Archive for April, 2008
Q: A googol is the number 1 followed by how many zeros?
Answer to last week’s question:
(i) Snickers = Marathon
…and the winner was Phil … somebody!
Rob flew out of Bamako last night, after an 11 day trip there.
Here are my final ‘musings’ on Bamako/Mali, with four things which sum up my trip in many ways…
Above are two things I liked and two which I did not:
(i) I LOVED the Mercedes Benz 190 D‘s which comprise about half of the taxis in the city. Comfortable to travel in and easy to find!
Here’s a climate chart for Mali (sorry it’s in Fahrenheit – unless you’re American, in which case, great!) and here’s one for Benin. It’s interesting to note that there is a greater range of temperature in Mali – the lowest temps being lower than here in Benin, but topping out at around 40C is a bit much!
Thanks for reading. More Benin news in a while…
(NB Rob is in Mali at the moment).
Sounds like a normal enough question, but ask any Malian the same question and they’re likely to burst out laughing and/or deny ever eating them…
This is part of the joking relationships which exist between different people groups and family names in Mali. The most common family names here include: Diarra, TraorÃ©, Keita and Coulibaly. A Diarra will say that a TraorÃ© eats beans, as a light-hearted put down. The TraorÃ© will deny this and say that it’s the Diarra who are the bean-eaters! It’s like all Smiths saying the Jones’s smell and vice versa!
In fact, when you say: “I bÎµ s×› dun!” (You eat beans!) to a rival group, it has – apparently – to do with flatulance. However, when I asked my Malian students about this, no-one would admit it! It’s all done in good spirit, of course, and seems to have existed for eons.
Still, don’t take my word for it, read Rachel Jones’s doctoral thesis on the subject (yes, I’m not joking this time, you bean eater, you!) The main ‘bean bit’ starts on page 74. Here’s a quote if you’re too busy to look:
“…beans have the annoying property of causing one to bloat and break wind
(From: “You Eat Beans!” Â© Rachel Jones, Anthropology Department, Macalester College, April 30, 2007)
I tried it out today at the market, causing much hilarity. Non-Malians also tend to ‘adopt’ a family name for themselves, so I’ve elected to be a TraorÃ© (I know 3 TraorÃ©’s already and they’re all nice people!) So, the conversation (after the inevitable initial “how are you” greetings) would generally go like this:
Malian: Are you a Diarra?
…and so on. It’s great fun once you get the hang of it. Increadible that this is a national joke based on farting!
There you go – I couldn’t resist sharing this wee anthropological gem with you all!
Q: On a similar theme to last week, what did the following products use to be called:
Answer to last week’s question: Upper Volta = Burkina Faso, Rhodesia = Zimbabwe, Dahomey = Benin (hope you got that one at least!!) and Abyssinia = Ethiopia.
And the winner was (AT LONG LAST!) the incredible, inimitable TIM SLADE. Well done, me ol’ zem shirt-wearing buddy!
Rob finally made it into the city centre of Bamako today and enjoyed his visit (apart from the blistering heat…)
I caught a yellow VW Golf taxi over the River Niger and to the Artisan centre, where they had lots of great souvenirs, including plenty musical instruments:
Of course, there was the usual “Venez regarder, mon ami.” or “Ca fait longtemps!” from the sellers, but they were less agressive than in some places. In fact, at one point, one of the salesmen said to the others “Stop bothering the foreigner!” Unheard of!
The main streets are well paved and pothole free and there are some dual carriageways. Traffic flows fairly well, except for rush hour, when it’s total mayhem, I’m told. There are even decorative grassy bits inbetween carriageways and lots of nice monuments:
The absence of zemidjans is immediately obvious. Instead of motorbike taxis, Bamako has the only slightly safer “sotrama” minibuses. Here is a gaggle of them:
(“Sotrama” stands for SocietÃ© de Transports du Mali, or something similar).
The taxis are all yellow, then there are private cars too, of course.
If you want to know more about Mali, click here for a great account of journeys made here by an American lass. Also, here’s an exhaustive information page containing just about everything you’ll ever need to know about living in Mali. If you’ve got an hour to spare, it’s worth a read.
More malian musings next week…
Rob has made it to Bamako, Mali, for the first time, but is gutted that Timbuktu is too for for a weekend visit!
As I only arrived yesterday (Wednesday) I’ve not seen much of the place, but I like what I have seen. Above is the view of the Niger River, taken from where I’m staying. Here’s the same view during the day (surprisingly green for a semi-desert country in dry season):
I’m here teaching an ethnomusicology course to – somewhat bizarrely – a load of Cameroonians! There were a couple of Malians there too, mind. They’re altogether a great bunch of people – I think we’ll have lots of fun together as well as them learning stuff.
Walking round the streets of Bamako, my first reactions are as follows:
* Hardly anyone calls out to you or pesters you (much more frequent back home).
In case you’re interested, here’s my appartment and bedroom here:
…and apart from that, this is about all I’ve seen of Bamako so far:
More news & photos soon, I hope!
Q: A four part question this time. Here are the former names of some African countries. What are they called now?
(i) Upper Volta
Answer to last week’s question: The Nepalese Flag is not rectangular
A few months ago, Rob spent some time in the remote village of Bago in Togo…
Here’s a typical courtyard scene in this poor yet enchanting village:
Little was known about its music, so Rob was drafted in to find out more. It was intriguing to find out early on that, although the village only has a couple of thousand inhabitants, it is divided into six separate quartiers or neighbourhoods. I couldn’t tell where one started and the other ended, but all the locals knew. Each of these neighbourhoods was a separate ‘clan’, each of which settled in Bago from other parts of West Africa. The Bago-Koussountou language has therefore developed almost like a creole – as a blend of the languages of all six ethnic groups. In fact, this can be seen in the language’s classification, which is as follows:
Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, North, Gur, Central, Southern, Grusi, Eastern
Wow! What variety! So, the first job was to find out which instruments are used and also which song genres exist in the village. This included doing some observation and recording at night time, which was very atmospheric and lots of fun!
Here’s what I discovered:
Following all this research, I recorded a good number of songs using the traditional styles. This was both for archiving purposes as well as to encourage the usage of traditional music. Cassettes have been made and folk are enjoying them.
Here are some of the Bago instruments: TL: The Gbale (or double cow bell), TR: the Sakasse – a gourd with shaky bits round the outside, BL: the Okoyise – two gourds floating in water and hit with sticks, and BR: the Lunga, also known as a talking drum or griot drum.
Finally, here are a couple of YouTube vids of the Bago folk digging their local beats:
Q:Which country is the only one to have a flag which is not rectangular?
Answer to last week’s question: Paul McCartney’s first name is James and Paul his middle name.
(Definitely NOT an April fool this time)
Scary stuff indeed, and two police offices were purportedly killed in the event. The robbers arrived on speedboats, as the Market is next to the lagoon (which is what TÉ”kpa means in FÉ”n). A British friend of ours was crossing the lagoon at that moment and heard gunfire and saw loads of people running towards him. He quickly drove off in the other direction – a close call, I think.
Enough from me – read Vincent’s expertly-written and detailed account of proceedings. Here’s a shorter article about it, if you’ve only got 30 seconds to spare.