WOMEX: You are widely acclaimed, in many different musical worlds, do you feel this gives you leverage to realise projects today, that you would not be able to do in the early years?
DH: I feel what we can do now there is no way we could have even imagined 45 years ago. There was no such thing as African string quartet music; it did not exist. There was limited string quartet music relating to many different areas of world music, plus, the kind of work we do or can do now requires a community. When we worked with Trio Da Kali, we needed a translator, and increasingly they are learning English, and we are learning a tiny bit of French, and the music takes care of rest. There are ethnomusicologists that we rely on; there are arrangers, there is our office staff, it’s like these people are critical to the work we do. When we started, it was, four of us and that was it, and then slowly we began growing.
I am not competing with anybody, all I want to do is the best work we can do with those partnerships that make us better musicians, and better people. I feel this is what our collaborators do for us. They make us better musicians, better people and better players.
WOMEX: What is the best advice you've received?
DH: In January 2003, I became a grandfather for the first time. With this newest member in our family, it was the most beautiful feeling. Unfortunately, this was around the time when Bush, Cheney, and others were plotting the invasion of Iraq. Here I was, this happy family man, and, here they were, trying to invade and destroy. With all these dark happenings around me and constantly touring and travelling away from family six months a year, I got severely depressed, often wondering if I should continue performing music. I did not talk to anyone in the quartet; I only spoke to my wife. I realised I needed to talk to somebody with perspective and the person that came to my mind with a voice was Howard Zinn, the great American historian. I had never met Howard, but one of my friends knew him. I got Howard's phone number and called him up.
A month later I was in Howard’s office in Boston, to talk to him about what could one do to bring the change. He assured me that an ordinary person could do a lot, they can bring the difference, if they so wish, but they can't do by themselves, they need a community. And, then he said, one needs to take every opportunity to make their views clear. Howard assured me that Dick Cheney and the people like him are afraid of artists and musicians and I thought to myself how Dick Cheney could be afraid of me? Well, just like Trump won't have any musicians or artists around him because none of us would put up with that nonsense.
That advice helped me immensely, it empowered me, gave me the courage and got me centred again on music. Plus, the other thing Howard said was even though you are physically away from your family, you are helping your family because you are trying to make things better. I just lost sight of such thoughts.
WOMEX: What can we expect from your performance at WOMEX 18? Or, what are you expecting from WOMEX?
DH: I am currently researching for our Banned Countries Project. I do have an idea, and I think it's an excellent idea. I made a list of all of the immigrant musicians and composers, immigrants to the USA that we have partnered over the years. And it's a very long list. I intend Justice Sonia Sotomayor's to read her dissent, record it, and use that recording as a part of our work. I hope that all the living immigrants to the USA will contribute a minute or two to this piece that will underscore her words. I am not sure if Justice Sotomayor can legally do that, or not, but I hope she can or someone else could. We are hoping to get this ready by October, but nothing is confirmed yet, such things take time.
WOMEX: Fingers crossed! We sincerely hope, we get to experience this performance in October.