Wed 19th November 2014. Day 10.
Hopefully yesterday was the last day of the full-band recordings and we’ve just got the overdubs to do and then some general fiddling around. The idea is to start today with a listening session – me, Moussa and Martin – then decide which are the best takes of each track and what needs doing (if anything) to each. Moussa isn’t very well today, he’s got stomach problems. Like so many Africans I know he has a very dodgy stomach, a result of poor nutrition – or sometimes simply lack of food – in childhood I think. I’ve taken him a cup of tea instead of his usual morning coffee. He’s lying down at the moment, resting.
Martin and I took the bikes after breakfast and went down the beach for a swim. The plan was for the three of us to go together and have a bit of social time away from the lodge but M isn’t well enough. We went down to Baccaris place. It was a beautiful morning and the sea was amazingly calm. Birdsong and tranquillity. No-one there but us and we could actually swim as there was no surf. I particularly like the combination of Bougainvillea and prickly pear along the bit leading to the corner. Lovely start and a chance for Martin to have a bit of time out as he’s been working almost non-stop since he got here. I love this bit of the beach, it makes my heart lift just approaching it on the bike! Great cycle back too, strong sunlight but not too hot. No-one much around. Martin and I both feeling better for doing this.
Oka is at the market looking for fish-that-isn’t-Bonga and also veg of various kinds as the band are joining us for lunch (I did promise a fortnight’s worth of food so even if everyone isn’t needed for recording every day I have to honour this). It looks like there’s a possibility of Jeliba Kouyate (famous local kora player). Oka says word on the street is that he’s playing in Sanyang this eve so I’m trying to find out where and when so he and Martin can go. I’ve seen him a lot and the P.A tends to be too loud (and slightly distorted) for my taste. It’s quite ‘shouty’ and ‘electrified’ in delivery with too many guitarists, and frankly I don’t like it much; but I want to give Martin a chance to see some local music and Oka is happy to go with him. The problem, as usual, is finding out where he’s playing and what time it starts – there tends to be a lot of waiting around and as he’s quite famous he often starts very late.. We once played support for him a couple of years ago with some of Guinea C and he was three hours late, we were practically dead on our feet by the time we could get off the stage.
There also seems to be some kind of meeting today about the Sanyang festival (this is in late Jan next year). We played (eventually) in this with last years’ workshop group and want to do the same again. Meetings however tend to go on for ages, nothing ever gets properly decided and when you think you’ve got agreement on something concrete (like having your group ‘registered’ to play or what day and roughly what time you are playing) you find out that you can’t do that. You either have to go to another meeting or go and find someone else who isn’t there (and possibly doesn’t exist at all!) I’m avoiding going as they made such a mess of the arrangements last year and my temperament doesn’t suit wordy meetings that achieve nothing. I’m also avoiding it as the colour of my skin is going to make people think I’ve got money for ‘sponsorship’ or connections that I don’t in fact have. I’ve got no spare time or energy to help with the festival if we’re going to get this CD done. Oka has said he’ll go to represent the group – he’s more patient than either me or M. Looks like we may have quite a complicated schedule later.
Hopefully Souleymane is doing the words for Takhaudi Deqau: Inside the Chickens’ Mouth today so I’ll have all of those. I’ve asked him to write all of these and not just the ‘sense’ of the track or the chorus. I’m thinking of this as the title track – the CD to be called Inside the Chickens’ Mouth so I’d like to really be able to get to grips with the lyrics (which I think I mostly understand but I’ve been wrong about that kind of thing before). It’s good I feel, to have the whole translation for the lead track. The concept of being an outsider/hidden, like being inside the chickens’ mouth where no-one can see you seems to be the essence of the toumaranke experience here. Toumaranke literally translating as ‘someone from out’ – traveller/outsider/stranger/adventurer. No family so no ‘standing’ socially, know one knows who you are so can’t ‘see’ you. It makes the lives of Guinean musicians in Gambia doubly hard, trying to live your life away from your family being a rocky (and largely disapproved of) path.
It’s a difficult day so far. M not at all well, although struggling bravely on. Also the technology is playing up. Martin often has to reload the recording/editing program (Logic) but it’s really glitching today and he’s had to reload it several times. Some weird latency issue going on too. We managed my backing vocals on Toumaranke. Some krin and gbundo (I seem to have two versions of spelling written down for these drums – bundu and gbundo!) and M’s overdubbed vocals on Takhaudi Deqau (the rap bit plus in a few other places) and that was it. We were watched by a very interested Pappy (who recorded a lot of it on his tablet), Oka and Hadja. Most of the band drifted off as not much listening was possible with the technology being so temperamental. Very frustrating for all as it took ages and it’s now put us behind schedule.
I never managed to find out when Jeliba was playing although I did find out where (the big school where they hold the festival) but Martin has decided against it as he’s too tired and doesn’t much feel like sitting around for ages waiting for a band to start. Oka had a very frustrating time at the festival meeting. Precisely nothing happened and no information was given as to how we ‘register’ the group (this was a big issue last year as we thought we had but somehow we hadn’t and we nearly couldn’t play). The ‘director’ of the organising committee or whatever he’s called, has been sacked but no-one appointed to replace him so I’m a bit worried. One of the issues is always finding out who is actually in charge as various people told us they were, we had meetings with them and then discovered they had very little to do with the actual organisation. Trying not to worry about the festival (or next years workshop) until we’ve got this done.
I did a bit of work with Souleymane on lyrics at lunchtime but Moussa was struggling with helping. However Souleymane went to school so he and I can communicate ok directly in French. I still don’t know why, where or how he learned to write in Susu. I seem to have got it largely right with both Toumaranke and Takhaudi Deqau although he’s helped me to get a fuller picture of both tracks.
There’s parts of Toumanake I didn’t get before – like the ideas that ‘everyone has their place’ and ‘what God proposes is what you will do’ (ce que Dieu propose pour un homme est ce qu’il va faire). These are rather formal French phrases and I must be able to find a better way of expressing them. The idea of ‘gods will’ or fate or destiny (call it what you will) is strong in West African culture and central to everyone’s’ life, but maybe especially the lives of musicians who have left their families to try to create something through their music. The idea that everyone has a ‘place’, everyone has something to do (in relation to the group) is important also. The lyrics of Toumaranke are kind of about us and what we represent (musical struggle together for the greater good of all) and for us.
An early night for all. Moussa in no state to talk about culturally embedded ideas (or in fact anything) so I go to bed with my head buzzing!