My interest in East African music came as consequence of my love of language and culture in East Africa. I was an Anthropology major at the University of Washington with an interest in Bantu languages (especially Swahili) and East African cultures. Finishing a BA degree in 1972, I was invited into the graduate program at Washington to continue studying African languages and linguistics. I really didn't get introduced to African music until I decided to take a break from my studies and, in 1974, I took an overland trip from London to Johannesburg. It was when I was passing through Zaire, that I first took notice of the African music I heard in the bars and on radios in every location we stopped. We eventually made it to Johannesburg and I traveled northbound to Tanzania to spend another couple of months in Dar es Salaam. This is when I first discovered the great East African rumba sounds of Mbaraka Mwinshehe and Super Volcano and the taarab music of Tanzania's coast.
My great immersion into African music didn't come until a few years later when I went to Kenya to do anthropological field research for my doctoral dissertation. I lived in a densely populated agricultural region in the highlands of western Kenya and I studied how farm families adapt to the problem of scarce land resources. I was awarded a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Washington in 1984. From 1985 through 1989, I taught Anthropology in Kenya to (primarily) American students in two study abroad programs. It was during this period that I became quite involved in Kenyan and Tanzanian music in various roles as a fan, producer, compiler, and journalist.
On my return to the Seattle area, I continued to teach in community colleges and universities in the early to mid-90s. I also started my first radio show in 1991 on KSER, Everett and started my current radio show on KBCS Bellevue in 1994. I didn't see it coming at the time, but this radio experience became the basis of a career shift. In 1996, when in between teaching contracts, I took partime work at public radio station KUOW in Seattle. I joined the operations staff as the scheduler for programs distributed by the Public Radio Satellite System in 1996. This led to a full-time position at KUOW that hold up to now. It's my job to make sure we receive all our programs from the public radio system; and I setup and maintain the automation system that plays these programs back at the appropriate time. Another aspect of my job includes audio engineering. I mix live music for the station and I also do a considerable amount of studio work, engineering sessions for NPR, BBC, CBC, and American Public Media.