Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The Third Gambian Experience Part Four (If The Thunder Don't Get You Then The Lightning Will...).

Photo's from the top:-

3x from the soundcheck.
2x from 'A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall'.
1x from 'Welcome Barack Obama'.
Hadim & colleague.
Colleague and Jally.
Famara in suit.
Some of the crowd.
A couple of little monsters.
Joy's 'Cookie Krew'.
Cookie Krew in action.
Jalex in action.
Jalex and Mariama in action.
The gang with Jalex after the gig.
Kawsu and Jalex after the gig.

Must be morning...
I can hear the Mullah again, or if it isn't him it'll be one of his assistants and if memory serves that means it's time to hit the shower before the rising main decides to go cold and then give up altogether in about an hour's time...
Trouble is... I'm knackered and all I want to do is sleep but I know if I don't get up I'll be in bed till ten and that isn't going to do me any good at all...
The rollercoaster starts today.
Ain't no doubts about that...
Now let me tell you a couple of things about me and gigs...
I get nervous before I go on stage.
It's not that crippling sort of stagefright, but it does manifest itself in other ways and so it's always a good idea if I've got something to occupy myself with before it occurs, and it will occur at some point... Usually when I get to the venue or when I've changed into whatever I'm wearing on stage, and what's more, it never fails to happen.
I won't eat immediately before a gig and I don't drink anything apart from tea or soft drinks until I'm safely back home again.
I suppose it's a good thing in a way because when you get blase about things then you usually do a really rubbish performance so it does tend to keep you on your toes when you hit the mic' for the first poem or song or whatever ?
If I'm playing one of my regular haunts in the area I live in England it still occurs, so I guess it's just me ?
If I know a few of those in the audience then it's not quite so bad, as you can guage a reaction by what you've done previously and if you can make them laugh then you're winning, but tonight's gig is an unknown by any previous standards, so a nice quiet day just pottering about doing this and that and any and all inconsequential things, but nothing too taxing in the thought department and since we've sorted out our setlist we know what we're doing...
Well, that's the plan.
A couple of hours later, Joy turns up for breakfast.
She's been up most of the night with Famara, who, by the sound of things, has walked her halfway round the village and stopped in every (non alcoholic) bar for a coffee.
Poor thing.
If it isn't her thyroid playing up neccessitating an operation when we get back, then it's a form of narcolepsy which means she'll be animatedly rabbiting away and suddenly she'll go out like somebody flicked an off switch.
She'll usually be straight back into the conversation within ten to fifteen minutes but it can be difficult, especially for those unaware of her condition.

Something is bothering me but I can't quite put my finger on it and the feeling has stayed with me since we got here but it's beyond me what it is until Joy suddenly says that she wonders if they'll sell all those tickets ?
At that moment the penny drops...
I've seen them, too.
There are rolls of them piled in Haddy's bedroom...
Normally, if I'm promoting or appearing then I've done my homework and I know approximately who the target audience will be.
This time I haven't done any of those things.
I'm just the artist here and it's not my place and until I'm asked then that's the way it stays.
I've met the musicians we're working with and sorted out a setlist that suits both of us but the rest I've left up to other people...
I still haven't a clue what equipment we'll be using for a p.a. as a 'for instance' ?
so a quick prayer to the Gig God to please make sure we've got a couple of half way reasonable mic's, some foldback (That's a stage monitor so we can hear each other properly while we're on stage, for them as haven't a clue what I'm on about) and a couple of mic' stands, as I much prefer it static rather than hand held, and somebody who knows what they're doing behind the sound desk...
It's not a lot to ask but if you could see your way to sorting out any and all of my very (I thought) reasonable request, then I promise I'll be good and I won't deliberately 'wind up' the audience.
I do however, reserve the right to self defence in any way, shape or form and that includes verbally as well as physically...

As soon as breakfast is over Sainey turns up, and we also learn that even though it's friday night, since the gig doesn't start until 9pm we've lost most of the little ones as the vast majority will be tucked up in bed...
We've still got Ida and Mariama but we've lost the rest...
Damn !
To be honest I never even gave that a thought as everybody was going along with it but if I were one of the younger one's parents I would probably be thinking along the same lines...
Damn, damn, damn !
Oh well, it can't be helped and I do understand their concern so no worries and we'll get by with whoever we've got ?
Now I did think we were all meeting up at 3pm at the hall for the soundcheck but the 'doodle' that Sainey had been playing with all day yesterday has now become a fully fledged song... A little tentative perhaps but he's got it now and it surely ain't a doodle no more.
If you check your dates then you will know that a couple of days before we arrived a certain Barack Obama was elected as the new President of the U.S.A. and ol' Barack, being black, has galvanised opinion everywhere.
The fact that a black man has just made it to the top of the heap in the richest and most powerful country on the planet has become a talking point everywhere and not just Britain and the U.S.A.
People are talking about it in The Gambia, too, and Sainey has just written a song about it.
It's a simple little ditty sung and played in that rolling 'African' guitar style but it fits in with what we're doing so why not ?
As soon as we've got the breakfast things out of the way we clear the decks for action and the minidisk is out and ready.
If this song is going to be part of our set and I can see no reason why not as we're all in this together, then we're going to have to have it down to run through with Hadim and Jally when we get there ?
Sainey's confidence is quite high now the others have come on board, and for a septugenarian he's buzzing...
Two run throughs to get his vocals up...
Come on... You're on stage singing it... It's your song and you're happy with it and it means something...
Come on Sainey, sing it like you mean it...
And he does, and we get a recording, but sitting listening to the playback we know there is something missing but the big question is what ?
The song itself is ok but it needs that little extra something to make it stand out and suddenly Joy has an idea if she can remember the wording which she can't...
Oh well, that's that then.
'No it isn't... It's probably still on your 'phone' she says, looking at me...
So, twenty minutes spent going through old text messages (It's suprising how many you end up with if you don't delete that often) and I finally find it...
You know what ?
She was right.
A spoken intro' over a four bar guitar figure and after a couple of run throughs we're ready to record it to minidisk but...
It's lunchtime so we;ll break for lunch and continue afterward.
The problem with cheaper minidisks of which category mine is, is one of mono recording.
You have to make it into fake stereo on a computer programme.
It doesn't sound too bad once it's done but it sounds awful in playback when you don't have the facilities to do it there and then.
Bringing the computer extension speakers gives it a bit more depth but it's still only one channel. Oh well, it can't be helped, we'll just have to make do and we do get a recording.
It's not perfect but it's adequate and I tell Sainey that I'll have to work on it at home when I can get the computer programme I need off a friend (Hi Josh' See you when I get back).

All the guys go off for 3pm to let in the p.a. guy and to put out chairs.
Haddy, Joy, Sainey and I are supposed to be in the second car load...
Which would be great if he would only come back for us but 'Tufa is nowhere to be seen or heard. At 4.30 I tell Haddy that since we've got two musicians waiting for us then I'll get a taxi so she tries 'Tufa again on the 'phone and this time she gets through.
He's coming back for us now.
When we finally get there, Hadim is waiting for us but Jally is nowhere in sight.
Apparently he was there at 3.00 until 3.30 but since the p.a. bloke hasn't arrived and still bloody well hasn't when we arrive at 4.45, he's gone home to wait in comfort and although it's a pain in the arse, I can't blame him.
To be honest I'd probably have done the same thing if I were him ?
We started up a practice session with Hadim just to get Sainey's song in place and that was sorted after two run throughs...
Trouble is without amplification we're going to have to do it all over again when Jally gets back just to balance the sound of Sainey's vocals with Jally's kora.
At 6.30 pm a guy with a small p.a which looks somewhat like a disco outfit arrives.
It turns out he's a replacement for the original one who still hasn't turned up so at least we can get a soundcheck going which we proceed to do.
We've got two unmatched mic's and no stands and no monitors, plus not enough inputs on the desk for all of us and there's only five until nearly the end when we should have about fifteen to twenty on stage but even if we can't mic' up the girls in our 'choir', they are going to be loud enough to compete and probably to drown us out anyway, should they want to ?
It takes a bit of work but we finally get a sound out of the p.a. that we're prepared to work with so now maybe I can relax ?
Forget it !
There's a war going on outside and I can hear Haddy above the p.a.
Shit !
What's going on now ?
It turns out that the original p.a. bloke has finally turned up and expects to be able to just replace our replacement p.a. guy.
He's having a fucking laugh...
But the 'war' is getting louder with people screaming at each other and it's beginning to get on my nerves somewhat, so out we go into the fray...
Please tell me what's going on ?
Turns out that this guy thinks he can turn up four hours late and drunk !!!!!! and run a p.a. and still do the job...
There is no fucking way that after a one and a half hour soundcheck I'm going through that again so do us all a favour and tell the guy to piss off.
He's an unprofessional twat and drunk too, and since it's my head that's going to roll if anybody gets hurt on stage I've always refused to work with drunks in charge of electrical systems...
Too much can go wrong and today's gig is no exception.
Look at it this way...
I've got two or maybe three nine year old's and a bunch of teenaged girls joining us later on that stage and I wouldn't have put my two kids up there, so why would I put up anybody else's ?
That guy is a danger to all of us.
The war is getting noisier and apparently the police have been called as this bloke is accusing our lot of breaking the contract...
He's got to be joking...
"Ok people, listen up 'cause I wanna say something...
One. I don't work with unprofessional arseholes who turn up four hours late,
and Two. I certainly don't work with drunks behind a p.a. desk.
Got it ?
Good !"
To which his reply was 'Hey, fuck you !

WRONG !!!!!!!!!!

I have to mention Lamin who managed to get himself between me and the drunken twat because otherwise I would definitely have taken his fucking head off with the first punch...
I freely admit I lost it and I seriously wanted to punch his fucking lights out.
It probably wouldn't have done any good and I'd probably have been arrested and jailed and all the rest if his friends hadn't killed me, but what the fuck !
Sometimes you don't seem to have an option and this was certainly one of those times...
I'm only ten stone and a couple of pounds soaking wet but it took three of our lot to hold me back and bundle me back inside...
Thank you Lamin, Kawsu and the other bloke who's name I've managed to forget (Sorry), where I was instructed to stay no matter what occurred outside...
and finally, after Haddy and one of the guys went to the police station, the guy was sent on his way...
Jally turned up at nine with one of Hadim's drummer colleagues who immediately blags the larger tambourine and tells us that he's joining us...
Shame that they missed all the fun but we integrate them into Sainey's song and we're ready to go, but they've not even opened the doors yet and won't until Haddy is back from the police station.
It's past 11.00pm when we finally get the nod to go on.
We were supposed to be starting at 9.00.
The all singing and dancing kids who have been practicing all week are on after us and Jalex is headlining after they've been on.
There's going to be a lot of tired people when this is over and that's a fact.
To be honest our biggest problem inside has been trying to get Mariama to leave off her skeleton outfit which she knows she'll be wearing in our first number and to keep it a surprise, but she's excited and it's a devil of a job to stop her from wearing it, but it will spoil the first number if she's seen in it before we go on so it's a constant battle of wills between me and Joy and Mariama.
Thankfully, I've calmed down somewhat and I'm ready to go but I've been like that since 5.30 this afternoon and it's nearly tomorrow right now, but at least I've changed, had a couple of coca cola's to put the sugar level up, and I'm ready for anything...
Ok, I'll quantify that...
I'm ready for nearly anything...
I just wasn't ready for what occurred.

Right... Skeleton suits.
Remember when I said I'd bought three of them.
One for Joy, one for me and the smaller one for Mariama, and I was going to keep the political aspect of my appearance within the set ?
We opened with a guy named Arthur Brown's ('I am the God of Hell Fire', for all those who remember 1968) and his shortened version of Bob Dylan's 'A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall' which is a nice happy song about World armageddon...
But I have to say it was very effective done in the skeleton suits.
Even through the plastic ears you could hear the audible intake of breath of the audience as the muso's riffed and Joy (In skeleton suit) sang the opening questions to Mariama and myself
'Oh, where have you been my blue eyed son...
where have you been, my darling young one ?'
and with Mariama and myself (In skeleton suits) we sang the reply and we're off and running...
Thank God !
Actually, going back to Arthur Brown for a minute.
I'd just like to say that we nicked our whole opening from his idea, because that's his first number when you go and see him live and his makeup and suit are absolutely brilliant... Besides, he's also got a better voice than me.
He just doesn't use the Mother/Father figure to share the vocals as we did, but does it all himself.
So credit where it's due, ok ?

So... A couple of poems, a couple of songs, a couple of poems, a song...
Something is going wrong...
We've got one heckler right out in the back of the hall who keeps calling for Jalex, who isn't even here yet, but is expected soon, plus we've got a guy on stage with us who shouldn't be there, and he keeps dancing round Joy and talking to her while she's trying to introduce her next item and I can tell it's not making her happy, until finally she gives up and just looks at him...
"Looks like she's telling you to fuck off from the stage, dude..."
He finally exits 'cause we ain't gonna, and she turns to me and says "That's it, I've had enough of this...'
Oh, come on...
Where's your attitude gone ?
You'd have floored the s.o.b. back in England, and thrown him off the stage yourself...
What's going on ?
Then the p.a. guy comes forward and asks if we can cut our set short because it's getting late and he wants to get Jalex (Who still isn't here yet) on stage as soon as possible, but we can finish off after he's been on...
Joy asks me what it'll take for me to finish now ? and I think my reply was 'Something more than rifle fire...'
But she's adamant that she's not doing any more, fuck 'em !
Ok, ok, ok... I get the picture...
We'd just finished Sainey's 'Barack Obama' song and I'm not going to let it go like that, so we'll make the announcement and finish with something appropriate, ok ?
Which we do.
It was Richard Thompson's Time To Ring Some Changes, and even in this Joy decides to make things difficult by changing the words which throws me and the musicians all...
And so we bowed out.
But what really hurt was that we were leading up to the kid's bit as the following number featured the twins and we'd be adding to them with every other song and I felt let down because they'd practiced so hard with us and now they weren't going to be on...
Just who the fuck are we and me personally working for here ?
So I went to find Haddy to find out just what the hell they think they're doing, because there is no way whatsoever that I'm going back on that stage at the end after being cut short...
Fuck 'em !
And I went off like Vesuvius did at Pompeii.
I was definitely a pissed off little bunny.
Well... I think I managed to get their attention, because I totally blew my proverbial stack.
Loud ?
You could hear my explosion above the p.a. and I certainly wasn't nice about it.
A couple of minutes later the guy who'd been on stage was ejected from the main gate along with a friend of his.
It turns out that the second one was the heckler and he was drunk... and I was told that the p.a. company shouldn't have let the guy get on stage (tell me about it) and he had no right to cut us short (tell me 'bout that, too).
I work for promotors... I don't work for p.a. companies.

Listen people, and I'll tell you something about people who get up on stage.
One. You don't let anybody on that stage once the act is under way.
Why ? Because they don't have a clue about stage safety and performer safety.
It just isn't done.
Not in England, not the U.S.A, not Germany, France, Japan, Australia or even The Gambia.
You get them off using any means necessary and if that means using a headlock or a guitar wrapped around their head, you do it.
Two. If you have two sets of open stairs leading up to the stage then you position one person on each with orders not to let anyone past under any circumstances.
Three. Once the gig is underway only the performers control the stage, and if it's the performers who are messing about, then the organisers cut the power to the stage.
It's as simple as that.
And it works everywhere in the world...
Nearly everywhere.

I then get the crap job of looking after our musician's instrument's while the rest of the gig gets underway.
Still, someone's got to do it, but truth be told now I want out, and as soon as is humanly possible. So when Joy comes over and accuses me of having a lack of respect my jaw hits the ground...
Lack of respect for this, lack of respect for that...
Whoa !
Hang on just a minute...
Yes, I swore when I hit the roof.
No, I shouldn't swear in front of Mariama or Ida, but who was it who disrespected our musicians
or our choir of kids who were actually looking forward to appearing with us by walking off the stage mid gig ?
Who was it that is so tied into the 'blackness' of the people and the country that they had to disrespect me by quite deliberately screwing up the words just to get their own way quicker ?
You wanna talk about respect then let's talk about fucking respect, but you better have a fucking good think about it before you accuse me of a lack of it.
I came out here at my own expense to do a couple of gigs to raise money for a local youth club because it's run by some friends of mine and I believe in what they're trying to do...
I didn't come for a fucking holiday... It's work, and that's why I'm here... You better start thinking why you're here, cos I'll tell you straight, I don't fuckin' know anymore ?
Sometimes that girl's pompous arrogance gets on my tits and this was definitely one of those times.
When we are on stage with whoever else we are using or who are using us then we are a self contained unit. Everybody else is an outsider.
Anybody WE wish to join us is part of it too, but it's our decision.
That's the way it is and that's the way it always has been and that's the way it always will be.
If you step out of that then you shouldn't be on the same stage.
Yes, The Gambia is different to England but I certainly don't disrespect the people.
Ninety nine plus percent of whom are some of the nicest people I've ever met on this planet, so if I blow up it's because I have a reason to do so and it's certainly not a disrespect thing.
As far as the drunken and late p.a. bloke is concerned, I wouldn't have worked with him in England and I would have said exactly the same as I did tonight.
I dislike that unprofessional attitude immensly and I really don't care who knows it and I won't work with anyone that disrespectful of me that they think that they can get away with it.
I wouldn't do it in England and I won't do it in The Gambia either.
It's a musician stage performer thing.
You know what ?
I spoke to Jalex after he'd been on and he couldn't believe what had occurred.
It just doesn't happen.
Trouble is, it did.

I missed the kids dancing as I was still guarding the instruments outside but everyone told me they were good, so that's cool.
I'm not going to go on about Jalex performance.
The guy is a singer and rapper and is great and not only that, he does it all in Mandinka and it all makes sense to non-Mandinka speakers...
He can dance a bit, too.
He deserves to be a World superstar because he's definitely THAT good.
Only time will tell but he's beginning to make waves in England and Scandinavia and I sincerely wish him luck.
Go and see him if you get the chance, he's well worth it, or check him out on this link
Or you can find him on Youtube and a few other places if you punch Jalex (Akuntu) into google or yahoo or whoever your search engine is, but his myspace is as good a place to start as any.
He's a nice guy, too...
Cut It...
We finally left the hall at about 4.30am.
It was dark but dawn was creeping up on us.
One car and about ten people, so Haddy and I walked it with Kawsu, Lamin and some of the guys, while Joy and the girls, including a very tired Mariama got in the car.
"What's the matter ?"
Like I didn't know.
No answer.
"Ok, I'll try another way... How much did you lose ?"
No answer.
"Haddy, I know you lost money on the gig, so how much ?"
"Seven thousand five hundred dalasi..."
"Have you got the funds ?"
"Ok, keep me awake and take me to the bank as soon as they open and I'll sort it".
As we got to the turn off from the main road, the local mullah started up...
"Come on, or they'll be no hot water left..."
At least I got a grin or maybe it was just a grimace that time but at least it was a reaction

We made breakfast for the pair of us when we got back while the girls went to bed and at nine o'clock I was in Standard Chartered, and by 9.15 Haddy had the funds to pay for the gig.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to bed for a couple of hours...
Trouble is, I couldn't sleep because I was still 'up'.
It's not a drug thing, it's an adrenalin thing and there had been no release.
It would have to go naturally over a period of time and until it had there would be no sleep for the wicked, or anybody else for that matter.
We've got another gig tonight with all the schoolkids if any turn up and this one's in the street...
I wonder what'll go wrong with that one ?
Ah... The perennial optimistic cynic has just surfaced.

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