Day 24 & 25 18/1/13 & 19/1/13 – Djembe Drumming Workshop hangover days in Abene


I was a little sad the next morning because I would have to say goodbye to almost all of the people who, over the last 23 days, have become family during many West African Djembe Classes and Djembe Drum Circles. Tannis, Justine, Coral, Owen, and I were the last crusaders who would stay for another two days to wind down.

The goodbyes started at breakfast itself because everybody would get on a bus and make their way to the Gambia together. We got ready for the group photo. I was the designated photographer. Note to self: So ONLY Tanya’s camera has all the people in it.

fun fact: most transport buses in Senegal (specially Dakar) are Indian (made by TATA)

With a heavy heart, I said my goodbyes to Iya and Mamady. I noticed a drastic difference in the way Mamady was this morning in comparison to the previous night. I call this Mamady’s ‘goodbye-persona’. I can only imagine the amount of goodbyes Mamady has been through and this is as good a self-preservation technique as any. I will hold Mamady’s words from the previous night close to me saying that he will miss me and wishes me all the best with my journey with the djembe that will reach an examination phase soon. He asked me to have courage but to also take my time.

The great Iya Sako and me

It wasn’t easy for the staff of Les Belles Etoilles as well. Apart from Counba who is used to goodbyes (she said she cried so much after the first ever workshop that she had no tears left), the rest were very sad. I believe that it is this bond that they build with each one of us travelers from different backgrounds and influences. Suddenly it is reduced to emails and the odd SMS or phone call. I’m thankful that this possibility does exist but it can take a lot of getting used to.

Goodbyes are sad…
goodbyes are crazy…
goodbyes are overwhelming…
but goodbyes are mainly very funny…
Two generation Keita’s
Fatou, Abudu and Cherno enjoying some down-time

The goodbye took really long:

Mamady the celebrity was off first…
bye bye Mamady and Iya!
we finally reached the ‘get-into’the-bus’ stage
… and they were off…
I wonder how long they held onto the bus that way…

That afternoon we all found our respective corners to be silent and spend with ourselves. I think Coral probably only just got her first chance to lie on a hammock without worrying about what had to be done the next minute.

our classroom, now empty….but full of energy

The goodbyes weren’t over. Matar and Fatou (Coumba’s daughter) were to leave that evening to go to Ziguinchor, the Gambia and then Dakar (where we would meet them). Needless to say, more photos followed. (It was my responsibility to supply Matar with his next Facebook photo apparently).

Mr. and Miss. Abene 2012-1013!!
… Will this make it to your FB profile pic Matar…?
lazy times at Les Belles Etoilles…

I accompanied Abudu and Iso (our cook/chef) to Kafountine to drop Matar and Fatou. Little did I know about the many stop-over’s that were to follow after, that I missed the dance class that was scheduled for the evening which I had to accompany.

It’s true that, ‘The Europeans have watches; the Africans have Time’.

That evening the rest of us headed to the beach for the first time in two weeks.

a common sight on Abene beach in the evenings…
introspection over sunset… bliss!

We decided to go out for dinner to some place new. We went to the same place where we spent new year’s eve. The change of ambience was rather welcome.

here’s to lovely memories, good conversations and great food!

Earlier that day, Mokulo, invited Justine and myself to play with his band in the night at ‘Che Wora’. This would be my first performance with a local ensemble in Abene- exciting. We did not have time for a rehearsal and so I was very curious as to how Mokulo (also known as 50 Mokh ) was going to go about this. The show was about to start at midnight after the reggae party would be at its peak. Tannis, Justine, Abudu and I went in the car (to the venue which was very close by) like rock stars. In keeping with African time we started only by 1:30am. Mokulo started with Soko after which I didn’t recognize any rhythm. He would start the song and we would start with the accompaniment. I felt proud to be able to perform before an intimate African audience and solo as well. Mokulo is a very good djembe player who I would have liked to hear more of during the three weeks. We played for just over an hour without stops but due to a phenomenon I call, ‘drumming with Iya Sako’, it felt like nothing. My hands were ready to go through another gig. I came out of that gig feeling very energetic and happy.

The Mokulo Djembe Ensemble
Justine, the beautiful dancer and wicked djembefollette!
djembe hands of fury!! 😉

Since we got back only in the wee hours of the morning we deserved to sleep in and after breakfast I accompanied the dance class on the kenkeni this time, (since this was the last class, the other drummers showed up). We went through all the dances learned during the workshop and hence it was a good revision of the rhythms for me. We also learned the songs of a few of them, in detail.

Dance Class Crew

We also got to watch Salimatu and the band at their best:

Salimatu: djembefollete extraordinaire….

The rest of the afternoon was spent in relaxing on the hammock as planned.

In the evening we were invited to Simon’s place for dinner. Simon is from the UK and has moved to Abene permanently. He is married to Khadijah from Abene and works as a photographer. He was also the official photographer of the Abene festival 2012-13. Before heading to his compound we stopped over at Malo’s place to watch his band rehearse for some upcoming events and also to collect my djembe from him which has to be pulled and prepared. It was as good as watching a mini performance once again; Pure djembe and dance bliss.

We met Simon at Malo’s and then just as the sun was setting, we made our way to Simon’s place. He has a beautiful compound which is one hectare, full of nature’s bounty. Step by step he is working on turning it into a sustainable and off the grid compound. His wife, Khadijah is a dancer. We ate fish rice with onions and a spicy and citron-rich sauce in traditional Senegalese style which is two big plates full of food and people eating from the communal plate with their hands or a spoon. I’m used to this since I eat with my hand and am not alien to this custom. As my last meal in Abene, it was nice to eat with my hands, in nature and truly take in the village life.

I knew I was headed away from the village and would be greeted with city culture which would be a welcome change but I personally prefer living in a village; a life in all its simplicity.

Lai and his friends (friends of Khadijah) came with some drums and we sang songs and danced. Even though we were all fatigued, this experience was the icing on the cake.

The next day, we would say our Abene goodbyes and leave the beautiful Les Belles Etoille. I went through all the memorable events in my head: our arrival, the first day of the workshop, breakfasts with the participants, the Abene Festival, performing, popping my djembe skin, buying my African attire, driving in Abene, celebrating new years, my birthday, jogging on the beach, the irritating salesmen, the delicious food, spending time with and learning from Iya Sako, Seckou akeita and my master Mamady Keita and the speaking of the future (the potential of hosting him in India)…

This would be the end of an era…

Come. Drum. Be One.

Taal Inc.