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 ?

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