Most aspiring artists find the foundations for their art close to home, but Dan Price has done it by traveling and immersing himself in other cultures. Within Price’s young life of 23 years, he has lived in Ghana, India and the Marshall Islands. During his junior year of college he lived in the Osu district of Accra, Ghana for six months. He lived in a dorm with Ghanaian students and bought his meals, “banku” and “kenkey” (Ghanaian staples), from women vendors on the street. Every week he would play guitar and sing at a club called Jazz Tones in South Accra, which hosted from artists from many different cultures, allowed them to tell stories, sing, rap, dance and play intense West African percussive sets. By the end of the night there was usually a collective piece with all the artists. The various genres and styles would fuse and would form something entirely new. It was then that Price says he learned what a cross-cultural experience truly was.
The following semester, Price traveled to New Delhi, India. On his time off from school he traveled within India to the Western Himalayas to see the “Valley of the Flowers.” It had a profound impact on his perceptions of life. He was sitting by a glacier in that valley when he wrote this song lyric:
“I’m walkin’ out of a skin left broken from a winters’ sun.
I will kiss you from your eyelids to your thumb
I let a bee crawl round my thumb and in my hand
Then I shook it off though that was not my plan.
How can you control things that you don’t know?
Easy, just let go.”
Price’s deepest immersion in another culture was in the Marshall Islands. The Marshall Islands is a small island nation, known to some as a WWII battleground. Others may know the islands as the place for the United State’s Cold-War nuclear testing program – the U.S. exploded 67 atomic and hydrogen bombs there. Price lived there for the past year in a wooden hut on an island 6 miles long in a small village called Airok. He became fluent in Marshallese and adept at spear-fishing while living with a host family and teaching in the village school.
Price said, “living in Airok was full moon, bright stars, hot sun, fat rain, big fish, islands polyps, coconut forests, surrounded by ocean. Musically, the islands, like India, taught me something fundamental about sounds and rhythms. In a way, I finally began to understand the simple aspects of songwriting and a concise way to capture the poetic. That is what I seek as an artist and what I find beautiful whether in a song or nature: A sage leaf, a mountain top, a crashing wave, regret, restlessness, obstacle, overcome.”
Price added, “Traveling is movement; flying, one place to another, experiencing new sounds and smells. It’s that freshness that creates fertile ground for songwriting. We are reflections of our environment, literally. With a change in enviroment, comes a whole host of things one has to reinvestigate in order to adapt and feel themeselves. Music is a constant that sustains me through periods of change and traveling always leads me to something new – in myself and in my songwriting.”
Since returning from the Marshall Islands, Price has found himself adapting to American culture with his family and through his music. He is the songwriter for Kajanjan, pronounced, “Kah – jang – a – jang”. The word is Marshallese for “to play music.” Kajanjan is a Chicago-based group made up of singer-songwriters Paul Gulyas and Donnie Biggins (The Shams Band), and also Ben White who tops off the group on the cello, banjo and vocals.
Price’s lyrics reflect the movement of his story and the stories of the people and places with which he has come into contact. Kajanjan mixes well, which is unsurprising, because they all grew up together in Oak Park, Illinois. While listening to Kajanjan, you accompany Price on his journey and, above all else, you see the friendship between Price, Gulyas, Biggins and White. Their style of music can best be described as folk. Travel with Price and Kajanjan in their live demo on MySpace http://www.myspace.com/kajanjan. If you’re in Chicago, be sure to peek at their schedule and attend a live performance. Dan Price’s unique story isn’t over yet: He will be leaving for Guyana in February with the Peace-Corps. When or if Price returns, we’ll see how this next experience influences his music.