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Filed Under (General) by Rob on 14-07-2007

At this time of year, these wee beasties are everywhere! In fact, I sprayed about a dozen of them in our front yard just today…


Of course, some get into the house too, which is a pain. I’ve spent many a moment in our bathroom chasing a wayward mozzie in order to splat it between my hands, or against the wall. It’s almost a national sport! The reason for so many mosquitoes right now is that it’s rainy season, and the mozzies breed in standing water. As you can see from this picture of our street, there’s plenty of it about:


On this workshop in Sokode this year, I got bitten tonnes in my hotel room, so I invested in this handy free-standing mozzie net, which assembles a bit like a tent – rather fun! This is the first time I used it in the monastery in Togo last month:


Just the job – it works really well and only takes about 10 minutes to assemble! Meanwhile, it’s almost nightfall, so it’s time to go and apply some repellant…

Filed Under (Ethnomusicology, General) by Rob on 02-02-2007

Last week, from Thursday to Saturday, Rob ran an alphabet song-writing course in Togo, amongst the Tem people…

The idea was to compose songs to aid literacy in the language. As music is such a prevelant and powerful ressource in Africa, this is a great way to get a message across!

We started with alphabet songs, to familiarize folk with the letters and sounds in Tem. As there were 14 on the course, we split into 3 groups, each composing a song in different genres. The wording was different for each too: one choose to do: ‘A is for Apple, B is for Ball’ etc (but obviously not in English!), whereas another group did one which elicits a response from listeners: ‘The first letter of Apple is….A’ etc.

Following the alphabet songs, we did 3 tone rule songs. Tem has two different tones a high tone and a low tone. The songs were to help people know which tone is which, with examples of words which go ‘high-low’ then another song for ‘low-high’ and finally one for ‘high-high’ and ‘low-low’.

The final category of songs were to do with verb tenses and the tones used which, frankly, I didn’t fully understand (but didn’t need to as there were plently of Tem literacy experts present!)

At one point, we were checking through the songs to see if everyone understood them and if they’d be clear in their message. ‘We all understand them, because we know the rules, but how can we know if anyone else will?’ they asked. One of the participants suggested we get a ‘man off the street’ to come and listen, so we did just that – and the groups sung songs to a 26 year old electrician who could neither read nor write in his language. He was very helpful and was indeed able to understand the information in the songs!

We began recording on the Friday afternoon. African halls or large rooms are seldom good for this, and the paillotte where we were working (round gazebo, often with a straw roof) was too near the main road to be any good. So, I found a quite place under a tree in a meadow-like area behind the buildings, which was great, appart from large crunchy leaves on the floor. However, we had to plan our recording schedule carefully, as the call to prayer from several local places of worship kept sounding! Here I am looking pensive, with the choir and soloists in the background:

Literacy songs 3

On the Saturday, we had a later start, checked the orthography (that means spelling!) of the songs, then set up for recording again. I’d just about set everything up when a loud chainsaw started up on a building site just behind our compound! Eeek! A couple of guys go round and ask ‘Can you stop as we’re recoring soon?’ The guys reply that they have to do the work today, but that they’ll be on lunch break from 12:00-1:00. So, we get the choir set up by 11:30, run through the songs then, at midday – when the silence returns – we begin recording. Thankfully, we’re all done just a few minutes before the saw starts up again!

Here are some photos taken on Saturday (different shirt is the only way I can tell!) In this one, I’m giving the signal to start recording a song:

Literacy songs 1

You’ll notice the percussionists are placed a decent distance away from the singers so as to get a better recording.

Here’s another one of the choir:

Literacy songs 2
After recording, it was back to a colleague’s house to upload and edit the songs, make a master cassette and then copy 80 C60 cassettes using my super-fast machine.

Tape copying

All done by about 9:30pm.  Back to my hotel for a sleep (disturbed, however, by mosquito bites!) then up at 5:00am to drive back down to Cotonou!  Phew!
There are more pictures like these in the newly-added ethnomusicology album of the photo gallery.
That’s all for now!