Toumaranke Recording Project Diaries. Day 12. Last day of recording

Sat 22nd Nov 2014 – last day of recording.

Band politics were a bit tiring yesterday so hoping things may be easier today. Energy levels are low, as are supplies – powdered milk/tea/coffee all running out. The bag of potatoes we bought is now finished and there are not many onions left in the bag of onions. It’s starting to feel like ‘the beginning of the end’ and I’m forced to turn my attention to ‘what happens next?’ although I’d really rather not think about it.

We had a morning of listening to yesterdays’ takes and the mixes we’ve got so far for the instrumental tracks. I tried yet again to get another recording of the cockerel for Takaudi Dekhau and have got something that I hope will be useful. This then leaves us with a few overdubs to do then Martin has to mix the three tracks we’re going to leave with the band as ‘demos’ for radio, hotel contracts etc… We don’t have any blank CD’s. I brought a stack out last time I came but they’ve either all been used or lost which is annoying as they are not available in the immediate area and are relatively expensive here. If I had known I could easily have brought some with me. Moussas’ communication re the ongoing state of our resources is not always satisfactory from my point of view. He doesn’t always know what we’ve got and what we haven’t and stuff gets lent/broken/lost/occasionally stolen. This means my careful planning, bringing things we need or I think may be useful and so on sometimes comes unstuck as I think we’ve got something we no longer have. We’ll have to send someone to get some, hopefully Kossy will know where as he’s got mates who do CD copying I think.

General morning organisation is complicated today by Oka having to go to (another) meeting about the Sanyang Festival at 10am and so being unable to do some of the things he usually does. Kossy and Moese have been dispatched to market by M to get fish and veg. Oka brought cassava leaves from the practise place for Hadja – plassass today; but no-one has taken these to the market and  we don’t have a machine to grind them up so she’ll have a fair bit of work to do chopping by hand. I have no idea where to buy such a (hand operated) machine. It’s been on the ‘equipment list’ in my head (with the one for making juice) for a year or so but I’ve not manifested it yet. Fingers crossed we get what we need from the market. Kossy is not my preferred ‘personal shopper’ as he doesn’t always seem to be able to tell the difference in veg between fresh and so old it’s hardly usuable…

HadjaHadja is also feeling a bit sad about the end of this project I think. She and I have been working together for a month now with the workshop before the recording and the ‘what next?’ question is harder for those with so little money or work. There will be no more work from me until Jan/Feb next year and everyone knows that group is going to be too small for us to make any profit. Moussa, and everyone else, is in the same situation. The support money for the band is nearly finished, they are going to have to manage on their own and they still have no hotel contract. Everyone is aware that we have only two days left with Martin to get everything done. Although we’re on target there is a bit of tension in general about that. They also have mostly no idea about the process and just have to trust that we’re going to do what we say and actually turn this work into a CD – this can’t be at all easy for any of them!

I need to make sure I’ve got some good photos and ‘video clips’ as we’ll need all of this for ‘post production’. We’ve talked about doing some video clips after Martin has gone and there seems to be general agreement about that. We’ve batted around some ideas – I’m wondering about a sort of ‘day in the life of the band’ kind of documentary thing, Oka has some comedy ideas etc.. If I get enough decent footage I’m hoping to be able to make a sort of music video(although I’ve no idea how). ‘Clips’ are very popular here, most of the groups and artists people admire do ‘clips’ and lots of people have them on their phones. We’ll need to think about this, here particularly for here and Guinea as I probably can’t do anything sophisticated enough to work in the UK market. M isn’t really up for a ‘planning discussion’ re this – all his attention is still focused on the music.

I’ve asked everyone to come in their best (traditional or performance) gear today. Hoping they have some, not everyone does have performance clothes and the budget for this project hasn’t stretched to ‘band uniform’ which would have been great if we’d managed it as it would have helped with a sense of cohesion, been good for pics and made everyone happy. Just another one of those things I’ve not managed to make happen yet! We’ve got some of Moussas things that can be leant for pics so it will be fine. Souleymane and Moese in particular have very few clothes (what Souleymane does have seems to have been largely donated by Moussa) and MB has been wearing one of those traditional Guinea tops in the soft creamy fabric, but very badly torn. I’m not sure if this is an attempt to make me feel sorry for him or if he’s genuinely short of clothes at the moment. I’ve worked with him a fair bit over the years, he’s a griot and often performs and he certainly used to have stage clothes. He’s got quite a few more possessions than most of the others, which by Western standards still isn’t much.

group with Martin niceMartin was surprised by how few clothes the band has. Even though I’ve been telling him for months they have nothing much it’s always a shock for people when they come here for the first time. It’s one thing listening to me say the band has nothing, another thing entirely to see what that means. They are living in two rooms on which I pay the rent. They all have a mobile phone (vital for musicians trying to get work as it means you are contactable) because I’ve brought donated ones out with me over the last two visits. M has dished these out over time but they must all be aware of where they came from. MB has a bike, the others belong to the band and have also been provided by me. Other than MB’s personal balafon and a terrible guitar which I’ve not enquired into the origins of, all the instruments have also been paid for/provided by me.  I’d told Martin to bring any clothes he doesn’t want to donate and with what he’s brought and a couple of things I’ve kept back there’s enough for everyone to have one thing each. We’ll give these out tomorrow as giving ‘presents’ at the start of anything is always a bad idea as it sets up the wrong kind of expectations. Martin wants to give Hadja something also so I’ve found our ‘shop’ stores and he’s selected a nice piece of jewellery from what we’ve got.

Hooray – Martin has just managed to insert the cockerel into the Takhadi Dekau track and it sounds fab – well worth the work! Martin and M have gone to the internet café to try to confirm Martins’ flight on Monday. I had forgotten to remind him about this and as he doesn’t fly much he’s not thought about it. It will probably be fine even if he doesn’t manage it but I’m feeling a bit nervous as TC have pulled several flights over the last couple of weeks and so demand for seats may be high. It would be awful to get to the airport and find the plane was full! I’m using the time to try to cut my nails with a pair of scissors that are so blunt all they do is bend things. I’ve brought loads of nail clippers with me over the years but can’t find any currently. You can buy them here easily too – often the people who hawk stuff in the ‘bus garages’ have them but they tend to break the instant you use them – the little metal rivet that holds the two parts together generally falls out into the sand or whatever and can never be found again, occasionally it’s found and fixed and so this scenario can then be repeated every time you cut your nails.

One of the things that would be very useful for improving the everyday lives of most West Africans would be to ban all cheap Chinese and Taiwanese imports. The nail clippers type scenario is endlessly repeated with other things you can buy which almost instantly break. All electrical goods from both countries are poorly made and dangerous and it’s difficult if not impossible to get anything else. This makes lives harder  for those who’s lives are already hard and makes me very angry. It seems to me to be a reflection of the way in which Africa is viewed – a dumping ground and a market for cheap/substandard/dangerous/unhealthy etc.. goods for either the profit or political gain of richer countries.

DinnerThe band turned up very late for lunch but we don’t need to do any whole group retakes so I’m not sure exactly what’s going on now. M got Moese to do some vocals on Wunga Cata and now Moese and kossy have gone to Tangi to buy meat for tomorrows’ party. I had asked them to turn up in ‘best’ gear but they haven’t so not sure what to do now.  M and I just had a domestic. He sometimes finds my attempted organisation restrictive and I find his lack of clarity frustrating. Having been yelled at and feeling very ‘delicate’ emotionally anyway I’m not feeling very up for trying to facilitate anymore difficult things. I’ve left them to it and am taking refuge in the kitchen with Hadja. She’s making Canya, however it’s spelt. This is a kind of ‘travelling food’, it’s made with left over stale bread (bread from the bakery doesn’t have that many additives so goes stale and hard quite quickly, some of it I feed to our chickens and some I keep back for exactly this purpose). The bread has to be rock hard so it can be pounded ,then sieved (our sieve had a hole but I’ve just fixed it with micropore tape), then sieved again. The resultant powder lasts more or less forever and is a high energy food, Oka and M love it, it seems to make all Guineans happy and I want everyone to have some to take away tomorrow.

After the overdubs more listening needs to happen later and I’ve told Martin to fetch M when he’s ready so I don’t have to chivvy. I’m just staying out of things for a bit until I feel calmer. I’m very tired and a bit emotional and don’t want to react badly to any other situation today. Moussa is very tense, I suspect there are more band problems than he’s telling me. He’s in a difficult position in the middle of them and me (and now Martin) as no matter what I say they think I have money (and I do by comparison to them) and M is a potential lever to extract said money. They also think Martin and I are more important in England than we actually are, that we are big promoters/artists etc.. and so we may have potential contacts that will be able to ‘help’ them. No amount of explaining will change either of these beliefs and as the project comes to an end desperation levels are rising. Add to this the fact M and I know we’ll be separated again until next Jan and this years’ workshop wasn’t a financial success by any means and that’s a whole load of extra weight on our marriage.

Had a bit of a chat with Hadja then went to bed early leaving M and Martin to finish listening. Managed not to react badly when M said he’s given people the clothes Martin had brought already.


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