A modern-day wandering minstrel will take to the stage in Dubai tonight, with tales of travel to far-flung destinations sure to entertain just as much as his unique musical set.
Jason Carter is playing something of a unique show at The Fridge in Al Quoz tonight - armed with an 18-string ‘harp guitar’. And that’s not the only thing that will be unusual about the show. While musicians don’t often enjoy a ‘nine to five’ existence like many of us regular Joes, Jason’s story is quite different.
If collecting interesting passport stamps and wistfully browsing copies of ‘Lonely Planet’ is your thing, you might just want to catch this favourite of The Fridge in action. No stranger to these shores after a stint as a resident musician at the old Hilton Dubai 20 years ago, Jason has toured more than 90 different countries so far in a career rich in experience.
Now living in the south of France, his itinerary reads more like a secret-service progress report than a regulation musical ‘world tour’. He’s entertained and played for packed audiences in Afghanistan, North Korea and Pakistan, as well as Saudi Arabia, Mozambique and a whole range of exotic locations.
And his fascinating experiences will all be part of his fascinating show.
The 44-year-old, who is working tirelessly on his ‘Jesser Al Wadi’ initiative to literally ‘build bridges over the valley’ around the world through music, explains: “If I was to sit down and simply play my own tunes, a concert fan would probably go ‘OK’. But I think it is important to give an insight into what I do, and why I do it. An insight into who I am.”
While travelogues can be fascinating, not all go according to plan. An ‘insight into what Jason does’ sounds - at least on one occasion - like an excerpt from Mohsin Hamid’s brilliant novel ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’.
He says: “Well my concert in Islamabad was not that long after ‘9/11’ (the 2001 terror attacks).
“At that time it was really dangerous there. I can speak some Urdu and I’m a wanderer really. Even in Dubai, if you speak Urdu to someone they are over the moon if you make an effort. But in Islamabad, it was really tough and hostile at that particular time. And when I got to the airport, the customs guys took me into a room and made things very uncomfortable indeed, for over two hours.
“The thing that frightened me was that they seemed to hate me without even knowing me, because of my British passport.”
Another eye opener, for different reasons altogether, was an extremely rare trip to Pyongyang in 2007, the capital city of North Korea, which is shrouded in secrecy because of frosty international relations. Jason played five concerts to 3,000 people after some lengthy negotiations with the embassy in London, and he says: “In a nutshell, it was like stepping back in time 50 years. The people have some ideas of what is going on outside, but not a lot. So what you get is this strange, and strangely beautiful naivety. It’s like nowhere else in the world. The difference in culture was immense. It was also the most boring place I’ve been in my life. Electricity for the town was turned off at 9pm every night, and it was like living in a forest. You can’t go out anyway, it is a weird place.”
A destination sure to fascinate many is Afghanistan, where Jason last visited in 2008. Although security meant a two-hour wait for Kabul concertgoers to get through the door, Jason says: “I really loved it and it was such a magical place, despite the tensions, it was a dangerous city. I would go back to Afghanistan, at the drop of a hat. They were the most amazing people, very funny and very, very strong. They were so proud and optimistic, despite a tough situation, and I’ve never been to another place where I’ve seen such hope in people.”
Jason plays live tonight as part of The Fridge Concert Series season 14. Doors open at 7.30pm and the music starts at 8pm, rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org . Check jasoncarter.net  and thefridgedubai.com 
By Chris Fraser