Greetings from Kenya

Ben Gradison, the creative force behind local studio/record label D-Street, left last week on a trip to Africa where, in partnership with LEAF International, he’s building two new Peace Recording Studios.

This is not the first project of that kind — The D-Street Studios website lists the “installation of a Studio in Soacha, Colombia, which provides a peaceful center where displaced young people can come together and record music” among its recent works. Gradison delivered donated equipment to that location in January, and stayed for five days to train 25 young rappers in San Nicolas. And, in conjunction with SevenMinusSeven, “D-Street was able to build a studio in the “art space” community center located in St. Thomas.”

According to the LEAF International website, Project Arusha began in March of 2009 and “includes 60 teens ages 15-21. The group meets 2-3 times weekly. Together they perform concerts regularly in the Arusha community and at their school. Fredy Ngana, LI Teaching Artist, and Cultural Ambassador to Tanzania, has handcrafted the drums, marimbas, and costumes for the groups performances.”

Likoni is in Kenya; that’s where Gradison began his current journey. “4 flights due to an unexpected stop in Bujamburu… several cabs and shuttles, a very long bus (from which I saw zebras and baboons) and a tuk-tuk… which crossed a ferry… I made it… gear and all… music will start by tomorrow,” he wrote on his Likoni and Arusha Studio Projects blog on June 16.

Follow Gradison’s blog for photos and up-to-date information on how the project is going. So far, he’s taught young students how to work with synthesizers, and he’s given some lessons on studio projection — the studio itself is under construction.

On June 18, Gradison wrote, “we have a good start on tracking, unlike the Colombia Project, most of the songs are being written while I am here, also, since we are going to post initial mixes, we want to make sure the mixes are decent, mixing 101 is today.” By mid-week, he and his mentees has recorded a number of tracks which he’s posted on the blog and on Soundcloud.

Listen to nearly-finished “Party” by gospel hip-hop group Biblizers, here:

Ideas and additions (by wav or mp3) are welcome at

Gradison’s last post mentions with recording tracks with a group of orphans (“woah! these tracks, this CD WOW!”), and that he’s moving on to Arusha. Stay tuned through Gradison’s blog.

Photo from the Likoni and Arusha Studio Projects blog.


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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall has lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. She is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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