They say music is a window to the soul. And at Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic, that goes for the soul of an entire culture, thanks to a series of music adventures on select itineraries that offer guests rare insight into the music and musical influences of some of the world’s most fascinating places.
“I think most everyone is to some degree a music lover,” said Ralph Hammelbacher, Lindblad’s Vice President of Expedition Development. “Music and musical performances give people the chance to tune their ears to a particular place, and also, on occasion, to let their hair down. There is just no understating how much music adds to a journey.”
In typical Lindblad style, Hammelbacher and his team sought out the very best in world music experts, and found their man in Jacob Edgar. “Jacob,” Hammelbacher said, “is an all-star. He is a virtuoso at what he does.”
Edgar received his Master’s Degree in ethnomusicology at UCLA and has devoted his career to exploring and celebrating the interactions between music and culture. In 2006, Edgar founded his own record label, Cumbancha, after many years leading the research efforts at world music leader Putumayo. Edgar is also the host of the music and travel television series Music Voyager, which can be seen on PBS stations nationwide. Traveling the globe more than six months each year, he has an unmatched base of knowledge and contacts that allow him to create an astounding variety of musical experiences and discoveries that adds exciting new dimensions to Lindblad’s comprehensive approach.
“Music is something that tells stories that really can’t be told any other way,” Edgar said. “It reveals aspects of a culture’s history, aspects of a culture’s personality, and aspects of a culture’s soul in a way that really nothing else can do.”
Edgar recalled a recent Lindblad West Africa voyage that brought this point home in a way words never could. On a visit to the city of Ganvié, Benin, often referred to as the Venice of Africa because its 20,000 inhabitants live in homes built on stilts above the waters of Lake Nokoué, guests were met by the blazing horns and engaging rhythms of the Gangbé Brass Band. The appearance of the band, who has performed in Carnegie Hall and many of the world’s largest festivals stages, gave Edgar the chance to talk about the spread of brass bands around the world during the European colonial era and the impact this legacy has had on the music we all listen to today, from jazz to salsa.
In addition to another West Africa expedition that voyages the coast from Ghana to Morocco, Edgar is working with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic to add musical adventures to upcoming expeditions to Buenos Aires and Coastal Brazil; Azores, Madeira, Canaries & Cape Verde, and to the British and Irish Isles. This year’s British and Irish Isles voyage included internationally-renowned artists Sharon Shannon (Ireland) and Julie Fowlis (Scotland). “Ask anyone in Ireland,” Edgar said “and they will know Sharon Shannon, as will many people around the world. And Julie Fowlis is known to so many from her work on the soundtrack to the Disney hit film Brave. She is a passionate proponent of Gaelic music, and plays in major concert halls around the world.” Previous trips have included appearances by internationally recognized artists such as Orchestra Baobab from Senegal, Luísa Maita from Brazil, Kobo Town from Trinidad, Freshlyground from South Africa and Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, among many others.
Guests will have plenty of chances to interact with the performers and with Edgar throughout the journey, in addition to the performances on board and on land. “Our guests can mingle informally with our performers, and with Jacob,” Hammelbacher said. “Jacob is constantly working to put together playlists of key pieces of music and albums that fit perfectly with a particular place or a region. Anyone who is interested in delving deeper into a given topic has ample opportunity to do so.” The experience goes well beyond listening to music. Guests on the West Africa expedition, for instance, have had opportunities to visit a local music workshop where they can not only hear, but also learn how to create the rhythms themselves.
The inclusion of music on these expeditions, Hammelbacher said, is integral to the journey as a whole, and to the experiences of the guests onboard. “Music really shows what these places are like. It takes them behind the scenes and introduces the people to key musicians, allowing them to get inside the creative process and how that is shaped. And I should also add it is just plain fun!” Dance parties on the back deck,” he said, “can only deepen the connection with the music and those making it.”
The following voyages, noted above, are all set aboard the 148-guest National Geographic Explorer. Rates quoted are per person based on double occupancy in a category 1 cabin.
- An Island Odyssey: Azores, Madeira, Canaries & Cape Verde: The 15-day voyage departs on September 21, 2014. Rates begin at $13,820. Choose a free leisurely 6-day Atlantic crossing to Salvador, Brazil or complimentary airfare (airfare based on economy group flights NY/Azores, Cape Verde/NY), subject to availability, new bookings only, not combinable with other offers.
- Buenos Aires, Rio & Brazil’s Wild Coast: The 18-day voyage departs October 10, 2014 and will explore a broad stretch of South America’s storied east coast, home to some of the world’s most exuberant cultures, with intriguing natural history. Rates begin at $15,740. Complimentary roundtrip airfare for Miami/Salvador, Buenos Aires/Miami , subject to availability, new bookings only, not combinable with other offers.
- Voyage to West Africa: The Gold Coast to Morocco: The 20-day expedition departs March 23, 2015 and will provide an immersive, in-depth voyage exploring nine countries from Ghana to Morocco across wildly diverse habitats from deserts to jungle to idyllic islands. Rates begin at $19,150.
- Exploring The British & Irish Isles: The 15-day voyage departs May 6, 2015 and follows the maritime thread through the islands, exploring the wild and beautiful places where Celtic and Viking influences still can be found in local languages and customs. Rates begin at $12,990.