Archive for the ‘Beninese culture’ Category

Filed Under (Beninese culture, Malian culture) by Rob on 23-10-2011

1. Recycling is part of everyday life, which can result in some extremely resourceful uses of waste:


2. People always find a was to achieve their goals, however unconventional this may seem to the Western psyche:


3. Life is so laid-back there. Nobody is in a rush, but things still get done (eventually…)


4. There is always good humour amongst the people, even in the face of adversity:


5. However stressful your day, there is something around every corner that will bring a smile to your face:


That’s why I love Africa.

Here are some more cultural curiosities from the blog, all of which make Africa such an intriguing place to live:

African roads
Millet beer
Overloaded vehicles
God is everywhere
Rainy season in Cotonou
Malian Bean Eaters
Designer Labels in Mali

Thanks for reading!

Filed Under (Beninese culture, Random Photo of the Week) by Rob on 05-10-2011

A pair of lionesses, seen in the Pendjari National Park, Benin:

(click to enlarge – if you dare!!)

Wow! We had a great time there back in 2005 and 2006; so many great animals to see (hippos, baboons, elephants, crocodiles, antelope, buffalo, monkeys, lions, hyena). In spite of the heat, the very rough ‘washboard’ roads and almost being charged by a baby elephant, it was wonderful!

Click here to see my album of all the fauna we sighted in the Pendjari. Thanks for reading!

This is the question my friend Eric asked me to write 700 words about as a guest writer on his blog.

But rather than paste the whole article into my own blog, have a look at his instead!
Click here to see Rob’s article on Eric’s blog.


Filed Under (Beninese culture, Ethnomusicology) by Rob on 17-05-2010


After a year’s reasearch and a couple of years’ transcribing, analysing and writing-up, Rob’s thesis is finally complete:

The title of the thesis is “The Reclamation of Vodun Song Genres for Christian Worship in the Benin Republic” and looks at how those converting from vodun (voodoo) to Christianity have taken their music with them and modified it for church use. Is this bad for the church? Is there such a thing as evil music? Can a drumbeat alone cause someone to fall into a trance? Will music of vodun origin in church call evil spirits in? What do the vodun folk think about Christians using ‘their’ music?

All of these are issues treated in the thesis (plus many more!) I’ve come to some pretty clear conclusions based on my extensive research in southern Benin, but am not about to share all of those on a blog! You’ll just have to read the finished article when it’s available!

Meanwhile, here are a couple of ‘sneak previews’:

More info will follow in a subsequent post on what I learned – directly and indirectly – in doing this thesis and how this will be of use to my work and to the broader fields of ethnomusicology, anthropology, chuch history and African studies.

Filed Under (Beninese culture, General, Malian culture) by Rob on 12-05-2010

Now, this might not mean anything to folk from other climes, but for those of us who have lived in this part of the world, the term ‘WAWA’ is quite common (and, incidentally, probably not a great name for a hotel).

Let me explain:

* When, for example, the electricity board rips out your meter because it claims your bill should be higher than the reading says: W.A.W.A.!

* Or when the plumbers come to mend the feed pipe to the toilet, but cannot find the stop cock, so turn on every tap in your house in order to reduce the pressure enough to do the job (thereby flooding your bathroom to 4″ deep!) W.A.W.A.!

* Or if I go to the post office to pick up a parcel and they refuse to give it to me – why? Because it’s addressed to me and my wife, and she didn’t come! W.A.W.A.!

* Or when you drive your Land Rover through a HUGE puddle in the road, only to discover there’s an open drain hidden beneath the water and two of your wheels are plunged into it before you can say W.A.W.A.!

So, are you dying to know the significance of this catchy little word? Well, it stands for:


and comes in very useful in frustrating situations. Click here and here for a couple of other bloggers’ take on the phrase.

Now, I don’t want to be too negative about the place; West Africa has many charms and great people. Hearty handshakes, tasty food, fun roads to drive on, great costumes, plenty of sunshine, wonderful languages and warm smiles are just some of the positive aspects of life here.

If you want a more neutral acronym to use on such occasions, then I’d recommend ‘T.I.A.’, meaning ‘This Is Africa’, and, consequently, ANYTHING can happen (and invariably does).

Hey, take a closer look at that photo again – there’s a Big Momma greeting us from behind the sign:

And the thing is, I only noticed her when editing the photo for this blog post! Looks like she had the last laugh, then!

After all, THIS IS AFRICA!

Filed Under (Beninese culture, Ethnomusicology) by Rob on 29-01-2009

One thing I LOVE about Africa is the incredible drumming, which is almost everywhere!

Wow! This guy knows how to drum, eh? For my thesis, I had to transcribe the rhythms of various drumming ensembles in Benin – a real challenge, I can tell you! It’s not so much a case of what is the time signature of the piece? but more what time signature is each individual playing in and how on EARTH do these all fit together?! Western rhythmic notation falls short for such a task.

What’s the difference between transcription and notation? I know, but do you??? If you don’t, then take this course and find out!

Finally, here are a few more cool African drumming videos I have recorded over the years:

A Nawdm lady playing double drums in northern Togo

The amazing blind drummer in central Benin, playing home-made drums with great skill!

Ngangam musicians in north-eastern Togo, including a lady playing a kapok pod filled with stones.

The old bloke in central Togo, who puts one beater in his mouth, then removes it when he needs it.

Filed Under (Beninese culture) by Rob on 16-12-2008

If I’m honest, even 5 months on there are still moments when I feel like an alien in this cold country with its binge drinking, health and safety regulations, materialism and over-keen political correctness…

Still, mustn’t be too harsh on Old Blighty – here we have Quality Street, zebra crossings that work, cheese & onion crisps and… X Factor!!

But the strange thing is that, even though I missed home every Christmas and longed for frost, real Christmas trees and log fires, I still find myself missing the Benin Christmas and the friends we spent it with. So, like a true musician, I wrote a song (well some lyrics at least!) to express my feelings. Here it is:

Merry Christmas to you, wherever you are!

Filed Under (Beninese culture) by Rob on 20-09-2008

* Hot, humid ‘five-shirts-a-day’ weather. (See here)

* The ubiquitous song which goes ‘Yovo yovo bonsoir, ça va bien merci’. (See here)

* Having to sleep under a mosquito net and take malaria prophylaxis. (See here)

* Getting malaria regularly in spite of the above. (See here, here and here)

* Power cuts for up to 30 hours. (See here)

* That it’s not safe to drive at night in most of the country. (see here)

* People following you, asking for money.

* Having your windscreen washed at the traffic lights, whether you want it or not.

* Being constantly aware of the risks of ceiling fans.

* Thick, blue clouds of Cotonou pollution brought on by 1,000’s of zemidjans. (see here)

Filed Under (Beninese culture) by Rob on 13-09-2008

(in no particular order)

* Big, fresh, juicy mangos for 30p each.

* Simple, cheap, fun public transport, in the form of the zemidjan.

* Being able to speak Fon and other interesting languages every day.

* Sunshine (what’s that look like again?!) and warm weather in general.

* Having a tough 4×4 and driving it anywhere.

* Friends like Brian Mitton, Matt Price, Bill, Reggy & Mathieu Assogba.

* Being warmly greeted by strangers as you walk down the street.

* Cheap fuel – diesel was 55p a litre there!!

* Bab’s Dock – a wonderfully relaxing resort on the lagoon.

* Bissap juice. Mmmmmmm!

Filed Under (Beninese culture) by Rob on 09-07-2008

Rob, Lois and family leave Benin this week after four years working there…

Yes, it’s hard to believe that much time has passed so quickly, or that we’re already leaving this country which we’ve come to know and love. We return to the UK for a few months then back to West Africa, but not to Benin. Guess we’ll have to change the name of the blog now (any suggestions?)

We face going back to the UK with trepidation; having spent so long here, Britain feels like a foreign culture to us now. Furthermore, Britain has moved on and changed in the past 4 years like we have, so re-adapting will be an ‘interesting’ process. Furthermore, we are very sad to leave behind all the adventures and fun of Africa, not to mention the many friends we have made here.


This is a collage of just some (but by no means all) of the amazing, talented, interesting and just plain nice people we have got to know whilst living in Benin. We have worked with them, prayed with them, laughed with them, eaten with them, jammed with them, travelled with them, partied with them and become attached to them. Some left months ago, others very recently. Still others we leave behind in Benin. But we thank God for all of them and hope to stay in touch and meet again some day.

Goodbye Benin friends

Goodbye zemidjans

Goodbye Fon speaking

Goodbye home of amazing polyrhythms

Goodbye Land Rover driving on dirt roads

Goodbye dramatic thunderstorms

Goodbye Fulani cheese and lush, juicy mangos

Goodbye bustling, colourful markets

Goodbye sunshine

Goodbye Cotonou

Goodbye Benin