Back in Western Kenya. I’ve spent so much time traveling up and down these roads searching, sometimes despite myself and for reasons I can’t quite articulate, for old guitar players. I’ve imagined a movie about the traveling blind guitarist Olima Anditi ever since we met in the last days of 2010. He remembered me by the feel of my hand the next time I saw him, in 2016. And now, in 2018, traveling with copies of his record (a co-release with Mississippi Records that came out in late 2017), some royalties, and the trustiest of Raw Music collaborators Jacob Russell, I planned to finally make the film.
But it’s 4 days of roaming these dusty roads and no sign of the old man. The musicians with whom he used to live said he got up and left one day three months ago. His phone was stolen a few weeks prior, and they haven’t heard from him since.
“Are you worried?” I asked. We were sitting in the dark. No power, a storm brewing, lightning flashing outside the tin shack. “We’re not worried. If anything happened to him, everyone would know. Olima has many friends.”
Indeed. As we travel around, everyone has stories of the last time Olima came through town. They point us further down the road, or in toward the lake, or even, after a long day of travel yesterday, back to Kisumu where we started. Our whip this time is not of the highest quality. An old Mazda van that mercilessly devours gas (and gas is EXPENSIVE out here). Yesterday, the front left wheel fell off twice. Once in the middle of the market town of Akala, where we’d met Olima last time, and once at the very end of the night, in a muddy parking lot in the Railways Estate, after 200 km on rutted roads. We left the car behind. Packed up our bags, got on some motorcycles, and rode home to try again today. We’ll place a call for him on the radio tonight, hoping he hears. He lives with a radio glued to his ear, after all. I’ll see if they’ll even play some songs from the record. For now, some photos from the road. I’ve been paying more attention to the hand painted signs and logos after traveling in Tanzania with my friend Gordon. Here’s some of what we saw (but not what we felt or smelled).
“Olima lives like a bird,” my friend Hannington said when we started this search. So we keep looking.