11/10/2018, Coltivare , Ithaca, NY

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Sam·i·te  (Sæm ē tay) World-renowned musician,  Humanitarian,  Photographer.

Born and raised in Uganda. Travels the world bringing his message of peace and hope through the healing power of music. “While performing, I see that people are able to forget their differences and join as one in the moment; my hope is for ...

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Ben Michaels
812-339-1195 X 204

The Sound of Strength, the Journey of Healing: Samite Uses East African Roots and Music’s Power to Summon Our Resilience

“How did you feel when I played that song for you?” Ugandan-born multi-instrumentalist and producer Samite often asks his listeners, as he unfurls a melody on his flute or plucks notes from the kalimba (thumb piano). He may be in front of thousands in a concert hall, with an intimate audience in a nursing home, or entertaining hundreds at a refugee camp or a school.

A common answer: I was afraid. “That process of focus can be scary. Then you realize that the quiet place is a good place to be,” Samite explains. “Letting your mind rest can be frightening but once you do, you can go on a journey.”

That journey is healing, which powers the music of Resilience (release: September 14, 2018), his 11th album. Samite has dedicated his career to using music to heal and transform listeners. From child soldiers to seniors living with dementia, the multi-faceted musician draws on his own experience of war in his native land, flight as a refugee to Kenya, and home-finding in the US to remind others of their strength and to help them find peace.

Rippling, interlocking melodies (“We All Have a Story to Tell”) and grounding grooves (“The Search”) float over resonant, ethereal soundscapes. East African voices (“Ntinda”) sit beautifully beside evocative piano (“Mutima”), capturing the breadth of Samite’s sonic world. Samite weaves these elements thoughtfully together, often drawing on melodies and ideas that come to him in dreams or in his own contemplative moments, to reach and encourage listeners’ spirits. The tracks feel open to interpretation and question, yet soothing and tender.

“At this time when I feel there's a lot of negative energy going around and people are feeling unsettled, we need to turn to music,” Samite reflects. “We all need to dig into ourselves and ask how do we make lives easier for other people around us, not just for ourselves? Music can help us find our way.”

{full story below}

As Samite worked on Resilience and thought about music and healing, he kept coming back to his horses. He and his wife, Sandra, had moved from Ithaca, NY out to the country where their horses could be on a farm with them. Every day, Samite would look out from his studio and watch Shadow and Thyme in the fields outside, at rest or play. The snow might be deep, but they’d be out there rolling in it for sheer joy. The ride might not have gone well, but the horses held no grudge.

“The lesson I learned from them was simple: You need to enjoy every minute and live in the moment,” says Samite. “They don’t remember the bad things that happened. Even after he bucked me off, my horse would look at me, as if to say ‘Don’t lie there! You fell off, but you need to brush me, you’re my friend.’”

This in-the-moment perspective gave the musician insight into how to reach seniors with dementia, who are also embedded in the now. He realized that if he could let them be now, if he could reach their hearts and not their heads, he might provide comfort and connection to elders in institutional settings, efforts chronicled in the Sundance award-winning documentary Alive Inside. He refined his approaches as part of Dr. Bill Thomas’ Disrupt Dementia, a national tour that stopped at hundreds of facilities and played for residents.

His work in these contexts led him to deeper understanding of music’s role in touching, moving, and changing us, even in illness, pain, or great vulnerability. “The power of music is that it can tap human resilience, which is the same spirit in African refugee camps as it is in senior centers,” he muses. “We are very resilient.”

Samite’s music is crafted to remind us of this, and he draws on his own experiences of musical healing to search out comfort and solace for others. “Waterfall” was inspired by a chance friendship Samite struck up in Kenya, as a refugee, with an elderly man who played a rare seven-string litungu harp. “That instrument was my lifesaver,” he recalls. “I would play sounds and travel back to Uganda using that music. I would go back to places I was missing. It ended up being ‘Waterfall,’ one of the pieces I play for people going through a difficult time.”

His own family from Uganda is featured on the album, the earthy voices on “Ntinda.” Samite coaxed visiting elder relatives into the studio, encouraging them to try out the mics and headphones. “I tried to remind them of when they were children,” smiles Samite. They broke into playful song, and “I added a lower voice as they sang. It was an amazing thing that happened because of the magic of their singing.”

That magic is one Samite has learned to harness, the healing, encouraging sides of music, a calming and uniting factor desperately needed now. “Music touches the spirit,” insists Samite. “It’s deeper than the physical body.”

Dispatch Details

Ticket URL:
Ticket Price(s):
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Venue City, State:
ithaca, NY
Venue St. Address:
235 S. Cayuga St.
Concert Start Time:
7:00 PM