The Toumaranke Recording Project Diaries – Day 13, Almost the End of Everything!

Martin and Hadja left yesterday so I am now without cook, other female or English companion. Everything feels very strange as Moussa and I are still at the lodge, no-one else is here apart from Maty and staff, and we’ve got nowhere else to go as we don’t have a house at the moment.  We’ve not managed to get anything since last year when we had to leave yet annother suitable place. Finding somewhere which is musician tolerant as well as having basic facilities, like a well or a tap inside or geographically close, that isn’t too expensive is a hard task; especially in Sanyang where everyone knows Moussa has an English wife and so assumes he’s got loads of money.  I’m leaving soon also, which is always a weird dynamic.  So the recording part of the process is over and change is in the air, but it’s an unsettling kind of change.  We are in a sort of limbo now, in a rented room for the next couple of days, then back to sleeping in the storeroom…

Huge scene with the band last night which has changed everything. The idea was that after we’d finished recording we’d shoot some video to get a few ‘film clips’ for promotional purposes. We’ve been knocking ideas around about this. I want to do sort of ‘a day in the life of the band’, filming them getting up, getting on with daily tasks etc… then intersperse these with music. Also a scene or scenes in the market and some comedy type ideas (we’ve talked about various props for this. I was wanting for example a toothbrushing sketch -everyone could come out with their ‘toothbrush’ sticks, then Okameo could come out with one that is HUGE  (based on a real incident which happened in Senegal years ago when working with annother group  in Senegal). We’d had similar ideas with shakers or other things, also something STOMP like. I took a STOMP video out in October and a little improvisation session happened after M showed it  to the band, we talked about working on it but nothing has been developed yet.

I’ve got lots of ideas and Oka and Moussa have had some, they have been developing a bit of a comedy routine while eating or about eating (which actually they’ve done for years) and the whole band has talked about quite a lot about things we can do for ‘clips’. The ‘clip’ is very popular here, everyone has some on a ‘phone if they have that kind of ‘phone. Looking at them, sharing them, usually via infrared or bluetooth from ‘phone to ‘phone is an activity most musicians cetainly, take part in whenever they can . I’m assuming someone has at some point downloaded from the ‘net to a phone but I’ve never seen, or done, that.  I’ve participated in helping pass things from phone to phone however, and have quite a few clips on my own phone.

Also, I had thought that after we’d finished recording the band would work on getting a contract (hopefully contracts plural) with hotels/resturants etc…  It’s a bit late in the season which the ebola scaremongering has affected very badly anyway (I heard from one source that tourism in Gambia is down by 50% and it’s certainly affected our workshops very badly) but hope springs eternal.  This would mean that after the band support money was finished they’d be able to earn a bit and support themselves.  I’d discussed with Moussa annother month’s band support until the end of Dec to keep everyone going until they had sorted something out. All of them are used to making their living partly, or totally, through music so it wasn’t a new idea in any way.

Martin had mixed three tracks from the recordings well enough to use as a ‘demo’ CD for this purpose. I said I’d copy these, we hadn’t got any blank CD’s left (annother of those thing’s I’d ‘taken my eye off’, I thought we’d got loads left from a stack I’d brought last time, but there were only DVD’s left), so Kossy had been dispatched somewhere to buy 10. I was also going to print out a kind of flyer/info sheet for them which they could take round the hotels. Moussa was keen for me to come and do the rounds with him but I said no, I was going back to England so wasn’t playing with the band for the rest of the season so better they did it without me. Going round the hotels/resturants etc.. with a white person probably isn’t such a good idea anyway as it would be assumed I was ‘sponsoring’ them and so they might not get such a good deal re payment.  We’d not finalised details but all this had been discussed several times and I’d assumed that everyone would stay at the house in Sanyang where they’d been living while rehersing.

Mamadou Bah, Moese and Souleymane turned up at the lodge very late last night. I could tell something was up just by the way they walked in! They wanted to talk to Moussa. There was a lot of unpleasantness and shouting. Moussa said to keep out of it so I wandered around miserably unable to concentrate on anything else while hearing yelling in Susu which I couldn’t understand, apart from the word ‘mufar’ – not good! Okameo was here with us at the time the gang of three turned up so there looked like two ‘sides’ – him and Moussa verses the others (kossy had wisely chosen not to come over and get involved). It went on for what seemed like hours!  Eventually they left and Moussa and Oka talked a bit more, then came over to our room for a bit.

After Oka had left a reluctant Moussa explained what had gone on. The gang of three want to go back to Brufut where they had been living before, immediately. They feel we have an obligation to get them a house in Brufut as they had left theirs to come and work with us. This is not entirely true as they were on the point of being thrown out when Moussa first talked to them about coming to join Toumaranke. MB was at loggerheads with the manager of the group he’d been working with over money (as far as I can tell he’d been very badly cheated out of his part of the band’s earning for a year and had every right to be angry,  I know the guy in question and he’s prone to this kind of behaviour). He said he was never going to work with that group again, he had to be talked out of physical violence by Moussa and was glad to come to Sanyang and calm down and not keep passing that particular person in the street.  Their presentation of ‘we were managing fine then you asked us to come and join Toumaranke and since then everything has been difficult – we’re out in the village – we have to do our own cooking, etc etc…. ‘ is a bit overstated. Mostly it’s the same old issue we’ve had before – dissapointment that ‘white money’ hasn’t been thrown around so they can live in a house with running water and electricity, eat drink and smoke as much as they like and be supported by me in said lifestyle indefinately. The place they were living in before was smaller, also had no electricity or water and it was further to the well. That Brufut is a bigger town and closer to the tourist areas for work purposes is the only true bit of their tale of woe.

The upshot of all this is they don’t want to stay here any longer, and they won’t co-operate re video material unless money (of which there is of course none left) changes hands. They feel they have been ‘exploited’ (I am so tired of hearing this word!) and say they have a workshop in Brufut so have work to go to (not previously mentioned so may or may not be true. True or not it doesn’t include accomodation, they say they need to start looking for a house). There are some general communication issues and a couple of other things going on too I think. They maybe didn’t fully understand the talk about video recordings? It’s always hard for me here, to know if people have properly understood discussions, and in these kind of circumstances I rely heavily on Moussa to make sure this has happened. We’ve been so preoccupied with getting the music recorded that I have just ‘assumed’ the next couple of days will be based around getting video material and we’ve talked about it so much I haven’t checked we’re all on the same page. I’ve done a lot of videoing during the recordings so maybe they feel I’ve ‘done it’?  Or they just don’t think it’s important, although with the ‘clip’ being such a part of popular music I’m not so sure about this.

The recording part of the project is over, the ‘technition’ – as they refer to Martin – has gone, so they feel they don’t want to ‘work’ anymore. Hadja has also gone so they are disgruntled because they now have to cook for themselves again.  I share the latter feeling given the general nature of cooking for a group here. Without a fridge the market is a daily chore and there’s a lot of preparation, pounding things, chopping things etc… So cooking takes up a lot of time and energy. Maybe they feel I should cook? That’s part of a woman’s function here. There have been some jokes about this, they know I can cook as they’ve seen me do breakfast and help Hadja, plus Oka’s eaten my food for years. There’s some curiosity about my vegetarianism also (which makes me deeply wierd in their eyes). I’ve told them they wouldn’t like my cooking because I’m vegetarian. Most of the musicians I work with here don’t, it’s too different. Moussa manages a day or so of my food, then wants to eat something with meat or fish in. Okameo likes my cooking, especially stir fry, but he isn’t subjected to it as often as Moussa.

 

The main meal, which happens about 2-3ish generally, is the important one here and that is generally rice with some kind of sauce based on either meat or fish.  The ‘cook it without then add meat or fish’ comprimise always means a bit more work for the person doing the cooking, and if it’s me someone else generally has to do that bit  (I’ve had to a couple of times, usually if M is ill with maleria or something like that, but I’m not really keen on handling meat or fish). So although I’m providing money for food for everyone, including me in eating is a bit tricky. Hadja has no problem with it, she likes people to eat happily and like all great community cooks know’s who likes and doesn’t like what, knows what everyone’s favorites are, and incorporates all this in her cooking and serving. I’m not so good at this so I can understand perfectly the group being fed-up at her departure.

General feelings of suspiscion and distrust are the environment in which most musicians operate here. Especially around Europeans/white people and the possibility of ‘sponsorship’ with all the overtones of a possible ‘ticket to the West’, the dream of going to Europe or America where the streets are paved with gold. MB a is bit upset with me as I wouldn’t let him be part of the Toumaranke workshop we ran before the recording started. He wanted to ‘get himself’ a white woman. (He’d specifically stated he wanted this, which was why I didn’t let him be part of it). Martin has gone, without anyone being able to pursuade him to promote their particular corner. Just about everyone, with the exception of Moussa and Okameo but including several of the lodge staff, at some point managed to get Martin in a corner and explain they were a very important/sucessful/talented musician and just needed his help to promote them in Europe!  I had warned him about this and tried to ‘protect’ him as much as possible but it was inevitable.  He’d not come across this level of poverty before so I expect he’s got quite a bit of processing to do back in England. Before he left he admitted he hadn’t believed many of the things I’d told him. It’s always an issue for me, what to say, how to help people to understand the level of hassle here, how to deal with it. I’ve never found a totally satisfactory way to deal with it in fact, as it’s (largely) based on most people simply not having enough…

I’m currently fed up with the whole mess – tired tired tired of the same set of problems around expectations re money and white people/Europeans. I’ve got, literally, nothing left. I’ve used not only every penny we raised but every penny I’ve got spare – plus my overdraft facility and credit card – to get this CD recorded. I have just about enough cash left to get us through this week, for the taxi to the airport (only way to get there as non of the local transport goes near enough) and a cup of tea while waiting for the plane, but we’re going to have to be very careful to make the money stretch even to that. They will never believe this, nor will they believe I’m going back to no work, next year’s workshop is shaping up to be a financial disaster and I’ve no idea how I’m going to manage…  Even Moussa only just believes it! The notion that Europe is ‘easy’ and there’s lots of money to be made is so ingrained I’ll never make any headway against it. It’s partly true anyway, life is much easier with water from a tap, mains electricity in most places, indoor plumbing and so on. Cooking is certainly a LOT easier with a kitchen, surfaces and gadgets, a fridge and a cooker…

The whole recording process has been tainted by this undelying resentment that things aren’t easy enough and that I’m ‘expoiting’  i.e I’ll just take the music for my own (and possibly Moussas) behefit, and live high on the hog with financial benefits of that! Also the assumption that Moussa has an easy life because of me,  has loads of money (where do they think he puts it and why wouldn’t we then have at least a house, why would he/we be sleeping in the place we keep the workshop equipment with no electricity/water etc….?) The general feeling,  apparantly, is that I’m some kind of African wannabe, I want to try and live ‘like an African’; they don’t get that I’d love to have a place to stay with at least access to a tap! Electricity we can do without as we have a solar panel. Apart from not being able to see in the dark so reading can be problem, and the use/charging of various electrical gadgets – like laptop –  being made a bit tricky, electricity is so much easier to do without than a close supply of clean water, particularly if it comes out of a tap!  I/we would love to have a secure place of our own – we’ve been thrown out of the last two long-term lets for various reasons (usually because we are musicians and so ‘disturb’ others with noise , or because we’ve repaired a place and the landlord now wants to put the rent up to a price per month we can’t afford). We can’t find anything financially possible in Sanyang due to the previously mentioned problem of everyone knowing M’s wife is white so wanting to rent us some tourist ‘mansion’ unsuitable for our needs or charging a stupid amount of rent, sometimes both of those things!

Feeling very tired and low. Moussa is  sleeping – partly exhaustion and partly the small bottle of (bootleg) whisky he drank last night and lied about. He’d initially told me someone had asked him to buy it for them (money is so tight that there isn’t really enough for buying booze, even local booze at low prices) – then confessed and said he’d lied and he’d drunk the whisky. This is not at all typical behaviour. He’s unhappy with the whole band situation and under a lot of strain but I’m feeling uneasy and worried. Having had a previous marriage that collapsed due to excessive alchohol and drug use (him, not me) – this kind of situation scares me and I feel very unsafe. He’s been sleeping since 11.30 and it’s now 3. No Hadja to talk to, no  Martin, no Oka (where is Oka today I wonder?) I’m feeling alone and afraid and disheartened and pissed off…

It’s all very quiet here, just me and the birds. I have only one book left which I’m saving for the ‘plane home and can’t concentrate on track notes. I need Moussa for these anyway as there are still quite a few things to clear up in terms of translation. The kitchen needs clearing out and everything washing up ready to put the big pots back in storage, there is currently no bucket or soap poweder and I can’t face cycling into town to get those then coming back to clean and wash up. If I could cycle to the beach for either a walk or a swim I’d probably feel better but can’t make myself do it somehow. My get up and go has got up and gone!  The bird sounds are soothing and the beautiful strong colours are good for my heart, I’ll just sit here until I feel energetically capable of tackling things….

 

 

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