As parents, we don't often make it to the coolest off-Broadway theater shows. But we recently snuck out and discovered Baba Brinkman's Rap Guide to Religion, which the New York Times described as "the best TED talk ever." Turns out Baba, a Canadian rap artist and playwright based in New York City, is also dad to an adorable toddler and a frequent traveler. We caught up to talk tips on toting the tiniest roadie, doing Edinburgh Fringe with kids and his biggest travel fail (preview: long haul flight, wrong kind of formula and an eye infection). Baba's current play “Rap Guide to Religion” continues at the Soho Playhouse until May 3rd. Take it from us and buy tickets fast before you miss your chance!
You’re from Vancouver, live in New York and tour frequently, so your daughter was a seasoned traveler from birth. But taking a baby on tour sounds pretty intimidating. Any survival tips you’ve picked up along the way?
My daughter Hannah is 16 months old and has spent two months on tour with me in Australia, one month in Scotland, plus visits to Vancouver, Toronto, Sudbury, Albuquerque, and Hawaii so far. One thing that has made it a lot easier is just getting her acclimatized to new people from a young age. We’ve had to find nannies through websites and friend networks and she’s been pawned off on a lot of strangers over the past year or so, but she’s generally really good about that, easy with new people. It’s hard to say if that’s because of her experiences or if it's innate, but it sure helps! I also take her to work with me wherever possible. Obviously not during a show, but I’ve done lots of tech rehearsals with her crawling around on the stage or just holding her while I sound check.
Are there any challenges you haven’t been able to solve, any family travel fails?
I guess the main fail was when I took my daughter to Australia when she had just turned six months old. My wife had a conference so wasn’t able to join us for the first week, but my dad had a business trip there that he managed to dovetail with my tour, so it was just me and baby and grandpa for a week. It was thirty six hours of flying from New York to Perth, and when we landed the Australian baby formula brands were all different so I (foolishly) switched her to the 6 months and up brand after a couple of days. When my wife finally joined us, Hannah had a virus she caught on the plane, an eye-infection, and was badly constipated from the new formula. The phrase “I’m never leaving her with you again!” may have been uttered once or twice at that point, but she got better and it blew over. Parenting definitely has its trial-and-error moments.
Also, I wish there was a daycare service for travelers. I’ve looked into temporary daycares and they usually have a three-month minimum commitment or something, so we end up going with nannies instead. It’s okay, but I’d rather have her interacting with other toddlers than just one adult all day long.
You’ve performed 7 times at Edinburgh Fringe. We hear this is a festival where kids are welcome. Any tips on where to stay, eat and play?
The key to the Fringe is Gumtree, which is the UK version of craigslist. We listed for a nanny in their jobs section and found a lovely Irish lady in no time, and we found our apartment sublet there as well. In terms of child-friendly Fringe activities, there’s a whole entertainment program for kids, but Hannah was a bit too young for it all last year, so we took her to the park lots. One of the main parks is called The Meadows and it has playgrounds and swing sets. I was performing at a venue called The Gilded Balloon, and they were lovely about having a baby and stroller around in the afternoons. I even left her with the ladies at the admin office for fifteen minutes at one point while I ran a quick errand. Food-wise we really liked Empires on St. Mary’s Street and Ciao Roma on South Bridge. Kebab Mahal in Nicolson Square Gardens is pretty hard to beat for curry as well, but pretty small so not so kid-friendly
What makes this event more family friendly?
The Edinburgh Fringe isn’t really an event, it’s the world’s biggest arts festival, with close to three thousand shows being staged in the city center for a month straight. The festival has a whole slate of children’s programming which starts in the late morning and runs until the early afternoon, and after that the comedy shows and other “adult fare” takes over. Edinburgh is just a gorgeous city with amazing heritage and nature sites nearby like Arthur’s Seat, so to have that kind of “old world” culture mixed with cutting-edge theatre and comedy performances daily is pretty special.
What are some favorite trips you’ve taken so far with your daughter?
Last week I brought her to Lasquiti Island off the coast of British Columbia. She saw eagles flying and wild sheep, went for hikes (with her in the Baby Bjorn) and had a real taste of the outdoors. And the BC Ferry ride over to Vancouver island is pretty great for kids as well. She was running all over the place, super curious to explore.
Are there any places where you’ll always return? Any destinations you’re dying to go next?
My next stop is Orlando, FL for the Fringe Festival there. My wife Heather will be along for most of the trip, and Hannah of course, but it will be more of an “arts and culture” take on Orlando than a Disney trip. The Fringe is setting us up with a billet, a nice retired couple with a couple of guest rooms who live on the lake, so I’m just excited to check it out.
In terms of great destinations, we spent the past holidays in Kapoho Bay on the eastern tip of the big island of Hawaii and it was indescribably beautiful and great for kids, inexpensive, not too touristy, amazing natural splendor all around. The fact that there’s an active volcano eruption and lava flow currently threatening the nearest town is probably why you can get great deals on vacation rentals there right now, so act quickly!
Describe your favorite family day at home, and where you go for a kid-free night out.
On Saturday we slept in, then I made blueberry pancakes, which Hannah can’t get enough of, and later we went to Caumsett State Park here on Long Island, picnic on a park bench, then a walk with Hannah on my shoulders and in the Bjorn. She petted a horse someone had out for a ride and generally seemed to be having a blast. In terms of a kid-free night out, yeah, we should try that one day.
Can you share a few of your favorite performers, whether in theater, music or other?
I’m a big fan of Tim Minchin. He wrote the music for the Matilda musical on Broadway but is also a great stand-up comic and performer, highly recommended. I’m also excited to see Lin-Manuel Miranda’s new Hamilton musical as well, the reviews have been ridiculously good. In terms of New York-area music, if you have a chance to see Soul Inscribed or Rabbi Darkside in action live, I wouldn’t miss it.
Your next show will be the Rap Guide to Climate Chaos, and the Pope just announced that he’ll host a climate change summit. Have you scored an invite?
Ha! My last show was Rap Guide to Religion about how religions have evolved by natural selection, so I’m not holding my breath for an invite from the Vatican. My uncle did recently send me a photo of his horse though, which appears to have an outline of Darwin on its flanks. So if the Vatican affirms the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich as a miracle, then Darwin on a horse’s ass should qualify too, right?