Every once and a while you need to take a work break and go see a marching band. I was working with a carpenter named Kizito Vicent to build the Strap Bench prototype and off in the distance I heard the unmistakable sound of a band. We put down our tools, walked out to the street and saw a parade going past. It was really bizarre because it was a Thursday afternoon, not a holiday, and you don’t think of Jinja, Uganda as a place that would have a marching band. This parade was celebrating the anniversary of a local government agency.
After the parade passed we went back to work but got to talking about music. Vicent’s family has a drumming and dancing troupe known as a Calicho (traditional) Band. Vicent grew up being a dancer and is now a drummer in the group. I shared that I am a trumpet player and he invited Meredith and I to see them perform in his village on Sunday.
When we arrived I was shocked to see not only the drumming group but also a brass quintet! They started the show with the Ugandan National Anthem followed by the Star Spangled Banner. It was a wonderful welcoming. The show continued with the brass quintet playing some songs then adding the drumming in with the brass. They also did a few songs with just the drums. During these they had a few dancers performing high-energy traditional dances with some acrobatic break dancing moves thrown in for fun.
It was a wonderful opportunity to see Vicent’s roots. We met his wife and two children, many of his 13 siblings, and his father. We saw the house he grew up in and the shop where his father taught him carpentry. When Vicent was young his family tried to start a vocational school but Vicent is one of only two who completed the program before they closed it down.
One of the things I really appreciate about Vicent Kiizito is his dedication to his craft. When we were gluing and clamping the Strap Bench prototypes we were struggling to make the joints square. We would get it pretty close and I would say, “That should be alright.” Vicent however, objected saying, “It has to be square.” It was great seeing his enthusiasm for the project and commitment to excellence. It certainly challenged me to raise my expectations.
In another part of the Strap Bench project I made a measurement mistake that caused us to need to fill some large holes we drilled. Vicent used the opportunity to share some wisdom passed down from his father, “Carpenters don’t make mistakes- they make design changes.” Then he masterfully filled the holes with handmade dowels. I don’t think the mistaken hole will make it into the production model, but I’m glad I had Vicent to help with the project and the “design changes”.