Archive for November, 2007

Filed Under (Ethnomusicology, General) by Rob on 29-11-2007

A computer? An in-tray full of mail? A diary? A telephone? Various bits of paper, paperclips, pens etc?
Here’s what my desk at work looks like:


A mixing desk, an MP3 recorder, a phantom power supply (small black box at back), a notebook with track titles, lengths and other important info about the recordings, batteries and headphones (although they’re on my head most of the time!) My desk can be anywhere in Togo or Benin, but most often it’s under some trees in a quiet location in a village far from anywhere! As there’s no electricity, I use rechargeable batteries most of the time. For my most recent recording in Bago, Togo, I used a step-up transformer connected to the car battery:


Here are a few more locations of my ‘work desk’ (NB the table varies according to location, but the equipment remains the same!)

(Boukoumbé, Benin, in October)

(Dassa, Benin, in August)

(Sassanou, Togo, in June)

There you go! Just thought you might be interested! Full report on the workshop soon…

Other news…

*Lois has recovered from a nasty bout of tonsillitis/laryngitis (not sure which!) and is fine now.
*Busy time of the year – school reports and Christmas shows.
*Rob is continuing to research traditional music used in church and is making some fascinating discoveries (sounds like a Facebook update!!!)
*We’ve had no electricity all day or most of lastnight. Even our phone line is down, so I’m at the cyber café typing this!)
*Part of the drive shaft on the Land Rover has broken, so she’s running on the rear wheels only! (If this car makes it till July…)

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 26-11-2007


Yes, the ‘Touareg Trail‘ 2CVs made it to Benin from Brussels. Here are a few of them (2 of which are Dyane’s not strictly 2CVs) outside the Marina Hotel on Saturday. Have a look at some more of them:


This year, they took a different route, through W Sahara, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina and then into Benin. What a trip! For a 2CV enthusiast such as myself, it’s great to see so many of these ‘ducks’ altogether. There were some particularly interesting ones this time. Firstly, this classic 2CV, probably from the 60’s or so:


Also, this weird and wonderful 2CV pick-up, with double headlamps!


I shan’t bore the Afrophiles with any more car pictures, but if you do like 2CVs, check out my photo gallery, which has loads more spanning the past 3 years of the Touareg Trail. Thanks for visiting. More news soon!

Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 17-11-2007

(NB That’s not a political slogan from the late 80’s!)

It’s the end of an era – the famous ‘MAGGI TOWER’ in Cadjéhoun, Cotonou has had a complete makeover!


For years, the bouillon cube, as some call it, has been a prominent landmark in the city – great for giving directions as you can see it from so many places. Oh yes, we’re also grateful for the thousands of gallons of water it holds and provides us with!

Here’s my mate Clive Rahn with the tower in it’s old livery last December:


…and here are some guys giving it a new lick of paint last week (I know, I know, don’t THINK about health and safety!!)


Maggi is a brand of a stock cube and various related sauces, used by many Beninese in their cooking. Now you’re all wondering what Moov is, right? It’s one of the two largest mobile phone networks in Benin, it’s main rival being MTN. As one friend said recently, it’s a sign of the times that the bouillon cube (a symbol of local cooking for decades) is replaced with a mobile phone network. Still, it looks very smart now (although I preferred the old colour-scheme!) Here’s the finished article, taken just this morning:


Which do you prefer? Let us know!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 08-11-2007

Here are two guys I worked with in northern Benin recently. They have unusual footwear:


Yes, these are shoe/sandals/flip-flops (call them what you like) which are made out of old car tyres!! They look slightly Peter Pan-esque from a distance, but they’re certainly tough enough for rough African roads. Furthermore, it’s a good bit of recycling and they’re cheap. Have a closer look:


In West Africa, anything that can be re-used is. There’s a guy comes down our street and sifts through our dustbin every day. When I first saw it happening I felt like saying “Oi, mate! Get outa my bin!” (but restrained myself). The guard at the end of our street just said: “A chacun sa manière de gagner sa vie.” (Roughly translating as: Everyone has a right to their way of earning a living). Still, I think these shoes are cool – maybe they could catch on as environmental footwear back home…

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 01-11-2007

And that’s not roasted and dipped in honey!!!


These wee beasties were out in our back yard with about five others last night, so I sprayed ’em. Today, I went out there and found these three lying on their backs, dead! (Okay, okay, I admit I lined them up for the benefit of the photo!) As African insects go, cockroaches are some of the least agreeable, although they don’t bite or give you malaria, which is something. They just don’t look nice and the way they walk is kinda creepy. Some of them even FLY!!!

At the moment, we’re finding two or three a week in our house, mostly around Micah’s bedroom!! Here’s another post about cockroaches and other ‘invaders’ to our house, and don’t forget to look at the creepy crawlies album in the gallery if you like that sort of thing!

INTERESTINGLY, some people eat cockroaches – YUK!!!!! Click here for a YouTube video of a bloke doing just that (not for the faint-hearted). Also, the Congo Cookbook has various recipes with insect ingredients, including termites, grasshoppers, caterpillers and ants but no cockroaches as far as I can see. My advice is don’t try this at home (or even as somebody else’s house!!) In fact, I’ve just found this article, which has a lot about eating insects but says eating cockroaches can be dangerous:

Some Isaan folk believe that eating cockroaches can cure certain illnesses. But this insect…is a real health hazard even if cooked before being eaten…the cockroach spreads disease because it is host to a number of dangerous viruses and bacteria and a carrier of parasites like Raillietina sisiraji and Moniliformis which can cause stomach ache, diarrhoea, tiredness and hallucinations.

So there you go – you have been warned!!