Jason Carter Making InroadsIf taking to the road, why not tour the 'Axis of Evil'? Harp-guitarist Carter tells his global troubadour stories.

Time: Over 6 hours

Bulletproof vests are not normal wear for guitarists. Neither is filling out risk assessments the usual stuff of books, but Carter's warned him of suicide bombers and erratic missiles. And just to underline this, while he was applying for a trip to Kabul, the BBC News was showing a Taliban bomb attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul, in which 80 people were injured.

As I have been drafting this review, Carter has tweeted, "News of a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet 'shot down' over Ukraine according to Al Jazeera. Flew over Ukraine this morning."

When he took his flight to Kabul, the plane landed almost nose-towards-the-ground at great speed – one of two standard landing procedures in a war zone to avoid missile attacks. It took him two weeks to recover from the stress of being there for two weeks.

Always keen to build bridges through his music, harp guitarist Carter is passionate about meeting ordinary people from these places and discovering how similar they are; sharing tea, jokes and music; and appreciating their humanity.

Afghanistan is only one visit to the 'Axis of Evil' nations. Carter also spent ten days in North Korea, trying to evade his bodyguard and meet ordinary Koreans.

Generally, Carter connects with people of many races by either his friendly approach (he makes strenuous efforts to learn local languages and tunes) or by playing his guitar. But his time in Islamabad was immensely tense, particularly at passport control.

Describing his time in Uzbekistan, he writes, "Every day the unexpected became the expected, and the expected became the unreal." At one checkpoint, the policeman thought Carter was the British Ambassador and insisted on being photographed with him, even though the long-haired guitarist was wearing orange trousers with purple flowers and a T-shirt with the slogan, 'Music is the weapon of the future,' while travelling in a purple Toyota Corolla.

While some of Carter's details (such as of airports) could do with a little trimming, his stories are populated with many insightful cameos and his photographer's eye spots quickly-passing images, such as that of a small boy carrying the head of a freshly-slaughtered cow.

In the book, he tells of how he accidentally got caught up with a hajj pilgrimage; how he tried to leave the United States, but found his name was on 'the scary list'; and how there is someone using his identity, whom the Israeli government is keen to find.

I cannot think of anyone who could have experienced so much of the 'restricted' world from ground level. This may not be a tautly-plotted page-turner, with a mystery to be solved, but it is a revealing travelogue from a man whose home seems to be the whole world, whether he is based in Finland, Dubai, France or, occasionally, his native England. His stories are a window into cultures that we rarely get to know about and is well worth a listen.

There are interviews with Carter on our legacy site and (extended) on my blog: http://walkerwords.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/jason-carter-part-1-touring-the-axis-of-evil/



Derek Walker

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