Day 15 9/1/13 last day with Iya Sako

I woke up with sore hands and a sore body (back, neck and all) because each of the Djembe Lessons with Iya Sako is like playing a two hour gig or facilitating multiple Djembe Drum Circles. Going by this calculation we had played six gigs in three days. We start and play almost non-stop for two hours. This is a great exercise in djembe endurance building and definitely comes handy while facilitating a Djembe Circle as well. We had two more classes to go with Iya for this workshop in Abene. Iya has his own special way of giving individual attention, although he will not single you you in a group if you haven’t got the rhythm or technique. He will however, let you know that you have not quite got it. He is a very patient teacher with a very keen ear and immaculate sound and command over his instrument. His pure and genuine love for the djembe shines through in his style of playing and teaching. He lets his djembe do the talking. The contrast between Mamady and Iya is amazing. I feel very lucky to have the chance to study under these two gems.

We played one of Iya’s favorite rhythms, ‘Wola Wola’. This is a dance where the man dancing will do so dressed like a woman. Wola Wola is danced during the same time as Mendiani.

As I walked back after the morning djembe cardio session, I saw Kay, Myriam and Natalie sitting with Musa (friendly neighbourhood African man) and sipping on a glass of something that looked yummy. The drink I learned is called ‘Sisi Dimboro’. It has a wonderful caffeine flavour. I don’t know what it is made out of but I did note the name.

For those of you who have read the earlier blog entries, I was supposed to find out the name of the tea-drink that is served every morning at breakfast. That drink is called ‘Kenkilba’. Coincidently this might also be the name of Nigel and Sarah’s band new. Authentic.

After the evening session we went over to Mamady’s class and both groups had a photo with their respective teachers. We also got to listen to ‘Kanin’; the rhythm that Mamady was playing with the intermediate group. Kanin is a rhythm that Mamady has created and it means, ‘friendship’.

The intermediate group drumming with Seckou
The intermediate group drumming with Mamady
The advance group with Iya Sako
The intermediate group with Mamady Keita.

Special mention of the day – Counba and her team: Aleiu, Ben, Matar, Chef Cherno, Abdul (lovingly called Abudu), Iso our cook and Fatou. Together, they have made sure that each and every one of us is well taken care of. I’m sure you are all aware of the ‘Oh-you’re-going-to-Africa!’ stereotypes. Availability and variety of food is right up there on the list of concerns. We’ve all been so well fed that even when given an opportunity to try new places, I’ve not done so. A big shout out for team Les Belles Etoille!!

Part of the crew at Les Belles Etoilles – from left to right: Musa, Justine, Tannis, Owen, Coumba (below Owen), Coral, Abudu, Tapha and Cherno
Our football star Matar on the left and the beautiful Fatou on the right

As a part of the evening entertainment, since Mohammed was too tired to go to the mountain, the mountain came to Mohammed. Malo and his band were slated to perform at Les Belles Etoille after dinner. It was a great honor for these bands to play for the likes of Mamady, Seckou and Iya. We the students took full advantage of the opportunity we were given to watch and listen to the youth and their style of playing. Rhythms differ, technique differs and improvisational style changes. It was a treat to watch Malo and his band. The dancers stole the show as usual with the party ending with all of us on stage.

Malo’s band performing at Les Belles Etoilles, Abene, Senegal
Tannis doing her thing…
the group with Salimatu – our dance teacher.

For our after party, we went out to the well known, ‘Che Vero’, where our Dununba player Mokhtar (lovingly called Mokulo or Dhermendra because of his affinity towards Bollywood) was to perform with his band. His set started after the usual two hour reggae party. The young and extremely talented Suntu (Seckou’s cousin) opened the set with a beautiful solo on the Kora. He is only 20 years old and has a bright future ahead of him. He plays the djembe, dunun, timbales, Kora and also the sabar drums. He is based in the UK now and plays with Seckou’s band there.

Thereafter Mokulo took over. It was very surprising to see this avatar of him. I later got to know that he is also based in the UK and does a fair amount of teaching and performing there. The performance was tight, and the solos were crisp and clear, just like we hoped it would be.

Come. Drum. Be One.

Taal Inc.