Archive for March, 2011

Filed Under (Random Photo of the Week) by Rob on 30-03-2011

Chaotic traffic in Cotonou

Folk here complain about Bamako’s traffic and many cannot believe that anywhere worse exists. I can assure you, however, that Cotonou was between two and five times worse, depending on the location and time of day! This is partly because there were so many motorbike taxis (wearing yellow shirts), but also because there were more potholes, more overloaded vehicles and the ‘rules’ were not enforced as strictly. Bamako has police at virtually every major junction in the city and separate motorbike lanes on many major roads. As you can see from the photo above, Cotonou didn’t!

If you know both cities (or even if you don’t), have a look at these two blog posts, added shortly after our arrival in Bamako:

I prefer Bamako to Cotonou because…
I preferred Cotonou to Bamako because…

Filed Under (Random Photo of the Week) by Rob on 23-03-2011

Amadou Diabaté making a kora, next door to Toumani’s house

The kora is a 21-stringed ‘harp’ made from half a gourd, covered in goat’s skin and a long wooded pole (the neck) to which the strings are attached. There are basically three systems for attaching the strings (and therefore tuning them):

(i) The traditional leather rings (see a close-up here). Tuned by pushing/pulling the rings up and down the neck.
(ii) Wooden pegs: much easier to tune than the first, but can still slip. (Photo here.)
(iii) Western machine heads, ie the same as you’d find on a classical guitar (like this bloke is playing).

I bought one using system (i) and sooned wished I hadn’t: tuning it takes about half an hour and your finger nails hurt for days afterwards. Also, I just broke a string and the only way to replace it is to slide all the shorter strings down to the base and then retune! Nightmare. I’d recommend system (iii), as you can tune it in 5 minutes and it’s just so much easier. Even Toumani Diabaté himself recommended this kind to me when I had my lesson with him, so I’m really hoping to upgrade mine before I leave Mali!

Filed Under (Malian culture, Things to do in Bamako) by Rob on 22-03-2011

Visit the Campement de Kangaba, just out of town.

It’s a relaxing place to visit, with comfy seats, tasty meals, beautiful scenery and a pool! There are even huts where you can stay the night and marked footpaths all the way up to the baobab tree on the hill. Just the place to chill out at the weekend (if it’s not too busy then!) They also have a (rather pricey) gift shop and lots of African musical instruments for sale. Here I am having a go on a few of them:

Very nice! To get there take the ‘Route de Ségou’ from the Tour d’Afrique. Shortly after the road changes from duel carriageway to single, you will see a sign pointing to the left. Turn off the road and follow the dirt track for a couple of miles or so and you’re there!

Click here to see it on Tim’s Bamako Map. You can also click here to have a look at the Kangaba website – very well set out and packed full of information. Meanwhile, here are a few more images of the place to whet your appetite:

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 18-03-2011

At the end of last month, I turned forty – a scary prospect indeed!
However, I don’t feel any different!

I guess that’s a good thing, I wouldn’t want parts to start dropping off all of a sudden! Mind you, passing such a major mile post did get me thinking and I’ve been ‘taking stock’ of my life. In forty years, I have:

* Visited 24 countries of the world, including Madagascar, Singapore and Burundi.
* Learned to speak five languages fairly well.
* Broken one bone (my left shoulder).
* Had twenty stitches (17 of which are on my head) from 3 accidents spanning 30 years.
* Composed a dozen organ works, several of which are published here.
* Produced three piano albums (see/hear/buy two of them here).
* Lived in 15 different ‘homes’ in 6 different countries.
* Married a wonderful wife and fathered three children.
* Had chicken pox, German measles, mumps (twice), giardiasis (twice) and malaria (7 times).
* Taught French, German, music, English, RE, general studies and…ethnomusicology.
* Never spent a night in hospital (not even the night I was born!)
* Experienced 66 aeroplane take-offs and 65 landings (you figure it out!)
* Weighed a maximum of 200lbs (now 170 or so).
* Owned nine different cars (a Talbot Samba, a VW Polo, two Volvo 340s, an Austin Montego, a Ford Mondeo, a Land Rover Discovery, a Peugeot 206 and a Mitsubishi Montero).
* Learned to play the piano, guitar, trumpet, drums, flute, djembe and (starting) kora.
* Met, chatted to and had lots of fun with 100s of people from roughly half the countries of the world (including Rwanda, Bhutan, Latvia, Jamaica, Suranam, Philippines, Rodrigues, Dominican Republic and Papua New Guinea).

It’s been a wonderful life so far. Even if I died tomorrow (which I hope I don’t) I can be satisfied that I’ve had a fulfilling and rewarding time on thie earth. I thank God for these many exciting opportunities, that’s why John 10:10b is one of my favourite verses!

Filed Under (Random Photo of the Week) by Rob on 16-03-2011

A cure for ‘water on the brain’???

I photographed this man selling towels back in April 2008, on my first visit to Bamako (blogged about here). He asked my for 500 francs for the privilege and I obliged! I saw the same guy a week or two ago, same towels and everything; were it not for this photo, I doubt I would have recognized him. Then again, how many guys have you ever met with 26 towels on their head (go on, count them!)

Filed Under (Ethnomusicology, Malian culture) by Rob on 11-03-2011

Here are the first ever copies of the entire Bible in the Dogon language (Toroso dialect) to arrive in Mali:

It was a privilege to see them and look through a copy (even though I only know about 5 words of Toroso). Here I am with a Dogon pastor, holding a freshly arrived Dogon Bible:

You may remember that I was up in Sangha recently for a workshop to compose new songs for the dedication, sheduled for early next year (read about the workshop here). I also did the same for the Moba language in Togo (blog post here). And while we’re on the subject, here’s a post about the Lokpa Bible dedication in Benin in 2008.

Great stuff! Thanks for reading. And here’s a ‘sneak preview’ of a couple of pages for you:

Filed Under (Random Photo of the Week) by Rob on 09-03-2011

Setting up for “Ladies’ Tea”

It has been a tradition for several years now to drink tea and eat cake outside where I work every Friday afternoon. Started by another English colleague, it was initially called “Ladies’ Tea”. However, these days those with a ‘Y’ chromosome are allowed to attend as well, but the original name tends to persist.

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 07-03-2011

Jacky Raturi, founder of three great Indian restaurants, passed away on 25th February this year.

I first knew Jacky in Cotonou in 2004, when we ate at his restaurant, “The Royal Garden”, where I had this birthday curry in 2005. (Also listed here in places to eat in Cotonou). He also had a restaurant in Dakar, Senegal, called the “Indiana.”

Most recently, we were delighted to learn that Jacky was opening a new Indian restaurant in Bamako – the only one in a city of over 1.5 million people! This was the Namastae India, in Niaréla. I was there for my 40th Birthday Curry on 25th February – the very day Jacky had a heart attack and passed away, whilst visiting Niger. Sad news indeed. Thankfully, his delicious food lives on.

Here’s an older photo of me and a colleague having fun showing the size of our bellies with Jacky. Fun times!

Filed Under (Random Photo of the Week) by Rob on 02-03-2011

An abyssinian roller

A pretty bird, found in West Africa. This one was photographed in the Pendjari National Park in northern Benin (this photo and many others to be found in my Pendjari photo album.)
Also, read about the bird on Wikipedia here.

Thanks for reading!