Sunday, 24 March 2013


By the time we’d had a couple of hours sleep it was the middle of the afternoon...
So shower…
Shit !  That’s cold.
And stumble outside into blinding sunlight.
I have to admit I’ve seen better days…
There’s nothing wrong with blinding sunlight, it’s just when you’ve had about five hours sleep in forty eight hours it can be a bit harsh.
I think we ought to wake up the little ones in the next hour otherwise they’ll be off school again ?

It seems like some other families have the same idea…
Ida is awake, and wants to know if Sibo is ?

‘Hey, Mariama… You awake ?’
‘Ok, well Ida’s here if you are ?’
A very unsteady and bleary eyed drum monster appears in her bedroom doorway wrapped in a towel, closely followed by the smaller one of the species…
‘You ok, Jalika ?’
‘Yeah… That’s what I thought, too…  Go on, get a shower and we’ll fix you something to eat…’

Ten minutes later they are washed, dressed and up…  

I’m not sure about awake,
though ?

Which is more than can be said for us, but we better start getting ready because people have started arriving and the ‘Hey, Neneh Kombo…’ cries have started.
It’s not going to do them a blind bit of good because we’re out of here, tonight.
We’re going back to The African Village Hotel for some peace and quiet before we attempt to film the band again.
It’s only for the one night but at least it’s going to be a little bit more relaxing than staying here, and we’ll wake up to breakfast on the terrace overlooking the sea, relaxing in the sun next to the swimming pool, and being waited upon, hand and foot.
So… What’s not to like ?
Ok, we have to leave in the middle of the afternoon to do a bit of filming, but before we do we're going to do an errand for my brother and hand deliver a digital camera to one of the firemen at Bakau Fire and Rescue Station.

My brother had been here for my wedding and had struck up a conversation with one of the local sea-rescue guys, then, when he'd got back home, he'd written a nice article about his trip in the paper (The Daily Astorian) of which he's editor, and the pair of them had corresponded by e-mail ever since. 

After the filming we'll stop off at the supermarkets in Westfield to buy a bit (Bit ?) of produce on the way back, so that I can make the family a Chicken Jalfrezi , which is my choice for this trip’s family meal cooked by me, but that’s not work, is it ?
Or it shouldn’t be ?

We’re off.
Later than I’d have liked, but finally we’ve escaped…
Check in, then hit the bar just in time to see the hotel’s entertainment.
They were good.
No doubts about that.
This band could play in any hotel anywhere.
Not sure they’re quite the sort of band that’ll ‘pull’ to Club 85 back home, unlike the Afro Manding guys who I’d love to put on, but nevertheless, a good band.
Shame they had no cd’s for sale, but never mind.
They were worth the money I stuck in their collection bucket.
Another drink, then go back to the chalet, close the mosquito net around us, and sleep…

The morning opens with a heat haze over the sea.

Looking right toward Bakau fish market, from the breakfast terrace

Breakfast from Harriet, which includes bread, cheese, omelette and a couple of black coffee’s

Looking left and slightly down, from the breakfast terrace

and we’re set up for a morning’s laziness by the pool. 

The news reports on the bar’s television are an absolute nightmare.
Fighting in Syria, bombs going off in Afghanistan and Iraq, bankers bonuses in the UK, the usual catalogue of things that no man in their right mind would visit on anybody, but there it was, on Al Jazeera, so it must be true.
That last sentence is not supposed to be taken sarcastically.
Al Jazeera employs one of the best sets of news reporters in the world.
Strange, a BBC watcher saying that, but the beeb has been getting rather left-wing of late, and quite honestly it was their bunch of greedy, grasping and venal so-called politicians that got Britain into the state it is in now…
Not that you’d currently hear the BBC criticising them.
Mind you, Britain is apparently in the middle of a March heatwave !!!
It is apparently twenty degrees back there, and we're in thirty six to forty and it only drops to twenty six around midnight...
Sometimes there's no justice.
They should be suffering not enjoying themselves while we're in the sun.
Anyway, I digress…
The news is dire elsewhere but we’re here, relaxing.
A quick dip in the pool, and the rest of the time spent drying off before lunch, which in my case is the garlic prawns, a last coffee and it’s time to get ready to leave.

First it's the fire station just up the road from the hotel's entrance.
He's in but he's asleep, so one of the other guys goes to wake him up.
Well, that was something he didn't expect.

One VERY happy fire and rescue team member, and I'm glad...

Doesn't matter what continent you are on or in which country ?
These guys put their lives on the line on a daily basis to help save others in some really terrible and horrible situations sometimes, and they are ALL worthy of our respect.
Happy to do it, Bruv.

Taxi to Banjul, and we’re there.
I’ve had instructions from Macumba as to where to find them.
Entrance to bar opposite the back way into the craft market.
Past the closed and locked toilets (Ominous) and we are in.
It’s obviously a ‘bar’ for the local traders as nobody is going to find it otherwise.
The bar does have a seafront view however, albeit from behind a mesh grille, but it also has a low metal roof
so there could be a bit of echo on this recording ?
First things first, though…
‘Right, who wants a drink before we start ?’
Five coke’s and a couple of Fanta’s later and we’re ready.
‘And as for you, Mister No-Show…’
‘I’m here now…’ said Jally
‘Yeah, but Hadim isn’t, he’s in mourning for his Father… But, we’ll get what we can’.

Hadim wasn’t the only one missing.
Their ballaphon player has had to work and wasn’t going to make it, either.

We filmed for just under an hour, getting some (hopefully ?) 



                                                                                                                                                                                                            of hands on drums                                                                         

and plucking strings of koras. 

It certainly makes a difference with Jally here because it means the vocal centre of all the songs is intact.
It’s alright practicing and playing around them, but vocals do tend to ‘define’ (Is that the right word. Yes, I think it is ?) a song, especially when, strictly speaking, it’s music that people dance to.

You get all the little nuances that otherwise would be missed.
Changing the subject slightly, I think Frank Zappa was right in what he said, in that ‘Writing about music is like dancing about architecture…’ Or something along those lines anyway ?

How do I even convey half of what we saw, photographed and filmed ? 

You had to be there.

You had to see it all happening and you had to hear it. 

Then maybe you’d understand why I want to help these guys ?
At one point, Doudou, the band’s manager, has to go out to the beach to remonstrate with a guy who has got it into his head that he can interrupt what we are attempting to do and screw me for money.
See… It’s that fucking ‘Screw the Toubab’ shit again…
Just because I’m white for Chrissakes ?
Let’s get it sorted once and for all.
That plain enough for everybody ?
My money that I earn is for my family and my friends.
The fact that I have friends and family on three continents is sometimes not a help, but to be accused of ‘stealing the Mandinka culture’ by this poncing bumster when we’d paid our own way here, were doing the whole thing for the band who are my friends, and wanted absolutely nothing whatsoever  in return, was going a bit far.
Far enough for me to put down my camera and go for the fucker…
Which is why Doudou intervened, and he’s twice the size I am.
A little bit of ‘remonstrating’ by Doudou and he was gone.
Pissed me off, though.

We got as much footage as we could, and hopefully I’d got a separate recording that they could use if the film was useless ?

Jally on ballophon and Haddy filming

What we’d taken previously had looked alright whilst still in the camera, but who knew what would show up when subjected to the professional editing suite ?
If it all comes out then who knows, but at least they might get something they could use on YouTube or Facebook, because that is what they need ?
Something to show the people of the world their talent.
So we do what we can and the band do what they can, and hopefully something good might come of it ?
That’s what we are attempting.
To empower the band to such an extent that they can empower others...
It comes with a responsibility, because what if others don’t think the same way as I do ?
Can’t see it happening like that, though...
These guys are much too good for that.
And if you don’t and can’t see any worth, then let’s just agree to differ ?
At least you gave it a fair shake.
Anyway, we’re trying in our own way, and that’s what it’s all about.

As we pack up there is more joshing with Jally as he wants money for his taxi back home.
To be fair to him, he lives in Sennagambia which is the farthest away of all of them, but his constant spongeing of money has earned him his nickname and they don’t call it him for nothing
May-ma-pas (It means I am asking money for my fare…)
He takes it all in good part however which is just as well because we all call him that, even Haddy and I who have been ‘conned’ previously…

Before we take our leave, Macumba asks us to come to his stall on the market where he presents me with a painting of a drummer and dancer done in the local style.

Apparently they all thought that was the appropriate painting, and then Doudou presents us with two wooden carved African masks, male and female, as a ‘thank you’ for our efforts. 

That came right out of the blue so I’m totally tongue-tied, but it definitely came from the heart and it’s difficult to see through the glazing eyeballs right now.
Hell !  That WAS emotional.
It pulls you every which way in your head and body and anybody thinking ‘What a clutz ?  How can something that simple affect you like that ?’ must seriously have a heart of stone.
I love those guys.
It totally blew my cynical veneer right out the window...
We stopped off at Westfield on the way back, for a couple of bits I needed for the meal tomorrow and… They had them in stock… And they had some beer… And they had some more of the tobacco brand that I smoke at a better price than I'd get at the airport duty free.
It had been a good day so far...

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