Tuesday, 26 August 2014


Yippee !!!
I’ve finally got a day with the kids.
Haddy’s off to a naming ceremony, and although I’ve also got an invite I’m begging off.
So if everything goes ok, then I’ve got the whole middle section of the day from about ten thirty to three and that’ll suit me fine.
More than enough time to just let them run riot.
It’s difficult after school because Ida is currently getting extra lessons and so all the evenings give them about an hour and it’s not enough for them to practice much.
At least they’ve been getting about three hours every Friday but if they are actually going to do anything then they are going to need a lot more than that.
But it’s a chance to have a first look and listen.
And… I get to sort out their lunch or at least a snack half way through.

Come the day and Sibo sorts the midday snack first thing in the morning.
It’s only a bit of rice and a few veggie bits and bobs
I’ve just added three small lemony tasting meatballs each so that’ll keep us going.
We have drinks in the freezer, batteries in the video camera and minidisk recorder and so it looks like we’re all set ?
Now all we need is Ida…

Right, Ida’s arrived and so we all retire to Mum’s bedroom.
All the drums are on the floor in front of the wardrobes as are three chairs.
The percussion is all at the end of the bed in piles.
A pile of shakers, a pile of calabash and percussion eggs, a child’s plastic tambourine which will have to do until I can get them the real thing, and Mariama’s small balofon.
I’ve stuck the minidisk recorder on a tray halfway down the bed so that they don’t keep knocking it.
Basically everything they might want to pick up is in easy reach of the three of them, so let’s get it on.

First things first…
Sit the three of them down and explain slowly and patiently what I need from them which is literally just them doing their thing vocally and with drums and percussion.
I don’t expect miracles but I do want them to be themselves and not to pretend that they are somebody else singing the songs.
Hopefully they will treat today as a practice and although I’m going to record them for listening later, probably when I’m back in the UK, any mistakes won’t really matter.
If they can sing together then let’s have a good try at doing just that.
Just pick any song that you all know and have a go at it.
Any changes or mistakes can be talked through later.
Today I just need the ‘feel’ of the three of them with the songs and so we won’t be doing any half-learned English things, just the songs that they know and grew up singing.
It doesn’t matter how many times they sing it either, once, twice, three times, it doesn’t matter, all that matters is how they put the songs over.
Preferably going on to another song if they keep getting one wrong and coming back to the previous one when they’ve tried out another…
And… There shouldn’t be any interruptions so there shouldn’t be any pressure (famous last words…)
Oh, and one last thing…
IF you are a group then try to be a group. I don’t want to hear any of you trying to boss the others about because that won’t work at all… Are you listening Sibo, because you are prone to doing it ?
So please, just relax and sing songs, play drums, play percussion, however you want to do it will be fine by me.
All I need is to hear what you can do and after that we’ll take it from there…

 Two hours later and they stop for their first drink.
The minidisk has been recording everything and I’ve got a bit on the video camera.
A fifteen minute break to stretch our legs outside and we’re back in for the next try.

 Another hour and we break for food.
Most of their conversations are in Wolof so I don’t have a clue what they are on about unless they are asking questions, but it only took about twenty minutes since they started for them to throw off any vocal mannerisms from other people and any shyness  and from that moment on they have been singing as themselves.

How to describe them ?
Well, a girlie Crosby Stills and Nash isn’t too wide of the mark if we’re westernising things, in that there are three distinct voices.
Ida has a ‘Big’ voice.
When she seriously lets go you could probably hear her over the road in her own compound.

The fact that she stays totally in tune throughout is
a bonus.

Mariama has a ‘pop’ voice and she moves about too much.
Whether that is down to trying to drum a rhythm track at the same time remains to be seen ?
If she kept herself still then she wouldn’t lose the end of the line as much as she does, but her voice does actually harmonize with Ida’s and when she's still
and not moving about she stays in tune too.

As for Jalika, she’s the ‘wildcard’.
Her voice isn’t pretty in the accepted sense, but she has an inbuilt intuition as to where to place it within a harmony.
I’d heard her do it with Sibo the last time we came out, but now she’s doing it with Ida as well.
God knows how she does it, but she does ?
And so when the three of them are singing together, her voice is the ‘glue’ that holds the other two together.
You can’t always hear her above the other two, but if she’s not there you notice it.
So yeah, a girlie CSN is the closest way of describing it.
Well, that’s on first impressions anyway and after lunch they’re hopefully going to do another couple of hours until everybody gets home ?

All I can say is that the next couple of hours went past in a flash.
No sooner had we started than we seemed to finish.
The three of them are totally worn out and sung out.
What was noticeable is that Sibo drives the other two, but Jalika, being three years younger, holds her own and by the end it was her song choices they were trying.
And her choices were somewhat different to the other two.
What intrigued me most is that she has a sense of comedy and satire and she's only ten going on eleven.
They were singing songs of family and folk songs until Jalika hijacked them and started a song about their government not doing anything for the family but only doing it for themselves.
It's obviously something that she's heard around because it's not likely to have been getting much play on their local radio stations...
Now typically with her inbuilt sense of what is right and what is wrong I might have expected Sibo to try something like that, but it was Jalika who led them into it... 

Ida’s voice is something else.
She still has that ‘young girl’ sound in her singing, but power ?
You could plug her into the country's national grid and she could power most of it with a voice like that…
And, quite honestly, I am very pleased at what they managed to accomplish in those few hours because at the end they actually WERE a group.

It took a while but they got there in the end, and now when they listen to it back they can criticize themselves rather than each other.
Now they have heard themselves they know where each of them screwed up but they can’t blame the others because any mistakes seemed to be shared equally between the three of them.
It’s a first step but it’s a big one for those kids.
They actually passed their first test…
What happens when they try out some western songs is seriously going to test them because they won’t need all their voices and one of them is going to have to take a lead and somebody else is going to have to do backing and/or harmony, but if they can get themselves through that then there is no reason they can’t build on it for themselves.
Phew !!!
When you get yourself into these situations, especially when two of them are your own children, your sense of relief that a. It’s over, and b. That they do actually have ‘something’, and you don’t have to try and dissuade them, is palpable.
I think I must feel as drained as they do ?

Thursday, 21 August 2014


It’s day two and Baddou and Yama and the family are coming back for another go.
Not that it matters because we still have more than enough lamb for all of us.
Mind you, the way people eat out here there won’t be any left at the end of the day and that’s for sure…

As it’s the second day we are expecting all the locals to turn up dressed ‘European’ so this could be fun.
Not the adults, just the children and younger teenagers, and they will still be asking for money…
Oh well, tradition is tradition but if they did that in the U.K. then their parents would all be arrested for sending their children out to beg and Social Services would be doing their level best to take all the children into care…
You ever thought why Social Services are called that ?
I’ve always felt that those letters SS suit them to perfection…
They certainly seem to act like the Gestapo in a lot of the cases highlighted by the newspapers and probably a lot more we are never likely to hear about ?
But this is different.
This is 'Sallybo'.
This is more like it should be.
Well, that’s what I think, anyway.
To be fair they do tend to pick on family, friends and relatives as opposed to the general population but it’s not always the case.
I still remember getting totally ‘mugged’ by the lads who staked out the entrance to the African Village Hotel and clobbered every tourist either going in or coming out.
Ok, fair enough you don’t have to give them anything, but they had made a serious effort and I still think that their cheek added to a little bit of tenacity should have been rewarded.
So… Wash, get dressed, eat breakfast, clean house and compound, do chores (like last night’s washing up…) wash again, get dressed up…
And beg !
I know Mariama and Jalika have plans but I have no idea what as yet ?

The day is just flashing by.
Baddou and Yama will be here in the early afternoon after their family have done the same.
Apparently I am to go over to the local shop and buy a whole bottle of lollipops and a couple of packets of chewy sweets as most of our money has run out ?
Ok, sweets it is.
That’s going to disappoint the local kids, I know that.
Still, they hit us big time yesterday so they’ll just have to lump it.

I did actually film our pair getting ready so if you want to watch it you can click on this link…

Thankfully, Haddy switched to English while I was filming it and so you’ll get the idea a little easier than if she’d stuck to Wolof ?

Then of course Ida turned up, and the triumvirate was complete…

Giggles, Sibo & Little Miss Ali: Blood Sisters
They were out for about three hours and when they came back they shot inside to their bedroom with Ida and fifteen minutes later came out after dividing their ill-gotten gains…
Three hundred and sixty four dalasi each.
That’s over one thousand dalasi which for an afternoon of blagging money from everybody they knew isn’t a bad haul, is it ?
They’d clobbered ‘Tapha Kebbeh and their elder brother Amadou, and then Ida had taken them off to one of her relatives and they had done him over as well.
Everybody they knew had been targeted.
At one point they even got a taxi into Westfield to fleece somebody else.
Christ !!!
You’ve got to hand it to them.
It still makes me laugh just thinking about it.
And Mariama is so plausible…
‘Ten dalasi ? For Sallybo ?  What can we buy with ten dalasi ?   You are rich and we are just children needing pencils for school.  If that is all you have, then please keep it as you obviously need it more than we do...'
And another one hundred and fifty dalasi is handed over…
It seemed to work like a dream.
The kids are happy with it anyway.
Three hundred will get them enough cloth for a new dress, and if they’re not too extravagant will get them a pair of shoes as well.
So that’s alright then.

Baddou and Yama and the kids turn up late afternoon.
They stayed for dinner and then begged-off.
I thought they’d be here for a bit longer but apparently they have things to do ?
Ok, that just leaves us, and thankfully no visitors unless you count Ida and to be honest she might as well be family anyway.
So Mariama and Ida started messing about as they always do, and then this occurred…
I did tell you earlier that they had decided to form a group and sing together, well this is the first time I’d actually heard them do it properly.
Ably assisted by big sisters Awa and Housai’, and my darling wife coming in to do the male part…
The song is a Gambian folk song and is entitled 'Kai Len Nyu Roti Ten Jor' which roughly translated means 'Let's Go and Fetch Water From the Well'.
If you watch it, then Ida is acting the female part carrying the water and Mariama is acting the male part hoeing the crops in the field.

Well that answers one question…
Yes… They can actually sing together.

Monday, 4 August 2014


It’s Tobaski…
Crunch time !
Do I or don’t I ?
First things first, cold shower because the kids have nicked all the hot water, get dressed and think about breakfast…
Sardines in baguette thingie (the bigger one than a tapa-lapa) which I’m always forgetting the name of, followed by a large cup of tea and wander outside into direct sunlight.
I think it’s going to be a hot one because it’s not so muggy as yesterday, besides we are still in the rainy season so when it builds up it really does build up.
Banging on the gates !!!
It’s Fansu from over the road, and he’s brought a friend with him…

Fansu delivering dinner...

Four legs, ugly, and bleating away like a good’un.
Which brings all the kids out and Fansu’s mate is immediately christened…
I knew this was going to happen.
Now it’s got a name I might not want to kill it, but on the other hand we called it ‘Gaddafi’ so I still might ?
I've paid out about a hundred quid for this ?
Anyway, Fansu says it needs a wash, and so the scrubbing brush comes out while ‘Gaddafi’ starts eating every bit of leaf it can reach on Haddy’s shrubs.
Finally the job is done and Fansu says he’ll be back in about an hour, while ‘Gaddafi’ is tethered to where he can do the least harm.


More banging on the gates and Baddou and his family have arrived. 

N'Dey, looking a bit sad...


His sister has recently died and so he has taken over the looking after of her two children also, so we’ve got N’Dey and his sister’s two, plus baby Awa and wife Yama.

Baby Awa

Baddou's late sister's pair (sorry kids, but I don't have your names)
Eldest daughter Haddy has gone to one of her friends where she has an invite so she’ll be the missing one today.
It’s a shame but Baddou’s sister’s little girl is definitely not well.
I think it’s probably just a cold, but we’ll keep an eye out to make sure she’s alright.
The lad is fine though, doesn’t seem as if anything is wrong with him ?
He looks about eight to ten years, but is quite striking in his outfit, and he does look out for his little sister.
Kawsu’s arrived…
Something is going on.
And it’s not just Gaddafi, I can smell it ?
And finally…
I will not be killing Gaddafi because I am not a Muslim and to be done properly he needs the prayer before they do it !!!
Cue laughter track... (from EVERYBODY ELSE in the compound)
You’ve all kept me wound up for the last how many months telling me that because I’m head of the household I have to do it, and now I don’t ?
And what’s more even Sibo and Jalika were in on it ?
Ha bloody ha !
Good joke.
Just don’t ask me for any pocket money because I’ve seriously been having kittens over having to do it, now I’m going to get my own back…
Ok, the butt of the joke is me, but how they all managed to keep straight faces through God knows how many skype calls over the last few months is beyond me ?
That has to be one of the best wind-up’s ever.
But I will have my revenge…
I think it’s Awa and the twins who perpetrated it with Haddy’s collusion ?
Damn !!!
I need a beer…

So… Everybody has been offered a drink and everybody is here except Fansu, therefore I’m going to sort out today’s 'sounds' which are a judicious mixture of Gambian stuff that they know, Youssou N’Dour which they also know, a few of the kid’s favourites and a few of Haddy’s and mine.
Want to know what the playlist included ?
Youssou N’Dour, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Mickey Hart Band, Grateful Dead, Los Lobos, Dr John, Levon Helm, Fairport Convention, Sona Jobarteh, Afro Manding of The Gambia, Fatoumata Diawara, Rokia Traore, Tinariwen, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Jackson Browne and CSNY off the top of my head…
It was quite varied to say the least.

And now Fansu’s back…
A quick conversation with Kawsu, and the pair of them take Gaddafi around the back of the house along with Baddou and a very sharp knife.
Fansu says he’ll be back for the knife later…

All the rest of the food has been prepared by Awa, Yama and Hassanatou.
If it hadn't been censored to nonsensical ends by Youtube, you could have watched a video of the occasion, but unfortunately it fell foul of the 'copyright' laws, having a musical soundtrack as it did.
Bummer ! 
Haddy has taken charge of the meat.
Anyone for a lamb chop ?

Most of it has vanished over the road to the compounds opposite via the Sibo delivery service.
I have however requested a leg to be placed in the freezer for later…
A LOT later.
That comes out when Tobaski has been and gone, and THEN I’ll cook it.
The problem is that people walk by and smell it cooking and then invite themselves…
I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that ?
Visitors come and go...

Pa Musa

 Pa Musa...

Buba' Sainey

Buba'  Sainey
But I have to confess I am totally stuffed when we finish eating…
BURP !!!
And I don’t think I’m the only one ?
Of course all the local children make a bee-line for our compound when they realise we’re actually there.
All of them are dressed to the nines.
Smart new outfits, wraps and dresses. 

Fatou Bintou and the girls

It’s all there.

Baby Sarjo, and the lads
Here’s a few shots of some that we know. 

A very shy group led by Binta on the left who seems to have turned into a young lady from her 'Dennis the Menace' persona eighteen months ago...

And they all go off happily after Haddy has paid them…
Trouble is, they then tell all their friends and so it’s never ending…
It’s going to happen again tomorrow but with ‘Western’ or ‘European’ dress.
I think the money will run out first.

Ok, it’s middle to late afternoon and most of the local children we know have been in and admired and paid for their efforts.
Our lot and Baddou’s bunch are quite happily playing and messing about as kids do, but there’s a bunch outside, all boys, who despite being asked constantly not to, keep opening our compound gate and shouting that they want meat, and to be honest they are getting on my tits somewhat.
Not just mine, but they are disturbing our nice mellow atmosphere we’ve got going.
Haddy has already told them to get lost and they still haven’t, so when they swing the gate open again, I’m behind it…
‘Oi, come on you lot, scram… You’re beginning to annoy people…’
‘Give us meat, toubab…’
‘Toubab, you have meat and we don’t… Give us meat…’
‘Wanna ask politely, or is that beyond you… I don’t mind, but I will smack you in the gob if you speak to me rudely again… Now piss off before my wife sees you off, and if that happens you’ll definitely regret it…’
And I went and sat down again…
Haddy looks up and says ‘They didn’t listen, did they ?’
‘I’ll sort it out…’
And out of the compound she walked…
But the little buggers wouldn’t cease and the gate swung open again.
I got up to do something but Baddou’s late sister’s little lad got up first and started walking toward the gate, Jalika falling in behind him and Little ‘Tapha bringing up the rear.

Little 'Tapha
The gate swings open again and the kids walk outside.
There is an almighty thudding sound followed by a scream, another thudding noise followed by more yells and then the scream of brakes followed by a loud torrent of abuse and the three kids come walking back into the compound, closing the gate behind them.
It turns out that Baddou’s sister’s lad had grabbed the nearest one and ‘nutted’ him full on.
One of his friends has raised his fist toward him and so Jalika had swung one punch and the second one has flown backwards into the road and into the path of a passing taxi…
Whoops !!!
At that point all hell broke loose and the rest ran away.
Little ‘Tapha just watched it happen.
Talk about a mutual admiration society…
I think Jalika has just made a friend for life.
High five’s and big grins between the pair of them.
Baddou’s sister’s lad cannot get over the fact that a girl, and a small one at that, can actually fight…
Well, it’s not the usual hair-tugging is it ?

Jalika, off to prayers...
But then we don’t call her ‘Little Miss Ali’ for nothing.
And then Haddy comes back.
‘It's sorted dear, the kids sorted it…’
‘I’ve spoken to their parents, they won’t be rude again’
‘You’re probably right, but there’s a couple nursing bruises right now…’
‘Why, what happened  ?’
And it all went round again with actions this time.
Sibo, Awa and the twins are in absolute hysterics, Yama is shaking her head and Baddou is looking on proudly.
Poor N’Dey doesn’t quite know what to make of it all.
Haddy just shakes her head…
‘Eeee that child… Jalika must stop hitting people’
‘I think you ought to give her a hug and say thank you for sticking up for the family, though… And to be honest she was just protecting the lad from getting thumped, there were five of them…’
‘It’s not ladylike…’
‘No, it’s not… But it got the required result…’
And so we settled down again until the evening.
When it was time to leave and pick up their Haddy, Baddou and Yama were loaded, but they’ll all be back tomorrow for Tobaski’s second day.
The one thing you can say in all honesty is that it’s never dull around here…