Thurs 20th November 2014. Day 11
It’s breakfast time now, Martin is up and at the table. Jonny the dog, who went home with the band last night, has arrived with Kossy and Moese and is now pestering Martin for attention. Everyone is very fond of Jonny but only Moussa and I can make him behave and only in Susu, neither English or French works but tell him ‘sarday‘ – lie down there – and he does! We’ve known him since he was tiny. He doesn’t really belong to anyone properly and he hangs out with us as much as he can. When Moussa took the ‘practise place’ house for the band about six months ago Jonny started going there with him, then sometimes went there on his own and occasionally slept there. He tends to dissappear when we’re working however as he doesn’t like the balafon very much (I think the vibration is too much for his sensitive hearing). M is still feeling ropy this morning and is just getting up. Bizarrely it’s just started to rain slightly, it’s not rainy season and this is very unusual. The plan is for me and M and Martin to listen to the tracks Martin has pre decided are good so far, see is we agree and then get started on the overdubs we should have done yesterday. Even if it rains we can do the first bit but recording in the rain won’t be possible.
Todays tasks include me getting a recording of the cockerel – the annoying black and white one who disturbs Maty in the mornings. He’s an interloper, doesn’t belong to anybody here but knows a good living when he sees it. Yesterday morning she was chasing him around to try to catch him as he was driving her mad (she has a cough so wasn’t sleeping well and he was crowing very early directly outside her door!) When we were recording yesterday he crowed endlessly but he’s strangely silent this morning. The idea is to insert his cockadoodledo at a couple of strategic points in the Taukhadi Deqau track. It would be better really if it was one of our roosters but going back to the house and trying to record one of them seems daft (we do go back to feed them most days but not this morning). I’m missing our chickens, I’m used to their personalities.
Now it’s stopped raining, phew. All quiet here apart from Modu and Sajo working on the garden to the left outside the new ‘luxury’ rooms. These are weirdly painted turquoise and don’t match anything else but are rumoured to have hot water in the showers and a telly inside. The ‘garden’ feel of the place is being extended a bit further to the left. They’ve got quite a bit done since we started the workshop here nearly four weeks ago. I’m a bit concerned that this kind of thing is going to put the price up to unmanageable levels but am trying not to think of workshops (or anything) until we’ve got this recording finished! For some reason the kids don’t seem to have been in school the last couple of days, both Maty and Ebou have a bad cough so maybe that’s why? Maty is generally quite serious about their schooling so there must be a good reason for them hanging around here. I’m feeling a bit tired and achy today, slightly dodgy stomach (in sympathy with M?), low energy.
A morning of intense listening and pointless following the cockerel around with my hand-held recorder. He won’t perform at all, just turns his head, looks at me curiously and wanders off again! We now know which are our preferred takes of each track. We have two total retakes to do – Temedi and Sino, everything else is groovy and just needs overdubs. M is going to overdub with Syangan gongo on Manet and Ne Fa day which we’re very excited about as we don’t think anyone has recorded this instrument before. Basically it’s the simplest kind of one stringed wotsit possible, can be made from a tin or a small gourd. We’ve got several but his preferred one is made from a coffee tin – not Nescafe but Al Hadja (which looks exactly the same as a Nescafe tin colours wise). I’m wondering about sponsorship – coffee is big here and Nescafe,Coke, Fanta are the main things drinks-wise you actually see adverts for (the only other things being bank accounts and mobile phone providers). I’ve no idea how to go about this, how to approach Nescafe Africa, or whoever. It’s an idea to put away for later because money is going to be a big issue again soon.
Now it’s lunch time – supercanja (an Okra based sauce) which Moussa has got Hadja to do as he knows it’s one of my favourites. He doesn’t often interfere with menus, this is a little gesture of appreciation which I’m very touched by. Quite a bit of animated conversation around the table. Everyone’s here now and everyone’s aware that we’re coming towards the end of the recording process. This must cause a lot of mixed feelings for the band and it certainly does for me. We’ve been working towards this for months and they’ve been rehearsing and refining and now it’s nearly over. They are hoping to find a hotel contract so they can carry on working but everyone knows this season is difficult with the ebola scaremongering reducing tourism so badly. By half is what I’ve been told and it’s certainly very quiet for early November. I’m not sure if they (or I) really believe they’ll get a contract however (almost no-one we know has this season) and everyone is aware that at the end of the month the support money from me – on which they have been almost entirely dependent – will stop. This is sitting heavily on my mind so I’m sure it’s around for everyone. The big question of what happens next? I can’t support them indefinitely and the CD is unlikely to make us that much (despite what’s generally believed about Westerners ‘stealing’ music they’ve recorded then making a pile selling it). What will become of them/us?
Martin took my recorder and walked up to the cockerel who, very annoyingly, crowed twice straight away. This caused much hilarity as Hadja and Oka (and lots of other people) had watched me stalking him relentlessly and in vain this morning! Moussa, Martin, Hadja and I are intending to go to mosque tomorrow – I think everyone’s going to go but I’m not sure if we are all going together. This requires organising the day so lunch is a bit earlier and we get quite a bit of work done early too. Fridays after mosque can be tricky, sometimes work gets done, sometimes not. It’s not forbidden after prayers to work but sometimes it’s treated as a day off and I can’t get anyone to play. This is yet another feature of West African life I totally don’t understand!
This afternoon was intense.We’ve redone a couple of tracks. then a session of overdubs, mostly by Moussa. Quite a lot of spectators, Hadja, Oka, Pappy and Ebou (Pappy with his tablet and Ebou with some technology or other for recording), various band members and lodge staff. The bolons needed retuning but not too much. My difficulty with bolons is that if I try to pull them around the way I watch other people do i either break one of the strings or achieve precisely nothing! Drums I understand, balafons also I can strip down and rebuild if I have too, but bolons defeat me! Everyone is a bit tired but the energy is much better today. M is feeling a lot better physically now too. He worked like crazy (lovely bolon overdubs by both him and Oka on the instrumental Balafon-led tracks). We’ve almost got all the krin overdubs done, just one track left with tumba and shakers. Then only vocals to do. The band have instructions to come early tomorrow. We want to start recording at ten so we can get both Lanyi and whatever else we need done, then eat and go to mosque for two o clock.
A bit of planning after the band left. We need some kind of ‘do’ on Sunday night to celebrate finishing. We had a very successful goat-meat barbecue at the end of the last big workshop last year so I’m trying to plan something similar but smaller. Meat will make a change from fish and make all the Africans happy but the barbecue isn’t here – it’s still in storage as we’re a small group. So shall we fetch it or cook the meat a different way? It’s difficult to get a sense of what people would like best so I think we’ll just do it the easy way and not go running around adding more kitchen equipment at this stage. Some discussion as to how much meat to buy (there are not enough of us or enough money left in the budget for a whole goat which generally works out at about £50). Oka and M reckon that about D600’s worth (about £11ish) should be sufficient so Oka and I are trying to organise when to get it and from where.
I had vague hopes of jacket potatoes but without the barbecue this won’t be possible. There will be potatoes however. Martin (and everyone) loves our potato salad. I showed Hajda how to make this on our very first workshop four years ago and she’s refined it over the years. A mixture of what they call here ‘Irish potatoes’ (which we call potatoes), what we call ‘sweet potatoes’ (and they call ‘patata’), onion and/or spring onion, boiled eggs and freshly grilled peanuts, if I can get parsley then that too. We even buy the slightly more expensive mayo as the very cheap one isn’t so nice. We also have a mean coleslaw recipe. So salad and fruit can be the veggie treats. Oka likes buying ‘party food’. He and I have a secret arrangement with the palm-wine guy for some more to be delivered on sunday too so we’re feeling quite pleased with ourselves.