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Tony Vacca
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"Projects & Visions" Trip to Senegal

As a musician in the multi-culti matrix of America, I feel a certain connection with my peers around the world. The connection isn't so much that we are musicians, but that as players, we are immersed in, practice, and wield a force that so clearly illustrates and strengthens our nature. We are created from and by the same forces that are what music is, and we use our music to tell and re-tell infinite versions of our human story.

As far as I can tell, this story, every one of our stories, evolves from one basic truth: "We are all connected."

There is a universal principle at work here. You don't have to leave home to feel it or to be part of it. We are separate miracle-creatures who are undeniably connected... connected by nature, by history, by circumstance, by our visions for an extraordinary future, by our efforts to prepare the next generation, and by the fact that we celebrate all of this with what I think is our boldest creation; our music.

So, if you have a project that you want to do, or a vision you need to follow or make into reality, and you want to pursue that in Senegal...well, here's one way you can do that.

In general our trips are all about the "projects and visions" of those who set out on this journey, and the collaborations that these visions instigate. We facilitate your personal project by connecting you with your Senegalese peers in a setting that allows you to not only focus, but encourages you to get into "the deep end of the pool" with your vision. There's a lot of opportunity for one-on-one studies for those who want that, and often these projects change and evolve once you're in the groove in Senegal.

The length of these trips is determined by the group, and it's flexible. If you think you want more than the usual 14 days, you can stay beyond the time span of the group, as I sometimes do. The folks we hook you up with are my personal friends, or friends of friends, so it's all very connected. Often the Americans on the trip act as each others support and/or assistants. The Senegalese folks we ask to work with you "get" that we're working together on issues of "global community and transformation," so there's a very deep connection... there's a sense of "shared vision" going on.

There are recreational group-oriented activities, like drum and dance classes, going to markets or concerts, or going horse-back riding in the terrain around Toubab Diallaw. We'll spend several days at Sobobade, a truly unique place to bring visions to fruition. We'll make a pilgrimage to Goree Island, a unique Senegalese community that holds the horrific history of slavery side by side with Senegal's colorful present. There's plenty to do together and individually, and time to just cool out and recharge in the shade or on the beach.

Some of the projects folks have done include:
  • CD recordings of musical collaborations - For info click on:

  • Video documentaries on the Senegal-America Project, and on the music scene in Dakar;

  • See Robbie Leppzer's "IRMA'S JOURNEY"
  • A water-color collage of eye portraits of the Senegalese and Americans involved in one of our trips;

  • A study regarding the use of celestial knowledge in Senegalese and American storytelling;

  • A project called "Day in the Life," done by two elementary teachers, illustrating in video and photos, one day in the life of an elementary student from Dakar's Guinaw Rail neighborhood;

  • A project by two American middle school Social Studies teachers, looking for and making connections to schools, community organizations and other educators. The ultimate goal was to someday bring their students with them on a trip to Senegal. They have now made three such trips, doing projects involving global current affairs, social activism,health care, and educational exchanges.

As a veteran of many trips on my own, I recognize that any of us could easily go to Senegal on our own to undertake these projects. SO WHY GO WITH THIS GROUP? I think that by traveling with a small group like this, you get all the independence you want or need, but you have a support crew nearby, and access to our network of Senegalese and American friends and collaborators. Essentially we are all each others best resource for the remarkable projects we hope to set in motion.

COST: These trips are organized as "at cost" adventures. We don't make a profit. We simply set up activities and connections, and share the cost. Our most recent trip cost $3500; this included all air and ground transport, all food and lodging, and all of our group activities like dance and drumming classes, concerts, and discussion sessions with musicians and artists. Prices for air travel change (almost always upwards) and that's the main factor for any price increase for our trips.

The only additional expenses anyone might incur,come if you do something like a recording project; you'd need to pay the musicians, and pay for the recording studio, unless you bring your own portable multi-track recording equipment....and yes, it's been done, and very successfully.

The next "Projects and Visions" trip...well that depends mostly on you. We are focusing on December 26, 2012-January 12, 2013.
Air fare is low, the weather is great, and these dates often include special New Year's concerts and sometimes "Baaba Maal's Festival les Blues du Fleuve." MUSICIANS TAKE NOTE: This would be a great time to go with us and collaborate/study/record with some of our favorite Senegalese players. So here's where you let me know what you're thinking, and what time might work for you. It's the beginning of this collaborative miracle that becomes one of these trips.

So call me and talk about what you'd like to do. This can help you get comfortable with how to prepare, or to clarify what you might want to pursue. I hope you check this out. Just the fact that you've read all this is enough reason to give me a call.

Tony Vacca
413 665-1067


From the moment I met Massamba Diop and Baaba Maal, I sensed that they were profoundly aware of this uniting principle. Some of this was about them as individuals, and some of this was about their home country, Senegal, where inter-dependence is as much a survival skill as it is a global reality. I've performed with Massamba hundreds of times, and have had the pleasure of performing with Baaba in Senegal and America. Their music speaks to our infinite interconnectedness, and to the many illustrations of our common ground as human beings.

So in 1996 I decided to return to West Africa for more of this lesson because I had seen something in Massamba and Baaba that went beyond what I had learned in my own world of music. I focused on Senegal this time because of Massamba and Baaba, and because I felt this trip was a doorway to their world.

Senegal is a land in the crossroads of West Africa. It's entire West coast is the Atlantic Ocean. On it's northern border is the Senegal River and the arid Sahel region that soon becomes the Sahara Desert. As you go East it gradually becomes a rugged, rocky, red-orange landscape, and in the South is the lush and tropical Cassamance region. The people vary every bit as much as the landscape. From the Muslim Fulani herdsmen and desert nomads in the north, to the animist Jola of the tropical south, this land and it's people are equally striking. They are as well known for their music and culture as they are for their cooperative mindset and their multi-culti blend of religions and ethnicities.

For all of these reasons and many more, I have made a habit of going to Senegal to do everything from special recordings and festival performances, to forging new friendships and collaborations.

By coincidence and good fortune, and with much assistance, I was able to organize a trip to Senegal in 1998 for a group of musicians, teachers, storytellers, artists, and others. It was a great trip, and had a deep effect on us all. It went beyond any easy description. This one adventure has now expanded into a trip we offer annually. I have been joined in this effort by Jean Butler, whose extraordinary arts non-profit (Arts Are Essential) not only supports these trips, but has created it's own additional focus on connections with schools and community based social organizations. Together our efforts have unleashed a wave of inter-connected, globally-minded social activism, involving students and teachers, musicians, artists, tailors, film-makers, ecologists, and entire communities in Senegal and America in educational, cultural, and community health initiatives.

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