The Caracas crew in the barrio

I’ve been in Caracas since Friday with my friends Jez, Ruth, Alex, Rich, Will and Leo… and I’m at a bit of a loss to describe my experience to date. Amazing, inspiring, and occasionally terrifying would about cover it.

We’re here as part of an Un-Convention event being held at Tiuna el Fuerte – a ‘cultural park’ celebrating it’s 7th year.

As part of our time here we’ve been up in some of the most dangerous barrios in the world, meeting rappers and music producers working within poor, excluded and isolated communities in Venezuela.

Tiuna el Fuerte – literally ‘Tiuna the Strong’, named after the neighbouring military base Fuerte Tiuna (Fort Tiuna) – is a place where community arts take place, such as evening hip hop schools that, apart from teaching music and performance, successfully keep young people off the streets and away from the drugs, the gangs and the organised crime – and give them hope for a different kind of future for themselves.

At Tiuna, there are lots of different cultural projects going on about grassroots music, street art and dance.

At first glance, it resembles a large outdoor vacant lot on the side of a busy road with shipping containers strewn across it. But on closer inspection, the shipping containers have been converted to production studios, offices and editing suites – the vacant lot transformed into performance spaces and open air classrooms.

Tomorrow, we start our panels and workshops for Un-Convention, but we’ve been doing lots of other stuff in our time here.

The undercurrent of danger is ever-present here, though. More so even than in Colombia. Everyone you meet warns you to be careful, not to wander alone, don’t get in taxis, don’t talk to anyone – and, basically, don’t get kidnapped, mugged or murdered. So far, so good (don’t worry – we’re being very well taken care of…).

I’ve been record shopping in downtown Caracas with the help of a legendary local collector, DJ and crate digger; I’ve watched mind boggling tricks being performed on motorcycles; I’ve been interviewed for a documentary film; I’ve met with all sorts of interesting and talented people who (sometimes despite appearances) are always incredibly friendly (at least, toward us); I’ve sampled a local delicacy that included a cow’s eye, live bugs, raw quail’s eggs and a snake liqueur (with the snake still in the bottle) in fresh fruit juice; I’ve given a talk about music online (using Deep Volt as an example) in the basement of someone’s home in the barrio… and lots more besides.

Words don’t do justice to most of what I’ve seen and experienced while I’ve been here. Completely eye-opening and fascinating, challenging and wonderful. I’ve made some great friends here already and I’m inspired by the work that’s going on by Marcel and the crew at Tiuna.

I’d love to show you some of the pictures and videos that I’ve been shooting – but the internet here is not what it could be, and uploading is a real challenge. The hotel I’m staying in has no internet at all, and the office at Tiuna el Fuerte is the only place I can get online – and the speeds won’t support the kind of uploading I want to do – so that will have to wait until I get back.

Until then, I’m excited about tomorrow, when our event gets started for real, the Caracas grassroots and DIY music scenes descend upon Tiuna, we talk, we watch bands play, record and release an album… and celebrate seven years of Tiuna el Fuerte.