Friday, September 28, 2007

Boston, New York, London, Seville (WOMEX), Dakar!

In 2006, I met music manager Stephen Garvan at the FARWest music conference. Stephen loved my music and said, "I think you are very talented. Why don't you call me and we'll brainstorm about your career?"

For six months, I chased Stephen via email and phone as he bounced around the globe. When I finally pinned him down in Idaho, the main thing he said was, "You have the talent and the drive to Go Global, but you are acting too small. You're playing locally, going to local conferences, staying too close to home. Instead, go to WOMEX, the annual world music conference in Europe."

Well, that all sounded well and good, but how? Like most indie artists, it's not like I'm swimming in an ocean of cash! I signed up for the next FARWest conference, but his words percolated in the back of my brain. Then one day, an email notice came through that all World Music Coalition Members were eligible for a huge registration discount for WOMEX. Impulsively, I registered, figuring the most I would lose is $200.

My October registration 3 months away, I had no idea how I would get to Spain, much less organize babysitting for the kids, or paying my way upon getting over there. More percolating. Then one day I thought, "Hey, maybe I can earn some money en route by performing in cities where I have a fan base." I conjured up a dream itineray in my head .. a show in Boston, New York, and then my beloved London before going to WOMEX. And then, I couldn't go all the way to Spain without heading a mere three hours south to Dakar, Senegal to study sabar! Maybe I could collaborate with some musicians there too!

Online at Expedia and Orbitz and Cheap Tickets, the multiple flights of my Dream Itinerary kept costing about $4 - 5,000. Ouch. Maybe I'd just go directly to Spain ... if I could get there at all!

More percolating. Then one day, a friend told me about Travel Portfolio, an excellent agency in Sherman Oaks ( who had found her some great last minute round trip prices to France. So the next day, I called them and gave them my ultimate Ashley Goes Global Dream Itinerary. "We'll look into it and get back to you with a quote," said the cheery British travel agent.

Two hours later, she called back sounding flustered and excited, "You won't BELIEVE the price I managed to find for this!," she said. Having dug in with a bunch of insider travel agency sites she'd come up with a grand total for 7 flights (LA to Boston, New York to London, London to Seville, Seville to Madrid, Madrid to Dakar, Dakar to Chicago, Chicago to LA) for a mere $1700.00!!!!????? She couldn't guarantee that the deal would be intact after the weekend and I had until 5pm book it.

$1700?!!! That's a lot of money, but for SEVEN flights?! It's tough to go directly to Dakar and back without it costing about $2200. I called my husband, who said, "You've GOT to do it!" I called my friends and they all said, "You have GOT to go!!" so I did it. I booked it. And now, two months later, tons of the details have fallen into place. I'll be sharing the bill in Boston with a brilliant Malian kora player named Balla Tounkara, then on to New York to play at Googie's Lounge in the East Village. For both shows, I am hiring an excellent guitarist from NYC named Francis Jacob. Then in London (a whole glorious week in my favorite city in the world!!) I'm performing with some old friends and a new guitarist named Phil Stevenson. Long term allies are setting up brainstorming meetings with some UK record labels, too.

In Spain, I'm sharing a hotel room with a dear Italian friend I studied opera with in Bologna, Italy 20 YEARS ago named Luisa Cottifogli. Luisa, by a wild coincidence, has evolved into an INSANELY amazing world music singer ( Cannot wait to see her. Who KNOWS who I will meet at WOMEX. I am not performing officially, but I can network, listen to amazing music, learn and grow on the business side of things.

Finally, Dakar. Through MySpace, I met DouDou NDiaye Rose's eldest son, sabar master Djibril NDiaye Rose. He emailed me that he never imagined a Western woman would be able to sing mbalax like I do and said he prayed to God that one day our paths would cross and we might collaborate. Well, what do you know? I'll be in Dakar in November! He just emailed yesterday that he's arranged for us to record together and is setting up for us to film a video for the song while I am there. How cool is that?

On top of that, my dear mum friends in Los Angeles have rallied to help my husband by picking up our 7-year-old daughter for two weeks in a round robin schedule, my sister has offered to have her for the second two weeks and teach her independent study, and a very generous mentor / sponsor (who prefers to remain anonymous) is helping me fund the trip. It's going to be amazing!

I'll be staying with dear friends and living simply to keep costs low. Yes!

So thank you, Stephen Garvan for pushing me to think Global! And thank everyone involved in advance for your support and encouragement. May the path ahead be full of wonderful magical sweet surprises! And to you who are reading, remember to think Big!!! You never know....!

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