Archive for October, 2006

Filed Under (Ethnomusicology, General) by Rob on 26-10-2006

My trip up north was to record three hours worth of choir music and readings of Philippians and James in the vernacular (Nawdm).

Here is Philippians 1:12 in Nawdm. Have a listen/read:

“Teelba-n, maÌ€ bo na n’ miig na bii b’ daan maÌ€ jugun bii hel n tÉ”r na GohÉ”mt san n nÉ”ngan.”

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(click on arrow to play, click on link to download)

In English, the verse says:

“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”

and I believe this to be true regarding this recording visit. Please pray for the Nawdm, that the Bible and song recordings will indeed advance the gospel.
Click here for Nawdm info on

Wednesday (18/10)

Once I arrived in Kara, I had about 45 mins to unpack before setting off to Baga, a small village about half an hour’s drive north of Kara, near Niamtougou. We arrived there at 3:30pm and had a look round. There were three possible venues for recording: the ‘main church’, which had a 2 second echo (not a chance!) and the ‘small church’ which was, nevertheless, a little too resonant for recording purposes. Finally, there’s the paillotte or apotam (circular ‘gazebo’ with straw roof – but this one has a tin roof!) Because it is partly open, this is a much more suitable location for recording. So I set up to record by 4:00pm.

The choir arrived mostly on time, which is not always the case! I decide to put the percussionists on benches just outside the paillotte, so that their sound does not ‘bleed’ onto the choir’s. By around 4:30pm, we had started recording, and by 8:00pm (including a break for supper) we had recorded the music for the first 90 minute cassette! Wow! That was fast! We also had to stop at one point due to heavy rain, but – thankfully – this did not persist.

Head back to the SIL centre, where I upload and edit the recordings before hitting the sack (the reason for staying this far from the recording venue is its constant supply of electricity, which I need for editing).

Thursday (19/10)

Depart SIL centre 8:30am, to head to the Nawdm team office, where we record a reading of Philippians and then James, with 4 of the translation team. Due to inevitable human error, we have to do numerous retakes, which I will then digitally ‘splice’ together later. This saves time during the recording, but takes me a while longer in the editing process!

Time for a short nap before heading back to the Baga church to continue recording. We work from 6:00pm and, due to the choir’s professionalism (they rehearsed every day for two weeks prior to this), we have 45 minutes of music ‘in the can’ by 7:40pm! We are due to finish at 8:00pm, but give the choir the option of carrrying on later to finish the last 45 mins, which they agree to. By 9:45pm, we are all done. Increadible! This is undoubtedly the most professional, together and polished choir I have worked with so far. Here’s what they sound like:

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(click on arrow to play, click on link to download)

As is characteristic of music in this part of the world, all the songs are ‘call and response’, with one soloist singing and the choir echoing. You’ll also hear a healthy percussion section going some! As well as singing, there is also ululation from one of the female choir members, which is always interesting to encounter. Finally, they had a recorder (played up the octave) and a two-note ram’s horn, which it was fun to try out afterwards! Listen carefully and you should hear all of these in this extract:

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(click on arrow to play, click on link to download)

Friday (20/10)

All morning spent editing the Bible readings, then after lunch I head to Codhani, a fab place in Niamtougou, where handicapped people make really nice clothes. Their website is excellent – click here to have a look. I find another loud shirt for my collection (actually, reasonably moderate!), a skirt of Lois and some t-shirts for the kids.

Dinner in Kara, then back to SIL. I edit the song recordings until quite late and pack my bags.

Saturday (21/10)

Depart Kara 7:30am. Make it back to Dassa for lunch, then in Cotonou by 5:00pm.

Thanks for reading. Leave us a comment!


Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 25-10-2006

Yes, the Land Rover made it all the way up to Kara, northern Togo, and beyond – in spite of a dodgy drive-shaft!

The seven-hour journey begun just before 7:00am last Wednesday. Throughout the journey, you see things for sale by the side of the road. In Cotonou, it may be petrol or bread, like this one (where you can buy both!)

Further north, there are people holding up dead animals (bush rat, guinea fowl etc.) then there’s Fulani cheese, charcoal and… Gari, which is flour made from ground manioc. Here’s the gari for sale by the road:


One of the best things about travelling in Benin is that the volume of traffic is generally very low. However there are several ‘obstacles’ on has to contend with, which are less common when travelling in the UK. The first of these is the lorries, which you meet almost immediately, and which are all heading north out of Cotonou too, but at about 30 mph! So, there are usually about a dozen or so of these to overtake (which could take anything from 20 mins to an hour) before you can go a decent speed. You also pass many broken-down or even overturned lorries. Here’s one we had to circumnavigate a few months back (not in Benin):

Secondly, the potholes are pretty bad for quite a stretch between Cotonou and Dassa , so it’s always a challenge to avoid as many as possible.

Finally, there are the animals: goats, pigs, ducks, dogs etc. none of whom seem to know their Green Cross Code!!

I stop at the Auberge de Dassa, which does nice omelettes and other meals and also has a few ostriches out the back (not normally on the menu!!)


Most of the rest of the journey has very few potholes, and from Dassa to the boarder is a pretty fast, fairly empty road. Here’s the road just south of the Savalou mountains. Very pretty and – as you’ll see – it’s a pretty decent road:

The boarder crossing is quick and easy, which is always good news, and then the road heads westwards towards Sokode, in Togo. By now, it is gone midday, even with the change in time zone (Togo is always GMT, Benin always GMT+1), so I stop for guinea-fowl with rice and sauce at a small restaurant.

The last leg of the journey is over the mountains, past the Faille d’Aledjo, which is a part of the road in Togo where there is a huge block of cliff you drive round or through (depending on which way you’re coming). For those big lorries, it must be a challenge!
Finally, I descend the mountais into Kara, arriving at around 2:15pm. I stay at the SIL centre there, which is about 30 mins drive from the village where I’m doing the recording. Here’s the centre:

So, here are some figures to try and sum up my journey to Kara and back:

Number of Miles covered: 700

Number of hours at the wheel: 14

Number of Lorries overtaken: 27

Number of broken down lorries seen: 15

Number of overturned lorries seen: 3

Number of potholes avoided: 255

Number of potholes hit: 23

Number of goats almost hit: 11

Number of times I sounded my horn: 386

(figures are approximate, but a reasonable estimation!)
More info on the actual visit and recording session soon. Stay tuned!

Filed Under (Benin wildlife, General) by Rob on 16-10-2006

A few days ago, we noticed a pair of collared sunbirds in and around our front yard. What we didn’t know is that they were about to build a nest, just 1 foot from our lounge window!!

It’s been interesting to watch, as the female flies to and fro with bits of twigs, straw etc, the nest gradually taking form (meanwhile, the male seems to sit around on telephone lines watching!!!) Here are some shots we took. Unfortunately, as we have mosquito screening on all our windows, it’s hard to get a real crisp image, but these are the best shots so far:




For more info, visit the ‘Birds of Benin’ page by clicking on the title to the RHS of the site.


Filed Under (Family and Friends, General) by Rob on 16-10-2006

Last Thursday, Mads and Ruth went horse-riding!

Yes, I know when you think of Benin, it’s not the first sport likely to come to mind, but there are a couple of places in Cotonou and this one – run by a German lady – is reasonably-priced and well done. Here’s Mads getting familiar with the horse:


And here’s Ruthie being rather daring on horseback!


As our Land Rover was in the garage being repaired, we had to catch a zemidjan there and back. Here are a couple of shots taken on the ride back home:

zem-ride-home.jpg   zem-ride-rob-mads.jpg

(recognise anyone in the mirror???)

Bye for now!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 12-10-2006

Yes, Jenny from Ampthill got the right answer of:


Well done, Jenny! We’ll be sending you a Wycliffe Benin polo shirt as soon as possible! Btw, they come in blue, green or red – which would you prefer (subject to availability!!) Other entries included: can’t-see-me bird, yellow-billed hornbill and (somewhat bizarrely) Norwegian-blue parrot!!
Here are a couple more shots of the cheeky chappie. In this one, he’s got his head downwards, but his beak is quite visible through the foliage:


and here, he’s eating a leaf not, as his name would suggest, a plantain!

NB for those not familiar with them, plantains are a kind of large banana, but which you cannot eat raw. It is usually chopped into rings and fried (locally known as alloco). Also, the Africans pound them with large wooden a pestle and mortar to make a kind of paste, known as foutou. Clickmore info on plantains. The same is done with maize or yams.

Meanwhile, it looks like the pair of sunbirds (see Birds of Benin link to the RHS of this blog) are building a nest right outside our window! Should get some good pics then (if I didn’t frighten them off with my camera today!!)

Other News…

Rob’s malaria has cleared up and he feels about 90% okay now and even played tennis this morning.

Ruth and Madelaine went horse-riding this evening, and had a whale of a time (more on that when I have more time).

At school today, Micah got a merit certificate for good work in sports and Ruth got a merit badge.  Lois is enjoying her Year R/1 class and, although it is tiring, she does have some classroom assistants who help ease the load.

Next Wednesday, Rob heads up country to make 3 hours worth of recordings of a Togolese choir, and to record Philippians and James onto cassette in the local language (Nawdm).

However, the Land Rover is currently in the garage and needs a new drive shaft (or part of), so we’re hoping and praying that the part will come in time.

Thanks for visiting. That’s all for now.

Filed Under (General, Sound Clips) by Rob on 08-10-2006

Click here for a personal message from the Baker family:

Filed Under (Benin wildlife, General) by Rob on 08-10-2006

…and win a Wycliffe polo shirt!

Yes, it’s competition time again! This time for a ‘Wycliffe Benin’ polo shirt (even nicer than the t-shirt!) Here’s the lovely Lois modelling one for you:



(NB Colour/size may vary)

An interesting birdie was in a tree just outside our house this evening, so I got the camera out and took a few pics:




I’ve looked it up and am confident I have the correct identification.

So, can you name the bird from these photos? I’ll give you a clue: it’s name is made up of three words with a hyphen somewhere in there! So, it would be fun to have lots of wild 3-word guesses, even if you haven’t a clue!

So, get guessing and let’s see what fun answers we can come up with.

PS (For the teachers/parents visiting) it’s not ‘roly-poly bird’ – I think Roald Dahl invented that one!!

Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 08-10-2006

Recently, Rob found some FAB material and couldn’t resist having an outfit made from it…

In fact, there was enough material for Micah to have a matching outfit too! So, here are the new outfits – what d’you think?


I know there’s one lady in our home church in Ampthill who has a wonderful multi-coloured frog fleece. Maybe she’d like me to send her one of these too (to wear when shopping in Waitrose???)

This is one of the great things about life in Africa (especially for folks who love vivid colours) – no outfit is too bright or outlandish to wear in public! You only need to attend an African church on a Sunday to see a huge array of brighly-coloured outfits, with designs including: a range of animals, letters and numbers, faces of presidents, musical notes and even lightbulbs, hair brushes or knives and forks!! Why are the British so set on plain navy blue, black and grey?!?


Filed Under (General) by Rob on 04-10-2006

Hi folks, this is gonna be a short one, as my energy levels are pretty low, for the above reason!

Don’t panic, it’s pretty low-grade (with a count of 100), but it nevertheless zaps your energy big time and the headaches are not good either.

I woke up this morning feeling really worn out (sounds like the first line of a ‘blues song’!!) and yesterday morning was the same. Then, when you have a slight headache and are feeling mildly shivery, you’re pretty sure it’s Le Palu as they call it here. So, after prayer breakfast, I headed straight for the ‘Clinique Mahouna’, which is just down the road; a pleasant local clinic, which has a lab open 24/7 for malaria blood tests and the like.

You arrive at the metal door of a smallish ‘hut’ behind the clinic, with the sign ‘Frappez et entrez’ on it, and so you knock and enter.

“A fón gangi à?” says the man in a white coat. The room is small with a few pictures and the obligatory card calenders on the wall. There are two comfortable reclining seats – one is occupied by a lady having some blood taken.

“C’est pour la goutte épaisse?” asks a second white-coated man. And I reply Oui, c’est ça.” The goutte épaisse (thick drop) is what the malaria test is commonly called and – seeing as the majority of yovo’s (white people or ex-pats) visit for this reason – his assumption is to be expected.

Here’s an interesting – if a tad technical – site on the ‘thick smear’ malaria test:

Thick smear / goutte épaisse info

First, he wipes some alcohol onto my thumb and then, with a brand new needle (opened in front of me) he pricks it and puts a couple of drops of blood onto a glass microscope slide, then hands me the cotton wool to press onto my thumb. That’s it! Then I go to the kiosk and pay up (£3 for the peace of mind of knowing your clear or not – what a bargain!) Actually, I say that, but at this stage in the game you’re usually more relieved if the result is positive, as this means you know why you feel so lousy and can begin treating. If it’s negative, you have to figure out what else it could be (worms, giardia, amoebas, dengi fever…)

I phone the lab two hours or so later. “Monsieur Bakkér, c’est positive, à cent, seulement. Mais il faut traiter quand même.” So, I take my first dose of artesunate and something else (Fansidar, I think, but it has a different trade name I can’t remember!) and hope it takes effect soon.

Thanks for reading. Time for a rest!