After touring Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, trumpeter Shamarr Allen says he’s happy to be home, where he doesn’t have to pay $3 for a packet of ketchup! Shamarr is the U.S. Cultural Ambassador who travels the world spreading the sounds of New Orleans.
He says, “It was more of a learning experience. Like last year was a lot of fun. This year we had some fun moments, but this year we had some reality setting moments, it really makes you appreciate being home, being an American.”
Especially in Turkmenistan, where websites like Twitter and Facebook are off-limits and every single visitor’s visa must be personally signed by the President! Shamarr says it still feels like a communist country. “Minimum wage there is $270 a month you know, but there’s some perks like you don’t have to pay for gas. No electricity, you don’t have to pay for electricity, you don’t have to pay for water.”
Although he’s technically a cultural ambassador, Shamarr plays a political role as well, warming up relationships between countries that can be rather tense. “You kinda feel like it’s really them trying to build a relationship with the government of Turkmenistan and vice versa and it’s cool for me to be the gateway for that, you know?”
He’s offering a gateway to a stronger relationship and the sweet sounds of jazz, heard halfway around the world.