I got back from Mali on Saturday night and brought an unpleasant souvenir of my layover in Morocco. A ghastly stomach bug. I have vowed that I am never flying Royal Air Maroc again.
The trip, though, was wonderful. I was there for a little over two weeks and it was pretty jam packed with amazing stuff.
Here are some highlights:
As most of you know, Sidy just released his first CD in May... and won two big fellowships this year. So the first week we were there, he was getting a TON of publicity on ORTM. They did a great spotlight called 'Bamattitude' which aired on the first Saturday we were there. The spotlight featured an interview with Sidy and a bunch of cutaway shots of his students playing drums and studying dance. Yours truly was on dununs and djembe, LOL.
You can catch it on youtube here:http://youtu.be/eM4k1ZgDK5M
We also shot a music video for his song, Mali Kadi. I don't think the video is available online yet, but it is really great and very Malian in style.
The highlight of the trip was the baptism party for Sidy's 6 month old son. On Friday a few of us went to the livestock market in Bamako to pick out a bull for the ceremony. Sidy ditched us a few yards away so his prices wouldn't be jacked up by the toubab effect. My friends and I dodged herds of bulls as they were loping past on the narrow dirt road. At one point we had to step into a sheep pen to avoid getting gored by a bull with huge horns. The whole time people were politely inquiring if we were in need of a sheep, goat or cow. It was a tiny bit awkward, so we finally ambled back to the cab and sat waiting while Sidy negotiated on a beautiful black and white spotted Brahma bull.
The bull's seller actually walked the animal a couple of miles through the city to Sidy's dad's house, where it spent it's last hours in relative peace and quiet.
The next day at 5am, we got up to witness the slaughter, but were a tiny bit too late. By the time we arrived, our bull was already dead, throat sliced nearly through, bled into a hole dug in the street outside the house walls. We did, however, get to see men skin and butcher the animal in almost complete darkness. The skin was carefully saved for the drum casket project and the rest was cut into big hunks to be cooked for the party later that day.
Later that afternoon, the toubab crew, in our matching Malian clothing, was invited to sit as guests of honor with Natasha and the baby. The fete was an amazingly good time. First lunch was served, and it was incredible. The beef had cooked up succulent and tender, stewed with rice, cabbage, potatoes and other stuff in a very savory sauce. We had a big plastic bowl all to ourselves and ate a ton of it!
Then the dancing and drumming started. The family's Jelimuso sang first, followed by another Jeli woman who was featured on Sidy's CD. Then the drumming began in earnest. A little while later, Nampé Sadio made his very dramatic appearance in a huge black car with an equally huge purple boubou on. (Did he know purple was the color of the day?) He hung back a bit at first, but then sang a few songs for Sidy and the baby... and even gave a shout out to yours truly. That was a thrill!
For me, another huge highlight of the trip was the drum classes. I had requested to play dunun for the dance classes and then took djembe classes. In both cases I was working with Mamadou Diarra, (nicknamed Madou Djan) the man who built my dununs.
On day one of the dance class, I was dying, LOL. I hadn't played for a little while and raised two HUGE blisters on my thumb and finger. But by day 3 I was in the swing and really enjoying myself. We were playing songs I knew (Sunu, Dansa and Madan) and then he taught me a couple I didn't (Sogolon and Jablo). Sogolon took me a day of serious practice to get down, but finally I got it.
For djembe class, we were also learning Jablo, which is a Jinafoli piece. Madou Djan figured out early on that I was the most seasoned player in the bunch, so from the get-go he was on me like flies to, well, you know. He had me playing the whole thing, with breaks and pickups. By day 3, he stopped playing at all and asked me to lead the class all the way through it. When we finally were able to serviceably manage to get through, he started teaching us Suku as well. All in all, I learned 5 parts for Jablo, with breaks and pick ups, and 2 parts for Suku. I was very excited that he gave me responsibility for leading the class through the parts and after a few misteps (complete with Malian stink-face) I was able to pull it off admirably. My shining moment came when he taught us a part at the end of the day and I was able to come in the next morning and play it back for him without having recorded it. He was stunned. In a good way, LOL.
Drum casket was an interesting project which was in process during the whole trip. I think I add more on that thread instead of here, but suffice it to say, it was a definite success. We ended up with a giant box, covered in cowskin, that you could lie inside of while it was being played. It was pretty awesome.
Had a great time.
PS: Waraba, Sidy was way too busy for me to be able to arrange getting stuff and I never did make it to the artisan market, so unfortunately I wasn't able to get any of the things you were looking for. I am sorry.