Archive for March, 2010

Filed Under (Things to do in Bamako) by Rob on 29-03-2010

Have a picnic on a rock!

(Okay, when I say ‘In Bamako’ I mean not to far out of Bamako this time!!)

There’s a lovely area just a few clicks outside of Bamako, where we like to go for a picnic/frisby throw/kite fly! It’s nice all year round, but prettier in rainy season (for obvious reasons). Plenty of fun rocks to scramble on and very peaceful too.

To get there, head out of town, over the Old Bridge to the Tour d’Afrique, then take a left towards Segou. Drive past the stadium (RHS), a new housing estate and a check point, then a few miles further on you’ll start to see the rocks as you ascend a slight hill. In total, it’s maybe 20 miles from the city. You can then drive off the road to the right or left and park up somewhere. We find the left side to be better and take a track just after the hill (past the small ‘Auberge’ on the right), but anywhere is nice!

A word of warning – there are snakes about! One of our party spotted one, but it disappeared quickly. Then later we found further evidence:

However, as long as you make enough noise and don’t put your hand/foot into any dark nooks & crannies, the risks shouldn’t be too high! And, anyway, with scenery like this, we still think it’s well worth visiting:

Thanks to Andy for some of these photos (and for joining us on one of our fun excursions there!)

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 25-03-2010

This photo was taken a couple of miles from the famous Dogon Cliffs in Mali – my first ever experience of inland sand dunes!

Of course, this part of Mali is not that far from the Sahara Desert and the Dogon Plain is almost entirely composed of sand. The dunes themselves stretch a few miles, almost parallel to the cliffs. Recently, a project has planted more vegetation on the dunes, in order to stabilize and protect them. Then, hopefully, it may be possible to cultivate crops here in years to come.

Of course, one knows one is near the desert when one catches sight of one of these:

Ship ahoy! And that’s the only ship I’m gonna see this far from the ocean!! On the Dogon Plain, camels and donkeys are often used to pull water up from wells; the water table there is so low (up to 80m below) that pulling the container up by hand would be just too slow – and you’d almost sweat off as much water doing so!!!

Which reminds me of Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight, where a slightly more elaborate system sees a donkey pulling up water from the well in a kind of ‘giant mouse wheel’. Can’t see that catching on here…

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 24-03-2010

Hi folks – Tuesday Tunes will return, but as my computer crashed and its hard drive ‘died’ recently, I have no easy way to do one at the moment. Hopefully next week…

Filed Under (Ethnomusicology, Malian culture) by Rob on 17-03-2010

Rob is just back from a fascinating, exhausting and extremely worthwhile trip across the Dogon Plain in Mali.

The purpose of the visit was (basically):

(i) To investigate the attitudes towards music in the community (including in the church).
(ii) To discover which Dogon song genres are used in church and which others could be used (and for what kind of song).
(iii) To investigate the local instruments, their significance and who plays them.

Starting in Sangha, I met with some great musicians, including these two blokes, who were making rope out of old rice sacks:

From Sangha, we travelled down the cliff and across the plain all the way to Koro. This was a good 40 miles and almost entirely on dry sand track like this one:

Of course, the instruments are always insteresting to see and study. Here are just a few of the ones I discovered on my trip:

TL: The kere, a four-holed flute with – interestingly – a stopped end. Plays (of course) the pentatonic scale.
TR: The ubiquitous “pressure drum”, called the gomboi in Dogon Land.
BL: The Sagaru – more of a church instrument from what I could tell, but very nice! It’s half a large gourd with cauri shells around the top edge. It is then thrown in the air and spun in alternate directions to make a noise.
BR: This is the gingire, the only indigenous Dogon chordophone I came across; the “hunter’s harp” or koni exists but, apparently, is not of Dogon origin.

There you go! I shall be glad to return to the “relative coolness” of Bamako after temps of up to 42 Celsius on the plain. That said, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

Thanks for reading.

Filed Under (Tuesday Tunes) by Rob on 16-03-2010

As I’m “up country” I am unable to upload this week’s Tuesday Tunes.

The cyber cafe does have a headset with a microphone, but that mic doesn’t work! Now, I would have uploaded and post-dated it from Bamako, but as my hard drive threw a wobbly just before I left, this too was not possible! Hopefully, there’ll be one next week!

Meanwhile, answer to last week’s TT: The Teletubbies Theme.
And the winner was Jennifer again. Well done!

(NB Those who said “The A Team” were close, but the 5th note would’ve gone DOWN not up for that one).

Filed Under (Malian culture) by Rob on 12-03-2010

I’m 10 hours’ drive north of Bamako, half way to Timbuktu in a hot, dusty town which appears to have no taxis.

However, guess what? I’m sitting in this Cyber Café:

It is located in the grounds of a small hotel and has a grand total of three copmputers! However, it is air-conditioned (useful when it’s pushing 40 C outside) and costs only 500cfa an hour (that’s about 75p!!) The African lady in charge is sitting at another computer, listening to cora music and playing Zuma Delux!!!

I had a stroll through Sevaré this morning and took a few photos, like this one:

Need a sofa? Look no further! However, it’s very dry and dusty here, and the dust/sand blows everywhere; just rub your teeth together and you can feel it inbetween.

The car (not mine) had trouble starting yesterday and – as per usual – some kids in the village helped us bump start it. I’m off back to the garage soon to collect it, then tomorrow we head for the heart of Dogon Country for some ethnomusicological research…

Filed Under (Tuesday Tunes) by Rob on 09-03-2010

Here it is, sung by RUTH this week:

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Answer to last week’s TT: “The Pink Panther”.
And the winner was Pauline Baker – well done Pauline!!

Here’s the full version, in ‘jazzy duet’ style:

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Filed Under (Things to do in Bamako) by Rob on 05-03-2010

Take a boat trip on the Niger River:

Yes, less than a mile from my house, I can take a leisurely cruise on this boat:

We went on New Year’s Day (with Clive, whom I greatly thank for the photos in this post) and it was a relaxing and enjoyable experience! The whole trip lasted around two hours – under the Old Bridge and almost as far as the New Bridge. We then doubled back and went eastwards into the countryside, with views like this:

Very pleasant! The boat held around ten people and was powered by a motor. The whole trip cost 2,000cfa per person (that’s around £2.80), which is good value for money! To catch the boat yourself, take the road to the right of the ‘Amandine’ restaurant near the old bridge (the CRS/Bla Bla road) to the very end and ask for the boat ride man. Should work!

Have a good trip!

Filed Under (Tuesday Tunes) by Rob on 02-03-2010

Sorry it’s a bit late (but it’s still Tuesday in most of the world…)

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(Sung by Madelaine again)

Answer to last week’s TT: The Harry Potter theme. Here’s the full version:

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And the winner was Jennifer Aniston – oops, I mean Anderson!!!