On The Road to Zambia

After wrapping up an amazing, yet enduring week at the Bushfire Festival, the Conservation Music (CM) crew geared up for their next adventure to Livingstone, Zambia. Greenpop, an environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) based out of Cape Town, South Africa, invited CM to contribute to this year’s Zambia Festival of Action. Alex Paullin, CM’s founder, was eager to accept this invitation, as his experience in 2016 was extremely memorable. The entire CM crew believes strongly in Greenpop’s mission and is excited to contribute to their efforts.

On June 18, 2017, the CM crew met up with Greenpop in Johannesburg to prepare for the journey to Livingstone. As Alex prepped his motorbike for the hefty journey, the rest of the crew shoved their gear into Greenpop’s Overlander. There wasn’t much space to work with, as Greenpop had all of their volunteer’s luggage and gear packed in already, but the crew remained extremely grateful for the ride. They spent all day on the road, and spent the night at the beautiful and quaint Tibane Lodge in Mokopane, South Africa.

On day two of the journey, with refreshed crews and hundreds of miles still ahead, Alex attempted to kickstart his bike, but having sat alone for four months prior to this journey, it decided to not cooperate. After several failed attempts at getting it started, he told everyone to hit the road while he stayed behind to work on the bike a bit more. The Overlander continued on through South Africa, weaving through the tall grassy plains and providing unforgettable views of elephants, giraffes, and other wildlife.

Eventually they made their way into Botswana, but not before one of the Overlander’s tires blew out. Setbacks are becoming a commonality on the road, yet the intensity of embracing each situation remains new. Although, high with jovial spirits, the crew of volunteers quickly rebounded and got the Overlander back on the road in enough time to complete their travels to the lodging area. As the evening hours set in, the crew still awaited Alex’s arrival, as his motorbike wouldn’t start, forcing him to leave it locked up at the lodge and hitch a ride with a straggling Greenpop vehicle. Alex did end up arriving later that evening, and everyone was able to get another successful nights sleep.

With the sun rising, the crews rose up again to complete the final leg of the journey into Zambia. Aside from driving for several hours, the main part of their day was spent loading and riding the Kazungula Ferry, which is the only current mode of transportation across the 1,300-ft wide Zambezi River. Watching the robust Overlander board the ship was quite a sight, honestly a little worrisome. After a successful crossing, the vehicles spent the next hour and half trudging down primitive dirt roads and then finally arrived at Greenpop’s campsite in Livingstone.

Week 1: Setting Up the Festival 

In just one week, the first set of participants were expected to show up, and aside from a couple dozen volunteer tents the campsite was pretty much undeveloped. Everyone spent their days cleaning the grounds, setting up tents, and building site features, such as the perimeter fence made from reeds. With all of the shuffling around and necessary site work, the CM workload began to take a backseat, and both Alex and Chris could feel the resulting pressures. To avoid a heavy decline in CM’s productivity, they accepted every opportunity to hitch a ride into town so that they could hunt down a quality Wi-Fi connection. Most of their work consisted of finalizing the mix for the first #CrowdStudio track and completing a rough cut of its music video. The plan was to debut it later that week during movie night at the campsite.

Weeks 2-3: Greenpop Welcomes Their First Round of Participants

As the volunteers wrapped up the festival preparations, the first round of participants piled in. Greenpop dedicated the first two weeks towards working with high school students that are inspired by environmental activism and adventure. The volunteers and participants worked together by planting trees, growing food forests, building with eco-methods, setting up recycling systems, brightening up schools with eco murals, attending sustainability workshops, celebrating with live music, and much more.

The CM crew capped off the week with a debut of the Bushfire Festival #CrowdStudio music video during Friday’s movie night. It was still a rough draft, but the entire audience wholeheartedly responded with support and positivity.  Over the next three weeks, they would continue to add finishing touches, as well as begin the Greenpop #CrowdStudio sessions. The energy and flavor that participants brought to the #CrowdStudio sessions during the first two weeks created a platform for yet another unique track. Just a few weeks ago, when the crew developed the #CrowdStudio concept, they had no clue that it would lead to this.

Week 4: The Second Round of Participants Arrive

It was a bittersweet end to the first phase of the festival, as the first group of participants had to say their goodbyes while the second group began to arrive. Greenpop devoted the final week towards working with participants of all ages. In the past, they have used this time to work with university students opting for an alternative school break, study groups searching for an opportunity of field work, families who strive for adventure, and pretty much any individual looking to get active within the environmental field.

Building off the musical platform that the first round of participants created for the #CrowdStudio track, Alex and Chris developed it further by working with the new arrival of festival participants. Everyone seemed to share the same vision, as the track naturally moved in an amazing direction. The endless effort, energy, and talent put forth by all of the participants was truly special, and made for such a great final week.

After the past few weeks of consistent hard work, the CM crew got the chance to escape for a relaxing outing to Victoria Falls, one of Earth’s greatest wonders. It exceeded any expectations they could of had, as they soaked in all of its thunderous glory. The river gently made it’s way over the edge of the falls and crashed down along the rocky trenches, creating a beautiful rainbow mist in the air.  Alex and Chris, incapable of fully taking a break from work, took advantage of the opportunity in front of them and captured magical footage for the music video. It was an unforgettable experience that they cannot wait to share with the world.

Mosi Oa Tunya, or Victoria Falls. Zimbabwe is pictured bottom center, Zambia bottom right.

With only a few days remaining in Zambia, the crew continued to record a few extra pieces for the #CrowdStudio track, including the crucial contributions of Flying Bantu, an afro-fusion band from Zimbabwe. They travelled out to meet up with CM and assist with the recording and arranging processes of the song. Their talent and insight was greatly appreciated, and certainly added some Zimbabwean spice to the track!

In their downtime, Alex and Chris ventured into town, where they met a local djembe designer named Javani. He shared his talent with the crew by graciously reheading one of their drums. The process was more intense than they had expected, as a local butcher slaughtered and skinned a goat right in front of them. As brutal as this might sound, it is a cultural tradition to use goat skin for the heading of a djembe, while it also feeds around 20 villagers. After Javani finished up the drum, the crew invited him and his drumming troupe back to the Greenpop campsite to conduct a drum workshop for the participants. One of the most beautiful aspects of field work is accepting the unexpected and seeing where it goes!

As the week finally came to a close, everyone worked hard to disassemble tents and clear any impact that they had made on the Greepop’s plot of land. Emotions swayed as the volunteers and participants knew their time together would be over soon. The CM and Greenpop crews really enjoyed their time spent together, while also sharing the beautiful experience with all of the participants.

What’s Ahead for CM?

The next morning CM set out on the road again, with a few stops prior to arriving in Johannesburg. Alex was dropped off to repair his motorbike, while Chris escorted all of CM’s gear to the lodge in Johannesburg. The crew is going to enjoy some downtime as they await the arrival of another CM field crew member, Bryan Murphy. Bryan has been volunteering his time at CM through professional photography, and everyone is excited to see the intensity that he will bring to the field.

Stay tuned for CM’s next adventures!

This post was written by Charles Ross for Conservation Music.

About Conservation Music

Our Musical Nonprofit For Conservation
of Conservation Music

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Conservation Music is on a mission to produce and promote musical media that educates listeners and viewers in conservation and sustainability, with an emphasis on rural developing communities, and to serve as a platform for similar efforts. Currently, the organization primarily collaborates with musicians throughout Southern Africa, catalyzing songs in local genres and local languages regarding local conservation issues in countries like Lesotho, Botswana, Angola, and more.

About the Editor

Alex Paullin

of Conservation Music

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After years of soul-searching and months in the African wilderness with the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project, musician and geographer Alex Paullin combined his foremost passions and founded Conservation Music, a non-profit aiming to foster a global culture of sustainability using music as the messenger. Throughout his life he aims to expand the Conservation Music movement globally, in hopes that his lifetime will see and hear songs of conservation being sung throughout the world.