For the next nine weeks, John Forté, Fugees-affiliate turned guitar-playing activist, will be touring Russia with his band, performing, recording, and collaborating with Russian musicians, and filming a documentary. The tour will conclude with a performance on Easter Sunday, April 24. During the tour, John will be checking in periodically with Complex to offer his thoughts and images.

"We left New York on Tuesday (departure photo above), and now I’m in Moscow, a cold and beautiful city, and we just finished the sound check for tonight’s performance. It’s about zero degrees Fahrenheit, one of the warmer days since we’ve arrived. We’ve been here almost 36 hours. Tonight we’re playing with two incredible people, Nikolay Shipulin a singer/songwriter who is very popular here, and a friend of his, Romario Lugovih, who’s an incredible guitarist. Last night I spent some time learning a song of theirs. So I’ll be singing with them in Russian. Yesterday they sang the chorus for me and then gave me the English translation, but I said 'No, no—I’d like to sing that in Russian with you.' And he goes, 'You can’t sing that in Russian!' But with some phonetic spelling we were able to pull it off. Tonight we’ll be debuting our first official Russian collaboration. I mean, Russian is just a language. It’s there to be learned.

"Preparing for this, I made a conscious decision to come out here and not think it was going to be one way over another. For me, it was really important to go out with as blank a mental slate as possible. I did my homework insofar as what could be deemed offensive in a cultural context. You know, the slightest hand gesture could mean one thing in one country and something else in another."

arrival

The traveling party arrives (left to right): Petter Ringbom (photographer), Ian Mcalpin (photographer's assistant), Brian Satz (band), Patrick Firth (band member), John, Ryan Vaughn (band member), Corey Smyth (manager). "It's always a bit unnerving traveling through customs/immigration post-conviction. Happy to announce there were no issues landing in Moscow. Whew!" 

"We'll be in St. Petersburg, parts of Siberia, the Golden Ring — we’ll have an opportunity to record on the Tran-Siberian Express, just amazing locations. We’ll cut a live album, a studio album and there will be a series of great concerts, all culminating in one big concert on April 24, Easter Sunday.

"I wake up in the morning and see all of the people, hurrying to and fro—this city is so alive. I’m very inspired. But I don’t want to jump into the creative writing process too soon. I think it’s important to let inspiration build instead of trying to milk everything as soon as you can. There’s a patient rhythm to inspiration as far as my creative process goes."