Day 13 & 14 – 7/1/13 & 8/1/13 – Iya Sako Day 3 & 4

The first note played on the djembe after two days of rest is always the most painful. After that everything seems possible.

I woke up early enough to do some yoga before breakfast. I reached the breakfast area just as the dance class was about to start. I noticed Bruno had finally sorted out his new drum with a new skin. It needed some tuning but at least he had a drum. Midway into the class I accompanied the dance class on djembe. I played accompaniment while Leroi (originally the dancer) soloed according to the dance steps. Is quite amazing how multi talented the local artists here are.

Accompanying dance class on the djembe with Bruno on the Sangban, Mamady on Dununba, Leroi on Solo Djembe, Aleya and Nigel on Balaphon

With Iya, the ever smiling and patient teacher, we played ‘Mendiani’. The dancers had just started learning this dance that morning and so it was good to know some of the original solos played with this dance.

For those of you who have not read the earlier explanation of Mendiani, this rhythm is a Malinke rhythm from North East Guinea and is a special dance where the ‘Mendiani Mothers’ and the young Mendiani girls dance. The Mendiani Mothers, who were themselves chosen when they were between the ages of 6 and 13, choose young virgin girls whom they will mother and pass on the secrets of the culture, the village and of being a woman in society. There will be as many men outside the house where the Mendiani are dressed up in new clothes and prepared for the dance. The men then carry one girl each on their shoulder to take them to the village centre. As they are carried, Denadon is played. And when they reach the centre they get off the men’s shoulders and that is when Mendiani is played. The dance is a very acrobatic one.

That afternoon after lunch I noticed all the foreigners sun bathing for a bit to catch up their tan since some of them had only a few more days left before they left Abene and went back to their lives. We all knew that time would fly during the week.

Bruno inspecting his drum and Mandy and Ann sun bathing!

Jeremy and I went to take a look at the Big Tree finally after all these days. It was a fifteen-minute walk from where we stayed. The approach way is narrow and it leads up to this HUGE tree. It reminded me of a scene from Avatar. It can be a very spiritual place for Drum Circle Therapy and an African Drum Circle can certainly be held there but for the opportunist young boys asking for money claiming to clean the place so that it is fit for tourists. I felt at home for a moment. Sigh. I guess India’s not the only pace this sort of thing can happen.

10 points to anyone who can spot me
no points for spotting Jeremy because it’s too easy
The Big Tree in Abene, Senegal

Just before the evening session, I got my drum back, Malo had re-skinned it. It had a dark skin on with the rings set a tad bit too high for my liking. This made tones and slaps difficult especially considering I have been taught to use a considerable part of my hand to play. Malo would work on the drum during the weekend.

It is now becoming a ritual of sorts that after dinner we all sit around a fire and talk, sing and laugh and sometimes play a few Drum Circle Rhythms. Tonight was special Steve was given an age old Guitar under a thick layer of dust to restore. Steve is here for Kora lessons and is otherwise a guitar player. Restore, he did. By bon fire time, the guitar was singing alright, only in an open G tuning, but nonetheless. We all sang songs from our countries. Needless to say, some Bollywood hits featured in the bon fire repertoire. The image of the bon fire post dinner is definitely going to be one of the quick-recall memories of Senegal.

The next morning, as I was making my way to my yoga spot, I noticed a bunch of people doing some Tai Chi led by Nick. Nick is someone who requires special mention. He suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and loves drumming. His spirit is unconquerable. All he needs is the sound of the drum to anchor him. Bless.

We played a rhythm called ‘Koba Lama’ or also called, ‘Solafu’. This is a Malinke rhythm that is played on the morning after Soli is played; hence the morning after the initiation/circumcision ceremony is performed. The group goes from house to house playing this rhythm and in return get clothes, food or money.

In the afternoon I thought I should give you all a visual representation of the actual spot where I sat and wrote everyday. This is the landscape, the image that inspired me to write during my Abene trip. I sat on the little porch outside our room and looked at this beautiful sight everyday many a time to some wonderful Kora playing by Steve (our neighbour).

the view from my blogging spot

That night, the singing around the bonfire did not last too long. I think it is because we were all tired and a majority of the people were reaching the end of their trip. This meant that they had to take care of things like packing and generally sorting things out for their departure. Like a bunch of good boys and girls we went to bed before Cindrella’s secret would be revealed to the world.

Come. Drum. Be One.

Taal Inc.