© 2019 Jahawi Bertolli
 

The First Rock Project

I first played a Rock Gong in June 2018, while out on safari in Tanzania. This rock was perched on top of a huge outcrop, perfectly placed looking out over the savannah, covered with lots of depressions. Held in place by some of the depressions were smaller rounded rocks that fit in the palm of your hand, using these rocks to hit the depressions made a sound that was completely unexpected; almost like a steel drum! The incredible resonance of the rock blew me away, I was so moved by this sound that I had to record it.

 

A few days later further south in Tanzania we came upon an even bigger, more impressive Rock Gong and not just one, there were a few placed on a huge outcrop in the Kidero Mountains. This was an incredible discovery and when we payed them it was even more amazing than the first one, with 5 rocks each with their own unique sound; I was completely taken aback. This was the first time since my last musical release back in 2012 that I have been inspired to want to make music again.

Check out the video of how the track was born and hear the Rock Gong for yourself!

 We were in the Kidero Mountains to visit the Hadzabe, one of the last true hunter gatherer tribes left in the world, and we stumbled upon these rocks while out on a hunting trip with them and when we asked if they played these rocks the reply was a definite "No! We don't hit stones on stones, these were here before our forefathers arrived here" - The Hadza have been there for almost 40 000 years... let that sink in... This could be a 40 000 year old instrument!

During a hunt with the Hadza, the hunter we were walking with started to whistle the most mesmerising tune. The whistle is used to call in the honey guide, a small bird that leads the hunters to a beehive; this is one of  the oldest know relationship between man and an animal. I recorded this whistle and at the end of the day the hunters all sat down and the same hunter who whistled sang a song about rain pools on rocky outcrops. It was an incredible privilege just to be with these amazing people and record them and to be able to document everything, especially as cultures like these are at risk of disappearing. I still hadn't thought about turning this into music.

Back in studio in Nairobi I decided to have a play with all the recordings and in a cascade that I never anticipated everything seemed to fall into place and within a day I had the idea of the track that is now called 'Lomo'Opay', named after the Hadza song. And from there idea of The First Rock Project was born. As humans we naturally look back at our ancestors as primitive however we know they had the capacity to be able to create and sustain creative ideas from thousands of years ago. Ancient rock art, tools and instruments show the power of the human mind and we need to break down the perception of 'primitive' and the other factors we use to judge others.

The Hadzabe live the original human lifestyle and are fully aware of how we, in the western world, live yet choose to stay traditional, in fact they look at us as having over-complicated lives and this is very apparent when you spend a bit of time with them and see how happy they are. As part of their culture they do not care for personal possessions or money so proceeds from this first release will go to the Dorobo Fund which works to secure their traditional ancestral land and keep other people off it so they can continue living sustainably off the land, keeping their culture, in the way generations before them have done so.

This is the first project and we know that there are many Rock Gongs out there so the project I envisage is to be able to put together expeditions to go out and record these incredible musical rocks and in time put together an album with the recordings of the rocks, tribal instruments, traditional voices and sounds of nature. With each new song, part of the proceeds of the album would go to support communities and projects from the area we record helping to preserve their cultures. So for now we're right at the beginning, starting this journey, but we have a goal and a passion to share this with the world!

We are looking for partners and donors to support this project and help with the discovery and recording of more Rock Gongs on the African Continent. Through this project I would like to create an album that will not only utilise this incredible sounding ancient instruments, and other traditional instruments, but also 50% of the proceeds made from album sales will go to support projects in the areas where we find these instruments, helping to uplift these communities and help to conserve important cultures in Africa. If you would like to get involved please get in touch with me by clicking here!

Listen to the track below

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