MEDFORD — “I’m a passionate coffee drinker,” says Rabbi Jeffrey Summit, taking a seat in his bright, spacious office in the Granoff Family Hillel Center at Tufts University, where he is surrounded by books and an eclectic assortment of musical instruments. He is just back from teaching a class, and is chatting with students.
The university’s Jewish chaplain, who is also an ethnomusicologist and research professor of music and Judaic studies, worked with an interfaith coffee co-op in Uganda to produce an album about their music. “This is everything I love in the world: coffee, music, and world peace,” he says.
He recorded “Delicious Peace,” featuring songs about coffee production, fair trade, religious unity, and economic justice, with Peace Kawomera (Delicious Peace), a co-op in Namayonyi, outside Mbale in eastern Uganda. His latest CD for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, “Delicious Peace: Coffee, Music & Interfaith Harmony in Uganda,” has just been nominated for a best album Independent Music Award; one track, “Get Up and Grow Coffee!,” was nominated for best song.
Summit first visited Uganda in 2000 when his friend, photojournalist Richard Sobol, lured him to Mbale to study the music of the Abayudaya, a group of Ugandan Jews who first converted to the religion in the 1920s. A CD that Summit recorded with them in 2003, “Abayudaya: Music From the Jewish People of Uganda,” was nominated for a Grammy.
In early September 2001, J.J. Keki, the Abayudaya’s lead musician, was in the United States for an East Coast lecture tour. It was his first time traveling outside Uganda. After spending the night with Summit and his wife in Newton, he took a train to New York. On the morning of Sept. 11 Keki was outside the World Trade Center, about to meet a friend who was going to take him to the top, when he saw the first plane hit the North Tower.
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