Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Promoting AMINA in Dakar, Nov. 2009

Apologies that it’s Jan 2010 and so late to be writing about November 2009!

I spent last November in Dakar, Senegal, promoting my new 5th CD,
Amina. For weeks running up to my departure, I kept asking my allies, “What’s the program? What’s the program?” Surely my days in Dakar would be a well-oiled series of meetings and interviews? But everyone replied, ‘Don’t worry, it will all come together”… while nothing seemed to be “coming together” in the slightest.

On the plane, I felt decidedly uneasy. Here I was, having sunk money I didn’t really have into a “cheap” LAX / Dakar roundtrip ticket (IS there such a thing?), with a box of brand new CDs, cheerily winging my way to Senegal with no concrete plan at all. AAAHH!!!!

My heart lit up as usual as we descended toward Dakar’s Leopold Senghor airport. This was the 6th time in two years I had been to Senegal. I even recognized the customs guys in their booths as I said “Salam Alaikum” and pushed my paperwork under the glass. Yes! Baggage claim, then customs, then smiling as I said “Deedeet, jerejef” (No thanks!) to the hustling taxi drivers and baggage carriers, before my Goorgoorlu dancer friends appeared from the crowd and grabbed my suitcases.

For this visit, I stayed in Camberene 2, chez Astou Ndiaye. We arrived in the early morning hours to find a clean room, foam mattress on the floor and small shower / bathroom of my own. YES! Astou (a friend of friends) and her family were characteristically welcoming. As usual, I unpacked my suitcase into neat piles on the floor along one wall, charged my cheap Senegalese cellphone, and was ready to GO!
Before singing live on Youssou N'Dour's radio station RFM for Babacar Fall's program, Café Muzik with Mame Thierno Seck (guitar), Adama Faye (perc), and Fallou Ndiaye (from Goorgoorlu)

For the next three weeks, each day started with cafe touba, bread, and butter from the corner shop, eaten on my bedroom floor. I'd go through my notes, make phone calls, and be in a taxi by 10am. All day, until 8pm, I bounced around Dakar being interviewed by newspapers / magazines / on TV / on the radio, and handing out 100 CDs one by one!

baguette, butter, and cafe touba, Senegal's delicious spiced coffee

Soon, I realized why nothing had been planned in advance. Nothing COULD be planned in advance! Africa is … shall we say … far more
spontaneous than the West. A wonderful man handling my press was at the hub of my day’s wheel. I would do an interview or two (never knowing how long the journey, the waiting, the interview itself would take), before calling him for my next assignment. This worked like a dream!!! It was impossible for my schedule to become a train wreck of missed appointments. Instead, everything seemed easy-going, relaxed, efficient.

with my friend, Djibril Ndiaye Rose, in central Dakar before interviewing with Ndeye Mane Touré

After a long journey home, I would sleep for three hours and then the Goorgoorlu dancers would pick me up to dance in clubs, soirees, and at concerts. HEAVEN! Home just before dawn, I'd sleep again until 9am …. before starting all over again!

My time was extremely well spent in Dakar. In those three weeks, I made a ton of new “connaissances,” sang live at Youssou N’Dour’s RFM radio station, opened for Orchestra Baobab at Just 4 U, networked, saw Baaba Maal, Orchestra Baobab, Fallou Dieng, and numerous other wonderful artists live, met musicians, missed meeting Morgan Heritage by an hour (waaah! they were also doing promo in Dakar), filmed my second video, including a trip to Lacque Rose, and spent the blissful early morning hours dancing with Goorgoorlu. I will stop here and reserve further stories for my next blog entries. My postings need to be shorter!!

With Ndiguel MC, who starred in my second video, and his wonderful group, Ngueweul Rythme

Vive le Senegal! When I returned to LA, I slept for a week solid. Oh, I cannot wait to return!!!!!