebrate the ties that bind humanity together, while prizing the beauty of individuality.
Their groove-heavy blend of Folk/Soul Rock ‘n Roll will make you want to get out of your seat and dance, and their inspiring journey and message of equality will stir your heart.
The band’s debut EP Wake the Queens speaks clearly about female empowerment and unapologetic authenticity, and is an invitation for every listener to shed convention and become a powerful force for good in the world.