Friday, November 16, 2007

Dakar, Senegaaaal!!!!

I flew from Seville to Madrid, then got a connecting flight to Dakar. Already in the waiting hall, it was so great to see all the Senegalese. I wondered what business they were doing in Spain? After looking down at Dakar's star shape from the sky, we landed at 11pm. Once through customs, a friend's husband met me, took my bags, and navigated our way through the churning mass of people offering to change money, drive us, or sell us something.

For two weeks, I stayed with a family in Thiaroye Sur Mer. That way, not only would I have chaperones and home cooked food, but their home was relatively close to Djibril NDiaye Rose's house, who I was scheduled to collaborate with.

The family was lovely. The mother lived in a home on the beach where we'd convene to eat lunch (usually chebu djen) and dinner (often very late). I had my own room in a big clean house five minutes away with three of her 5 sons … all of them drummers. They soon became my friends and allies, taking me out to all kinds of events in exchange for me paying for taxis and tickets.

Working with Djibril NDiaye Rose was a pure pleasure. A very gifted, organized, professional, kind, merry, hospitable person, he lives in a house near the beach with his beautiful wife and 6 gorgeous children. The first day we met, his six drummers launched with total gusto into the piece that they'd created to collaborate with me. Sitting there, with this incredible music going right into every pore, I almost started crying, it was so beautiful. I took the music home that night and wrote two verses and a chorus over my section the next morning at dawn, being careful to make sure that the melody wove intricately into the drum parts and was in dialogue with the beautiful tama melody.

The next day, I was delighted to find that they loved what I had written. Djibril then announced that their dancer, Mame Cheikh, would teach me the nyare goron choreography for the video and I could feel the drummers trying not to roll their eyes. His wife and a friend also watched by the sidelines. Very satisfying to see their surprise when I nailed the steps really quickly!!

Over and over again, I found that my ability to dance became an instant way to connect with people there. Clusters of children would gather 'round me, showing me steps and shrieking with delight when I could accurately imitate their moves. In the clubs, I soon had countless tutorials from seasoned dancers surprised to see I had a good repertoire of steps and feel for the rhythms. At people's homes, without speaking Wolof, my dancing would always make people smile and laugh. My big moment came during a sabar solo at a sabar in Pikine, but will write about that in a separate blog!

The other highlights while I was there were recording the single with Djibril and his drummers (steaming hot studio, but such fun!), making the video (SO much laughter!), seeing performances by DouDou NDiaye Rose, Coumba Gawlo, and Viviane, going to two other excellent sabar parties (drummer Pape Seck BLEW MY MIND, his drummers were so awesome), going to a soiree Senegalese, and tracking down my husband's uncle-in-law in central Dakar.

I really had an incredible couple of weeks and got an unnatural amount accomplished. Despite Dakar's heat, terrible air, mosquitos, and relentless filth, the Senegalese are staggeringly beautiful, peaceful, spiritual, and full of life and joy. Every bus and taxi is covered with spiritual sayings and plastered with pictures of their spiritual leaders. Every greeting seems to include the word Peace. On the way to the airport, when our taxi scraped the side of another car, all the men calmly got out of the two cars, greeted one another, and shook hands before discussing the accident. Then shook hands again, got into their cars and drove off.

The flights home totaled 36 hours of traveling, getting on and off planes and going through customs, but it was worth it. Arriving home, it was brilliant to see my husband and kids, who I'd missed loads. Felt great to have a very long and very hot bath. It took me two days to clean the house and two solid hours of combing our daughter's hair to pull it back from the brink of dread-lock-hood! Now trying to catch up. I had 750 new emails waiting for me ... aaaaah!

I hope I get to go back … soon!!!



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