Friday, 1 May 2015

BOOKINGS, BUDGETS AND ALL THAT STUFF...




While all this has been occurring I’ve been trawling through all the acts that have applied to play at Rhythms…
It is a thankless task because there are far too many ‘Grrrrraaaaaah’ bands.
Heavy rock bands all of whom seem to think that unintelligible lyrics and fuck all talent will get them 
booked ?
Well it might, but not down our way.
But nestling away at number eighty-eight in the applications is a prime contender for anybody’s stage and not just ours.
A resonator guitarist and a tabla player who play the blues as if it came not just from the Mississippi delta but the Ganges delta as well ?
Taj Mahal would definitely love these guys.
The only problem being expense…
They’re based in Wales which I’m quite certain will necessitate a stay over ?
So contact is made…  And it will.
They’re on.
I’ve got them.
Quite why none of the other stages booked them I cannot say, all I will say is that they are the sort of artists that we thrive on.
They have their own ‘sound’ and they play it well.
They’re in keeping with the ethos of the stage and the festival and they’re what Rhythms is all about for us.
Vive La Difference !!!
Commerciality ?
Pah !!!
Who needs it when you can get acts like this ?

And then there's the band from our old mucker Dochan's stable from Glasgow.
I'd listened to their first tracks and thought they sounded a bit Richard Thompson'y, so I was definitely interested. Their later stuff was just as impressive and I really liked them, so we've got another four piece sleep-over coming off the budget.

Finally in March the big announcement is made and thankfully it all goes according to plan.
Now everybody knows what’s happening.

 The outpouring of goodwill toward the festival from all manner of people is one of the most amazing things that we all seem to deal with.
It seems to come from everybody.
All the local ‘tribes’ whether hippie, goth, punk, rocker, psychie’, soulboy, ragamuffin, folkie, country and Uncle Tom Cobley an’ all, plus it would seem, a fairly large percentage of their parents and grandparents.
They all support it.
It has it’s ‘knockers’ as well.
But they seem to number less than a hundred ?
Actually the amount doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that negligible amount have the ability in law to totally fuck it up for everybody else.
And so the meetings with Councillors begin…
And when everything is sorted to their satisfaction then we can finally announce the date.

Budgets for Rhythms are a strange beast.
Up until we re-located from the town centre to The Priory we got nothing and I had to beg.
But ever since we moved I get a small budget for the stage which mainly covers expenses.
It can be a bit difficult trying to pay expenses for about twenty acts but we do what we can.
This year my budget has gone up slightly but all stay-over expenses have to come out of it so the reality is that I’m working with the same amount I had back in 2012.

Come the end of May and I’m drained and not just physically and mentally.
Far too much time spent in answering late night e-mails and telephone calls and it’s fair to say that I don’t want to see the computer for at least a month.
Having said that, we are at least on target for the cut-off date.
This is good bearing in mind we are sharing the dates with the Cambridge Folk Festival…
So any chance of taking a rest is now taken over by artists who want to play both for us and for them wishing to change their allotted time in the programme.
I will accommodate this where it’s practical but you can’t always do it.
The annoying thing is that it usually wrecks any cohesive flow to the acts on the stage.
It’s all well and good just sticking acts down as a line-up but without any thought behind it you’ll get a lot less of an audience and that doesn’t do anybody any good.
Oh well, I managed to change two without too many problems and the programme goes to press next week so that’ll be it.
No more time changes… Just drop-outs.

Thankfully the crew had been sticking their ideas in the mix as we’d been going along.
The penultimate part of the jigsaw had been one of Joy’s recommendations.
She’d sent me a shed load of acts to check out this year.
Some were suitable but wanted far too much money and some were just ok, but all of them were interesting in their own way.
One thing I will never understand is why some artists always put their prices up for Festivals ?
Blues and Jazz bands do it on a regular basis.
They’ll play the pub gigs for a couple of hundred and then charge us a grand for a shorter set.
And then we’ll get a ‘name’ headliner for half the amount they are charging.
Don’t do it guys, you’re not doing yourselves any favours, and getting a reputation as a bunch of ‘gougers’ isn’t going to do you a lot of good because the word will get out.
The same goes for acts who are just starting out and see a festival as a place to whack the money up because it looks good on their c.v.
‘Brit’ School’ pupils try it all the time.
Sorry people, but we’re just not into it.

One of the good things about running and booking a stage like this are the other people who throw suggestions in your direction.
Once they realize what we're about then the weird and the quirky start being passed our way from those attending other festivals.
Steve, who used to be totally in charge of the whole shebang sent us a link to an absolute corker who I definitely wanted.
His humour was right up our street.
 
Joy had sent me a link to a full-on reggae band and I wanted them to top the bill on Saturday.
The problem of course, was money.
These guys were good and if they did play then they’d probably have to come down a bit from their usual price because I hadn’t got it to spend.
But… On the last possible day for inclusion I got the acceptance e-mail.
Pheeew !!!
Sighs of relief all round.

The last piece of the jigsaw had been one of Grant’s.
While I’m trying to get the reggae guys to confirm, he’d suggested an acoustic set on the Sunday from a rock band that he knew all the members of, in that they’d all played in bands in the area and just joined up to do something together.
The problem, if problem it was, was that it had worked like a dream and the band were now off and running, but the thing that attracted me to them was the harmonies.
A serious heavy-ish rock band with harmonies to die for ?
Sod the acoustic idea, I’ll take them as is and whack them on first thing on Sunday afternoon while everybody else is chilling out…
Because that lot will definitely wake the buggers up.
Right…
Sorted !
I can go to sleep now.
Well I can when I’m not working my tits off in the day job !!!
At least I got a nice birthday meal when Haddy took me and Mum out.

 
 Meanwhile, while I’m attending to all of this Haddy has been getting on with the garden, and her ‘Englishness’ tests.

Hey-yay courgette !











A couple more corny musical captions and you're done...


In the Spirit of Potatoland...



I heard it through the grapevine... As opposed to the fence...













The reading test is done and dusted and she got full marks.
The writing and comprehension test is the same.
Two down and one to go, but that will have to wait until a little later in the year as there are a few birthdays coming up, the children need money for school uniforms and food and the Cropredy tickets need paying for…
Plus she wants to go and see her daughter and family up in Glasgow.
It’s still all go around here.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

MORE EXPENSE AND A BIT OF BLACKMAIL, FOLLOWED BY SOME GOOD NEWS EVENTUALLY...



So, here we are back in the UK and it’s quiet.
Normally I’d be like a swan right now.
Gracefully floating out on the water but paddling like fuck underneath it trying to sort out a stage for Rhythms of the World but at this moment, although rumours are everywhere, there is absolutely nothing occurring.
Oh well, whatever…
Actually that's not entirely accurate.
The country is experiencing a bit of wind...
And being perched at the top of a hill, we're getting some of it.
And it's getting worse...
And worse.
Until, late one night...
One of our fence panels flew into next door's garden.


The greenhouse was damn near turned inside out...

And we went to bed a bit later than usual !!!

Haddy in the meantime has resolved to go the final mile and get British citizenship.
It’s another thousand plus pounds, plus another load of tests at examination centres.
Because she’s of African descent and not European she has to be able to prove that she can read, write and understand the English language, but at least this last hurdle applies to every immigrant as opposed to the previous ones which don’t apply to Europeans.

Christmas just seems to come and go.


We spend Christmas day at my Mother’s as usual because at her age she is really unable to travel far at all.


I got to cook the dinner which seemed to turn out ok.


Still it was a nice day except for the travelling down.
The M25 has to be one of the worst roads in the country at busy periods and Christmas is definitely quite busy.

Most of my time is now spent working because with the size of the citizenship bill the overtime is going to come in handy.
The fact that it now seems that the whole country is under water just adds to the ‘enjoyment’ of the times…
It now seems like it's been raining for ever.
It’s cold.
It’s wet.
And it’s bloody uncomfortable when you are out in it and soaked to the skin because your ‘so-called’ waterproofs aren’t.
In truth it’s fucking horrible and it seems like the whole of the country has the miseries ?
Although to be fair, living at the top of a hill we are better off than a lot of the population, even some that we know.
Some are under ten feet of water…

So there we are, time is passing, the floods are receding, we’re both working our socks off, and we get the ‘very worrying’ telephone call from the kids…
Apparently Housainatou is being blackmailed ?
It turns out that the son of the owner of the money shop (a bit like Western Union over here) where she works, who had already told us he wanted to marry her sister has decided to, how shall I put it nicely ?
Lose some money that she’d signed for, which would only reappear if he was formally introduced to her sister Hassanatou with a view to marriage…
Needless to say they were both a little worried about this to say the least.
Housai’,because she was being used as a pawn in his nefarious little scheme, and Hassa’ because she couldn’t stand the slimy little shit.
Now this sort of behaviour might be common in some countries including theirs but it’s not something that we tend to have to deal with that often in the UK.
He thinks, as quite a few do out there, that money can buy him anything he wants and being the boss’s son entitles him to treat young women as objects that he can buy as he wishes and discard whenever he likes.
Unfortunately for him he has picked on the wrong two young women, and certainly the wrong family to try that crap on with…
So, how much will Housai’ miss the job ?
She wants out, and NOW !!!
And Hassa’ ?
She’s worried about her sister’s name getting tarnished.
Ok, so here’s what we’re going to do…
Housai’ is going to ‘act’ all ‘worried’ (that bit wasn’t too difficult, she was…) and tell him that she’s talking to her sister, and Hassa’ is not going to visit her whatsoever at work.
When Housai’ gets paid at the end of the month and the money is in her account then she is going to call the person who employed her who is actually the partner of this bloke’s Father and tell him what is going on, then tell him she is leaving right now then and there, and then give him (and only him) the keys to her drawer and walk away.
This will necessitate an investigation and because matey boy will have no knowledge of it, hopefully the money will be found in his money drawer ?
And you can all guess where the money was found, can't you ?
It’s not really taxing on the old brain cells, is it ?
It was.
The sad thing for Housai’ was that she had to leave a job she liked and had been trained for, but from our perspective there was no choice.
If that slimy little shit thinks he can blackmail one of the children just because he’s the boss’s son then he’s going to have to think again.
It’s not endemic to the country but that sort of thing does go on, and it only takes the one bad apple.
Not that anything will happen to the person who caused the problem, he’ll just walk away and try it on somebody else.
Protected, as always, by his Father’s money.
Sickening isn’t it ?
But you live and learn.
Or as my wife says...
‘It’s The Gambia…’

And then in early February I hear a rumour.
Apparently there will be a Rhythms of the World and it’ll be in August, the week before Cropredy instead of July ?
Then the e-mails and texts start appearing…
Can I go to this and that meeting ?
Ok, I’m in…
And waddaya know ?
The rumour that I got from a member of the public is absolutely spot-on accurate including the date.
Secrecy ?
It’s a piss take.
The Priory has been taken over by a new company and they are keen to continue with the event but it has to remain secret for another month so that the new owners can fly over and make a joint announcement with the Rhythms organisers.
But…
If the acts can keep a secret then I can start booking some.
Three and a half months is not ideal but we’ll get there.
Yes, I know…
March, April, May, June and July doesn’t add up to three and a half, does it ?
But that three and a half is up to the time the official programme goes to press and so they require every stage’s artists list by the last day of May.
Time to go into overdrive, methinks ?


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

EID AL ADHA OR TOBASKI 2013 PART THIRTEEN: 'ISN'T GOING HOME A LOW AND LONELY RIDE...'




So there we were…
Ready to leave again, except we weren’t really.
We’re going to miss the kids, it’s as simple as that.
There is something intrinsically wrong with a system that only allows one-way traffic.
We have to fly two thousand, nine hundred miles to see our children for the price of an air ticket and that is apparently no problem ???
There is the small matter of over two hundred and fifty pounds plus each on a six hundred pound ticket going toward ‘Green Taxes’ which is just one more reason that ‘The Greens’ are NEVER going to get my vote because there are sod-all other countries doing it, but…
It doesn’t work in reverse.
If the kids want to come and see us then they have to pay approximately the same, plus they have to fill in the form and pay for a visa to do it.
No matter that we support them, pay for their food, schooling and living expenses, they still have to pay our government for the privilege of doing so and this visa lasts six months.
In that time they can do a small number of things but most are denied them.
You can always read the damn documentation for yourselves…
Of course if they were European children then they can come here without a visa and their families can do anything they choose, including claim all the benefits that our own citizens receive and then jump in front of our own social housing queue !!!
And all because Gordon Brown signed a treaty ?
There is seriously something wrong with that system, not least because it is discriminatory and the UK government could be accused of running an ‘Apartheid’ system on immigration.
Think I’m joking ?
Ok, consider this…
Pre nineteen ninety seven we had a normal immigration system.
It seemed to work pretty much like every other country’s, in that if you had relatives in the UK then you could join them and there wasn’t too much of a problem doing so.
When the Labour government under Tony B’liar came to power he flung open the borders to all and sundry.
(Ok, it’s a bit simplistic but it IS accurate)
You also have to remember that back then the UK saw a rise in membership of the British National Party or B.N.P.
This so-called ‘political party’ called for an end to immigration and the repatriation of every black and brown person in the country.
Which was a bit silly in that many of those they wanted repatriated were actually second, third and fourth generation British !!!
They had been born in the UK and were as English, Scots, Irish or Welsh as I am.
The reality of living through those times and the arguments that ensued are still reverberating to this day.
So B'liar and his successor Gordon Brown threw open the UK’s borders to all and sundry, but what they did not do was make it a condition of entry that these new entries were not entitled to the UK’s benefit system until they had been in the country for a few years.
This was the stumbling block and one that the B.N.P. capitalised on.
All these black and brown immigrants whose ideas, traditions and culture were sometimes diametrically opposed to the UK’s were being funded by the population of the United Kingdom and that is where the B.N.P. actually scored the point that is still causing the problems that my own family face today.
The Labour Party’s rationale had been that all these immigrants were going to be so pleased to be there and receiving the same benefits and social security as every other citizen that they would show their gratitude by voting for them ad-infinitum.
Unfortunately, the general population weren’t exactly enamoured of the idea.
But Labour, choosing the moral high ground, decided to brand everybody who queried what was going on, a racist.
What was THAT Gordon Brown quote again ?
'Bigot' wasn’t it ?
And lurking in the background was Europe…
Most of whose countries do not have the same generous benefit system as the UK.
So when Gordon Brown signed away many of the decisions to be taken by the UK government to a European Union, there were many people who were not terribly impressed.
But he signed it KNOWING that it would bring even more immigration, because now we were a member, everybody in the European Union can move freely between their member states and live (and claim benefits) wherever they reside.
And in the background we still have the B.N.P…
But like any other small club that wants to get bigger, the European Union kept taking on more members and some of those were not exactly up to par on their own benefit systems.
And what colour were over ninety per-cent of these new immigrants from Europe ?
White.
(You can check out the percentages just as I did)
And these people do not need documentation.
These people could just turn up, and as a country we could not turn down any request for benefits or even housing even though they already had one somewhere else.
And as the country was swamped by white immigration, the demographic slowly changed back to predominantly white and the B.N.P. lost its power to spread its racist doctrine.
Think about it.
It’s a bloody good trick if you can get away with it ?   
But they couldn’t, and after Gordon Brown had sold off the UK’s gold reserves at a fraction of their worth, plundered everybody’s pension fund to prop up his failed economy, presided over the banking collapse and tried to cover up the scandal of M.P’s expenses, most people had had enough and the worst and most venal government this country has ever had since the days of the ‘Rotten Boroughs’ were voted out.
And in came the Tories…
Assisted by the Liberal Democrats so as to gain a larger majority in parliament, we now had a coalition.
And that’s where OUR troubles really began, because all the main political parties wanted to remain members of the European Union !!!
And so up went the prices of visas to all the countries that needed them while the Europeans all arrived here for free.
Every year the price would be increased and every year even more obstacles would be put in people’s way.
The B.N.P. was now not much more than a bunch of posturing racists but they had been superseded by another right-wing organisation, The English Defence League.
These people just wanted all immigration stopped, especially from the posturing Muslim countries and they were beginning to cause questions to be asked in parliament.
And waiting in the wings was U.K.I.P. The United Kingdom Independence Party who wanted us OUT of Europe. 
The infrastructure of the country was now seriously overloaded by immigration caused by being in the European Union.
Because white people who don’t even have to speak English are pouring into the country, and black people who DO have to speak English have to fill in forms and take ‘Englishness’ tests before they are allowed to stay, the whole demographic of the country is changing.
Haddy and I have now become third class citizens in my country.
She is not allowed the benefits that the Europeans are given because she is African and/or Black.
She cannot buy a UK passport like the Russian and Chinese oligarchs are being offered.
She has to pay to go through a series of tests before she is even allowed to stay in the country, despite us being married, despite us both having jobs and not relying on government handouts, and we are both of us definitely being denied a family life because all our taxes go towards funding the European immigrants and their children as opposed to our own…
And does any political party want to cry foul ?
Do they fuck !!!
They all want to stay in Europe so they are quite happy to let the situation continue as it is.
The biggest irony of all is that both the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party would be the first to start screaming if it were happening in any other country (South Africa springs to mind…) but because the Lib/Dems want to continue to stay in power and the Labour Party have still yet to come to terms with the European monster they have unleashed, they are both more than happy to remain silent on the issue.
(And their silence IS deafening, isn't it ?)
To put it plainly, the U.K. now has a system of  ‘whites in’ and ‘blacks out’, and if that upsets you then it’s tough shit because YOU VOTED FOR IT.
Anybody who voted Tory, Labour or Liberal Democrat in the last election is equally guilty.
A friend asked me once, would I betray my country ?
Well since my country has already betrayed me, I’m not really sure how to answer that question…
I have already said it would be nice to live in a country where EVERYBODY was treated the same without fear or favour, but I don’t believe it will ever happen in the UK.
There are far too many gutless cunts in both the opposition and government to allow that scenario to occur, and far too much fawning obeisance to other people’s lifestyles.
And all this 'Apartheid' shit was what we’d be flying back to.
It’s not really that impressive, is it ?

So we said goodbye to everybody first thing in the morning as Housai’ and Awa went off to work and Mariama and Jalika went off to school.
Hassa’ would be accompanying us to Latrikunda at the top of the road when we left at midday, and Amadou would be ‘phoned later because he’s at work too.
A quick walk around the area to say goodbye to our friends and our time was up, so it’s into the taxi and away to the airport.
I took some film on the way, so if you’ve never seen what it looks like in The Gambia, then you can watch this.
It’s only predominantly the right hand side of the road on the way, but it will give you some idea...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8uj78tGdRA&feature=youtu.be
Did you bother to watch it ?
Going back to that 'far too much fawning obeisance' quote a few lines back, did you notice what the women were wearing ?
Yeah, I do, all the time, which is why I filmed it.
I want people to see for themselves.
The vast majority of women DO NOT wear the bloody things !!!
So to be told by those Guardian reading Liberal fuckwits in the UK that I'm a racist for mentioning the FACT that they don't, and why would anybody want to unless they lived on a building site covered with sand, is a little unhelpful to say the least... And a downright lie of the worst kind.
I wish those who make up these claims would check their facts before they made those sort of accusations, because the truth is actually out there and it's not that hard to find...
It's just being used as a political tool so some people can get their own way.
('Help... Help... I'm being oppressed...')
It would be funny if it wasn't taken so seriously by our media and our 'Establishment'.
The fact is, outside of about four countries it's total bollocks.

So we got to the airport and checked in.
Hit the duty free shop for a couple of bottles of grade A ‘Anejo’ (that’s top of the range tequila to you) and we’re done.
Now it’s time for a baguette and cup of tea at Luigi’s, sitting outside awaiting our flight.
Listening to the other passengers at the tables, it would seem that they all enjoyed their stay, and I’m glad.
The Gambia might be a small country, but it has a lot going for it if only it could get the investment.
Unfortunately, for various reasons, it doesn’t look as if it’s on its way which is a shame.
So tourism is its only real source of foreign currency coming in.
Tony, one of the guys I work with, had been twice now with his family and they were confirmed fans after their first trip, so it must have something going for it ?
One day people will get wise and realise the country does have opportunities.

The flight back was uneventful as usual, but all the fun usually begins after we touch down.
First there’s the usual half mile walk to Immigration control and then we split into two parts.
I go through one system (the E.U. one) and Haddy goes through the second-class citizen one
(Non-E.U.)
You can tell the way it works in that there are about ten officers dealing with E.U. passport holders and only the one dealing with non E.U.
This obviously causes a massive build-up on her side which won’t abate until they can get more officers over there, and that won’t happen until all us E.U types have been processed.
I just sit in a convenient chair watching the proceedings until she’s through, usually being quizzed every ten minutes by an immigration officer asking why I’m hanging about with a very bored and pissed off look on my face ?
The words ‘I’m waiting for my wife, she’s in your second-class citizen queue’ usually get me an understanding grimace from the officer concerned.
But finally she’s through, so now let’s collect our luggage and hit the ‘red zone’ once again.
Declare the five boxes of tobacco, declare the tequila and brandy, and that’s our lot.
We walk out past those who have fucked up in going through the ‘nothing to declare’ green zone.
The guy whose luggage has shown up some cellophane packages is not too happy, he’s probably facing about five years inside but that’s his problem.
With all the security and scanners in place now, you’d think that a bit of common sense would prevail, but apparently not ?
And we’re out.
And it’s a lot cooler than it was in The Gambia…
(Well it would be, it’s past midnight)
Catch the coach back to where we parked the car, and it’s back home via the M.25 which thankfully is an easy run at that time of night.
We get in at about half past three, dump the luggage and sleep.
Haddy is not working tomorrow, but I am...
At least it's the late shift.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

EID AL ADHA OR TOBASKI 2013 PART TWELVE: A SCHOOL COMPETITION AND A MALIAN INTERLUDE




It was now nearly time to leave.
For three weeks of seeing the family and friends and getting a few things sorted out it had certainly been an eventful break.
And we HAD actually managed to get a few things sorted out and had a little bit of fun along the way and you can’t really ask more from life than that.
But all good things eventually come to an end and ours was rapidly approaching because we were in our last week and the two youngest had gone back to school, but before we left I had one more job to do.

Before we’d arrived in The Gambia we’d got Mariama and Jalika to go and see their headmistress at Gola Fortunate and ask if she minded running a little competition between all the children who had contributed toward the Rhythms of The World backdrop that they had created for us, and she had been happy to do so.
One of the things Rhythms does on a regular basis is sell out of children’s sized t-shirts and we’d managed to get hold of five of them before they had done so.
Two were going to Mariama and Jalika, but the other three would be going to the school as prizes.
There was going to be one question only and the best three answers in the Headmistresses opinion would be the three winners.
The competition was held while we were in The Gambia, the three winners had been adjudged, and now it was time to present the prizes.
The question that we’d asked the children was ‘Why do you think it is important that music brings the world together ?’
And so early in the morning of our second to last day we were walking up to Gola Fortunate once again.


This time we’d given them the first hour and so we’d see the headmistress first and ask her how she wanted to do it. Whether in the classrooms or in her office ?
The Headmistress decided on her office, and sent a runner to fetch the first winner.


When she turned up the poor lass thought she’d done something wrong, but seeing us there as well hopefully put her mind at rest ?
Our second winner was unfortunately not at school that day, but our third winner was, and so we praised her also and said thank you very much for being part of the whole Rhythms of The World thing.


Their contribution would be gracing the stage again next year so long as we had a festival and although they were only rumours, it did look like it was actually going to happen again as a proper festival and not the three gigs we had this year.
We took a few pictures with everybody’s permission and the Headmistress got us copies of the winning entries and I have to admit I was impressed with their efforts.
Ok, I’m writing this after the event from notes I took at the time, but you have to admit they came pretty close to what it’s all about.

Here’s Ida Secka’s winning entry:

Here’s Amie Camara’s winning entry:

And here’s Amie Ceesay’s winning entry:

Do you notice anything strange ?
The winners were all girls.
I’m guessing that had the question been asked in the UK or the USA or Japan, or most of Europe even, then we’d have had at least one boy or possibly two among them ?
The whole music thing is definitely predominantly male based in the UK although the women do come through occasionally.
It’s more prevalent in the USA because a. The country is a lot larger, and b. The genres are authentic to the differing regions and so girls growing up learning their family’s instruments are a lot more common.  
And before we get into arguments on the subject, I’m talking about musicians, and NOT winners of television talent shows.
When did a real group or a real singer/songwriter ever win one of those ?
You could probably count them on the fingers of one hand after you’ve had an industrial accident !
Too cynical ?
I don’t think so.
So what I was so pleased about is that our three winners had obviously thought about the question that we had posed.
Out in The Gambia, being a musician was definitely a male preserve.
There were some outstanding female musicians, but they were very few and most of those were from griot families.
We’d had one at Rhythms a year ago.
Sona Jobarteh.
Probably the world’s foremost female kora player.
But Sona comes from a griot family and so it will be in her genetic makeup.
Her Father and Uncles are all musicians too.
So having three little girls win our competition was a definite eye-opener.
The times are definitely a’changing because young girls are still expected to defer to the male members of their families.
I’d like to see Amadou try that on with his sisters.
The results could be quite entertaining…
And music was not even part of the Gambian school curriculum.
But with the internet revolution it was now available to all.
No… Things are changing.
I can’t speak for any of the other countries in the African continent but Gambian kids listen, and they know what they like.
And it’s not just Madonna or Rhiannon or the big hitters either, they listen to things that we might take for granted, and it’s not like they have adventurous radio stations, they don’t.
The one that does play western music is from 9am until 12.00midday and I’m guessing it’s a sop for the tourist industry ?
The rest is rap, hip-hop and reggae with a smattering of African music.
So do the math’.
The Gambia is just one small country in Africa but the kids know who Bruce Springsteen is, and they know who Dolly Parton is, and I’m not just talking about our family either.
Amadou had asked for a cd of an Irish folkie type band that I’d never even heard of.
Why ?
Because he knew somebody who had mentioned they liked them, looked them up himself and decided that yes, they were a band for him.
At least I’d heard of the singer that Hassanatou had asked for, even though I hadn’t a clue what she sounded like ?
(New Country should you want the genre ?)
Now multiply that by the amount of children in Africa with access to the internet.
You can see what I’m getting at here…
The times are a’changing because they are not cut off any more.
So yeah, I’m pleased with our winning entries, pleased that the girls came out on top, and even more pleased that they felt that they could compete as equals.
Because in my wife’s time that would not have occurred.

After the presentations the Headmistress told us about our pair.
Apparently Mariama’s name has been put forward for Head Girl ?
This is a bit of a worry because our little drum monster knows all the dodges, and so the Headmistress thinks that she’d be better off as Assistant Head Girl helping out the Head Girl.
She has a valid point, and when I said (and explained) ‘You mean set a poacher to catch a poacher’ ?
She said ‘Exactly that’.
Haddy and I just looked at each other and laughed…
Yep.
That sounds like the Mariama we know and love.
She’d also not gone in for the competition.
When she was asked why, she’d replied that she already had that t-shirt and she didn’t think it fair that she might get another one if she’d won it, and so she’d ruled herself out.
Haddy and I just looked at each other…
That definitely sounded like Mariama.
Her sense of what is right and what is wrong does sometimes put a few adults we could name to shame. 


As for Jalika, she was getting more confident in joining in everything.
She was still quiet.
(Very quiet compared to Mariama)
But her quietness was deceptive.
She took things in and thought about them before she committed herself.
And her French was amazing.
She’d really taken to it, pleasing her teacher immensely.
It had been a slow haul but she was beginning to get the hang of this learning business.
AND…
She hadn’t thumped anybody for ages, so they were all hoping that her earlier ripostes to those she felt threatened by were behind her ?
I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate, bearing in mind what had occurred in the last week, but I’m happy to go along with it. 
So, a quick trip to see the pair of them in their classes and a few more photographs and that was it.
Mariama as Head Girl or Assistant Head Girl ?
Oh well, it’s her last year at Gola Fortunate.
She will be going to a Senior School next September and that will be an interesting time…
The fact that the Headmistress trusted her enough to consider her nomination would hold her in good stead when she changed.
I think Haddy and I need to have a chat about her future because I don’t know enough about the Gambian school system.
The only thing I do know is that St Theresa’s is regarded as one of the best if not the best in the country ?
But like everything else, times change…
Now let’s try and have a relaxing time for the rest of the day, shall we ?

We walked slowly home and discussed the children.
Haddy wasn’t sure about St Theresa’s any more.
She thought maybe St Peter’s was a better bet for Mariama ?
I suppose we’ll have to find out nearer the event ?
When she told me where St Peter’s was, I didn’t believe her.
It’s a two taxi ride, and it’s a good few miles away off the main road leading to the airport.
Still, nothing we can do about it now and so it’s home to a cup of tea, I reckon ?
We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon shelling even more peanuts.
Thankfully it had been a bumper crop this year and it seemed every family we knew had loads of them.
There certainly seemed to be enough to go round.
And then round about two in the afternoon, Haddy went inside, and left me to change the music on the computer.
I did, and stuck Rokia Traore on.
Rockia is a Malian singer/songwriter and plays guitar a bit.
She’s a striking looking woman with her man style short hair and looks like she could have been a top model in another life.
Anyway, Google her up and play something if you’ve never heard of her before, I think you might find it worth it ?
Screw it !
Just click on the link below to a one hour forty minute gig and it’s done.
The album I was playing was entitled ‘Tchamantche’, and now try and picture this…
I’m sitting on a mat in the middle of the compound.
Hassanatou is over by the kitchen sorting out some food, and Haddy is sitting inside the house when this old lady (probably about sixty to seventy but it’s sometimes difficult to work out, out there) came in through our front gates and made straight for me.
I stood up and motioned her to take one of the chairs scattered about, but before she sat she started talking…
And I didn’t recognise the language.
When the locals speak in any of the local languages they tend to use one predominantly and mix in a few from the others if they want specific meanings but this certainly wasn’t one of them and even I knew that.
It sounded like there was a bit of French in there, but I couldn’t be sure ?
So, stumped, I said ‘wait there’ and went to fetch Haddy.
Haddy came out and asked the old girl inside where she insisted on sitting on the floor rather than a chair and started shelling nuts…
See… Everybody does it.
Anyway, it turns out that this lady has been in The Gambia for just over a year and is a refugee from the Islamic Taliban in Mali.
Things started getting a bit fierce down her way and rather than stay and be terrorised by a different form of Islam than the one she’d grown up with, her family had scattered and she’d found herself in The Gambia.
So imagine her surprise while walking up to the main road from Fajikunda to hear Malian music coming from one of the compounds, and being played by ‘un blanc’ as well ?
She literally thought she was dreaming.
So would we mind if she stayed and listened to the music as she had not heard any of her own country’s music for a long time.
She was happy to help shell nuts while she was doing so if we’d let her  ?
Hey !
What can you say ?
Haddy tried offering her a drink but she only wanted a few sips of water.
I asked her via Haddy if she passed this way often, as the family did have some Malian music in the house, and were somebody to be in, then I’m sure nobody would mind if the kids put it on so that she could listen to a bit more ?
But no…
She didn’t feel able to do that as it would be imposing.
Just as Rokia’s cd was finishing I switched her to Toumani Diabate and that’s when her tears started…
There was nothing wrong, it had just been a very emotional afternoon for her.
This had been the sort of music that she knew throughout her whole body.
About twenty minutes later Mariama and Jalika came back from school and before she went in to change, Mariama stopped to see who was playing.
‘Hmmmph…’
And indoors to change they both went.
Within seconds the pair of them are out again, Mariama holding her Mother’s copy of another Toumani cd, and a copy of Fatoumata Diawara’s as well.
‘Uncle Chris, play these as well…’
‘You know what they are then’ ?
‘Everybody knows who they are…’
I’m not sure that’s particularly true, but within this family it’s a possible if not a probable.
The next thing we know is that the two little one’s are talking to the old lady in French and she’s gabbling away like a good’un.
About ten minutes later she got up to leave us.
Haddy asked her to stay for some food but she wouldn’t, and told her that she had imposed on us long enough and she was leaving now, but thank you for the afternoon as it had meant a lot to her…
And she left.
That wasn’t just odd, that was totally surreal.
I wonder if we’ll ever see her again ?
I’d like to think she might come back again sometime, but who knows.
We’ll have to wait and see ?
What was it our Rhythms winners had written ?
Music brings happiness ?
Music brings people together ?
They’d got that bang on the button !

It had been a good day.