My music in the soundtrack for a documentary about climate change

I'm extremely excited to announce that two songs from my forthcoming debut album, SalaamAxé, are featured in the soundtrack for an important new documentary film, Not Without Us. The movie follows 7 activists from around the world as they travel to Paris for the 21st session of United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as the COP 21. Although the countries represented at the conference adopted the "Paris Agreement" (to be ratified on Earth Day, April 22, 2016), it is full of non-binding language and loopholes, leaving humanity on a course for catastrophic climate change.

Not only does the film do a fantastic job exposing the problems with the "Paris Agreement" and the entire UN framework for addressing climate change, it inspires hope by showing how the people of the Earth still have the power and opportunity to address this global problem. As Payal Parekh (one of the activists featured in the film) puts it, our power to do something about climate change "starts with you and me, but not you and me driving less, not you and me recycling, but by you and me banding together to show that there is people power, and that it can stand up to the fossil fuel industry." The overwhelming message of the film is that we need deep systematic change to prevent climate catastrophe. The only way of achieving that change in our political and economic systems is by the people of the world coming together in solidarity to exert our will directly, not relying on governments and corporations to try to solve the mess they themselves created.

The editor of the movie is a friend and comrade of mine, and I had given him access to a folder of untitled rough mixes from my debut album a while ago in case he had a project where any of the tracks might be useful. He played some of them for the director and producer and they completely fell in love with two of the tracks. The first is Karaguna (samba reggae), which appears very early in the film. The song begins with an oud taksim (improvisation) that runs while the narrative of the film goes to Tunisia. Then, as the dramatic drum break brings in the samba reggae, you start seeing images of people protesting and organizing. The other track is River Reflection, which features oud, flute, and Brazilian percussion. It is based on the rhythm ijexá, which is often associated with the orixá (spirit) for fresh water, Oxúm. Without knowing the title or context at all, the filmmakers had selected this piece as the music for an extended scene about water and the Bolivian "water wars" from 1999 to 2000. How amazing that the music spoke for itself!

The world premiere of the movie took place on April 20th at the San Francisco Green Film Fest. I got to meet some of the filmmakers and activists featured in the movie. Also in attendance was my friend and musical colleague Dan Cantrell, who (unbeknownst to me) contributed some music to the soundtrack, too. It was a beautiful, exciting event.

I truly hope this movie goes far, and many people get to see and hear its urgent and inspiring message! I'm honored and proud to be a (small) part of it. The official trailer for the film (which sadly doesn't include any of my music) is below.

From San Francisco,

Not Without Us — Official Trailer from Kontent Films.


Multi-instrumentalist: oud, saz, Brazilian percussion (maracatú, other rhythms from Pernambuco, various forms of samba), body music, bass, Middle Eastern percussion, and more. 10 years studying North Indian classical music on the oud and voice interwoven with 15 years studying Brazilian music and dance (including 5 trips to Brazil for a total of 1 year of training) have given Derek a unique approach to music, rhythm, dance accompaniment, improvisation, movement, teaching, and life.

Derek is available for performances, dance collaborations, recording sessions, teaching, licensing, live accompaniment (films, plays, classes, etc), acting, and many other creative possibilities. He is also a certified practitioner and instructor of BREEMA (a bodywork method bringing body and mind together in harmony) and incorporates embodied mindfulness into his teaching and playing.