Friday, December 31, 2004

new year's in mali!

and all the toubabs are in town. really. they are all here. allison got here on the 24th, joh arrived on the 28th with four in tow, including buff, and all over town there are toubabs. crazy. last trip i didn't see many, so i'm not sure if this is a december phenomenon (it is the coolest and least mosquito-y in dec and jan so lots of tourists come to mali now) or if mali has gotten better at advertising for tourists, but there are lots of tourists here. i'm conflicted about that, cause i think it is great that more tourists figure out mali, but of course in some sense that spoils some things. whatever, i'm just being wierd. but i like being the only whitey around sometimes.
anyway, allison and i have hired a taxi for the evening to go around with some friends. hopefully it'll be a good time. the last couple nights have been good, i've gone out to clubs, going with sidy and ba and meeting joh and buff and the rest on wednesday and going out with sidy, ba and allison last night. wed was nice, had a great time, buff rapped, i rode to and from the bar with both sidy and ba on ba's moped (mom, don't read that part).
i've been going to lots of ceremonies here, playing some djembe accompaniament and dancing some. but they've been pretty hard core ceremonies as i've been hanging with sidy and karim, who is a drummer with the national ballet. so for example at one wedding, i grabbed a drum at the beginning and was playing well, hanging in there, and some really good guys were really going strong. then they shifted from 2nd gear into about 6th in about 2 seconds and i was in trouble. i managed to finish the song and excuse myself from the drum. since then the playing time has been sparing. also mostly women dance at these ceremonies, so about once or twice per ceremony the men dance, and i get pushed (go myself) out there at those times.
may you all have an amazing 2005, filled with joy, peace, love and friendship.
kan ben sooni.

Monday, December 27, 2004

post christmas update

well christmas in mali wasn't really christmas. something about being with family that makes the holidays the holidays. i did have a nice phone call with my parents and sister, which was nice.
yesterday i played at a ceremony (wedding) all day long. i was exhausted to say the least. today it is off to downtown and who knows what else! i only have 2 weeks left here ( a little less actually) and time has flown since i left boston for these trips. i can't believe how fast it has been. anyway, just a quick hi and more later!

Friday, December 24, 2004

merry christmas!

i just wanted to take a couple of these gasoline generated minutes and say merry christmas and happy holidays to you all. i hope you are having great times with friends and family. i am missing my family and spending my first christmas away from my folks and sister. i am also missing my friends from home. but i am having good times with friends here in mali.
i am thankful for all of you in my life and everything that you do for me. i hope this season is filled with peace love and joy for all of you, and hope to talk to or see you soon.

xmas in mali

guys running around selling 2 foot tall inflatable red santas, sheep being washed by the side of the road in preparation to be sold for xmas dinner, joyeaux noel (or however you spell it in french) sprayed on store windows. these are just some of the signs that christmas is approaching.

oh yeah, before i forget, i have to post a bunch of small posts today, as i am computing by generator. that's right, the power blew and they started things up again on a generator. yeah africa! but this must be development, last trip i just sat in the dark or went out to the street until the power started up again.

anyone there?

over a week since i posted, almost 3 weeks since the last comment . . .

Saturday, December 18, 2004

divas, ministers and exhaustion

hello all -
i'm exhausted and am working on stopping a migraine, so i probably shouldn't be here at the internet cafe, but today was just too much, so i have to write.
i started the adventure today by putting on my brand new blue boubou. always fun to put on local clothes, whether it is a skirt in fiji or a boubou in mali. the locals love it, starting with the everyone at the house.
after i took the sotreman to the taxi station at faguguila market, i got a taxi to take me to ramata diakite's house. i just negotiated the fare to her neighborhood and then when we got going, told the taxi man where we were going. i got a nice reaction from him, as is to be expected when you tell someone you are going to a superstar's house. on the main road into town, at one point, there was a body lying in the road. i think a kid had just been hit by a sotreman, but my taxi man got us through the growing crowd quickly and out of there before things heated up. we passed a couple policemen about 100 yards down, one of whom was distractedly looking up the road at the crowd, but neither was starting towards the scene and my taximan said they would not go up there at all. different worlds.
continuing on through town, we reached the neighborhood where i thought ramata lived. asking a couple people, we got directions, headed there, and then got sent back where we started. a kid who said he knew where she lived jumped in the car, and off we went into the middle of nowhere. we reached a small house and the kid asked if ramata was home. now, i've been to ramata's house twice, and this was not it. i told the kid so, and then the kid realized he had misheard the driver. oops.
we then went to a telephone cabine, where i was recognized by one of rokia traore's sisters who had gone to her village with us. we got ramata on the phone, got directions and set off. when we finally reached her house, it was about 2 hours after i left the coulibaly house. wow. and i ended up paying the driver double the original price, plus dumping a few cents at the phone booth and in the misdirecting kid's hand. oh well, it was a fun adventure.
arriving at ramata's house, i was reminded that she had stayed at my house in boston on the bed on the porch when she was there for the coumba show. i can't believe that she stayed there, didn't complain and is still willing to help me out. she and her husband have a nice house and at least 3 people working for them. we hung out a bit, ate some lunch, and then headed off for our 'rendevouz' with a government minister.
on the way, we had to stop and buy him some meat from 'apollo', the most famous and best bbq man in bamako. stopping there, i was struck by the life of a diva, and my second close encounter with such in the past month. i fiji, i had the pleasure of spending time with laisa vulukoro, the biggest diva in fiji. a great person, great singer, huge flirt. her husband was around for part of the festival as well, and it ir interesting to compare his reactions to ramata's husband. both women attract attention from lots of people, especially men. neither one is interested in anything beyond flirting, but laisa's husband actually understood that and i think kind of enjoyed watching laisa deal with all the attention.
meeting with the minister was interesting. ramata introduced me after a bit of small talk, and i launched into our spiel about getting the music of mali distributed to the world via the internet. the minister was interested and he is going to work on setting up a couple of other meetings this week. yeah! so i hope that this stuff continues this week, and that we end up back in mali to do a festival and get all this great music. after my meeting with mali k7 yesterday, i think there is real interest and real possibilities for these great artists.
on the way back here to the iternet cafe (and soon on to catch a nap) i got a nice little lecture from a woman in the shared taxi to wear condoms. not sure quite why i got that warning since it was rather off topic to our conversation, but it was a bit shocking, as i have not heard people actually talk about sex publicly very much. there is always stuff on tv about aids, and this trip there is a repeating 5 minute movie about talking to your kids about sex and condoms, so maybe this woman was trying out her spiel on me before talking to her kids. who knows. anyway, fun chats in cabs! yeah.
stay well, i'm off to nap.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

who is the vp?

so things are shaping up. still waiting for sidy's visa to come through, but we have a cheque in hand from air france for his refund and we're waiting for the bank to open to go deal with that. hope that works ok.
tomorrow i have a meeting with mali k7 to talk about digital distribution of all their artists! and ramata is setting up a meeting with a minister! so keep those fingers crossed.
my favorite comment of the day has to do with politics. every here wants to talk politics and want to know if i voted bush or kerry. they seem shocked but happy that i support kerry and don't like bush. the guy at the travel agency (who thought i was a child of kennedy (aka peace corps)) told me that he thought that bin laden was actually bush's vice president since he helped him out so nicely before the election with the release of the tape and always finds a good time to pop up. and bush of course is helping bin laden's recruitment like no one else possibly could. interesting thought, though i think they probably hate each other but they do need each other. after all, if you don't have an enemy, it's pretty hard to promote all that goes along with religious fundamentalism.
well, off to the bank! wish us luck!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

reunion time

the past few days have been exhausting. sidy and i have managed to get air france to promise a refund of most of his money on his ticket since they were requiring transit visas from france and the usa (at a cost of more than 40 bucks each and at least a week of time each) and plus they had no flights in december or january. the whole point of this is to get sidy to jamaica to see his girlfriend lynette, who leaves in january. so we now have a ticket on air maroc through canada, and have his application in for a transit visa through canada (at a cost of 10 bucks and who knows how long). his flight was supposed to go this morning, so i guess we'll have to rebook that one. and he might get 10 days in jamaica.

yesterday was good though, despite figuring out that this whole transhite visa thing was going to suck up some time and money and energy.

on our way downtown, we rode the moped (sore butt erich) past alhassan's house. he was there, having literally just arrived in france from touring with nahawa doumbia. alhassan was my drum teacher last time i was here and sidy was his apprentice. sidy has since moved on, and i was fearing a bit of a wierd interaction, but as seems to be the case in mali, you can have a huge falling out with someone and still seem completely normal around them. anyway it was good to see alhassan and his family, he has another daughter who looks just like his first one did when i was here before.

after we got the ticket in the morning, then we go to the canadian embassy where the woman assures us the transhite visas are only for european countries and the usa (implying nicely that those countries couldn't control security at their airports). canada doesn't do such a thing. shortly after we left on a huge high, she called and said, nope in special circumstances (ie if you are an african trying to travel outside of africa) you need a transhite visa.

after going back to get the application and talking to lynette in jamaica, sidy and i set off to try and find m'ba (my dance teacher from last trip). eventually we found her and her husband tièfourou and their kids in a 'house' way up on the hill beyond doumanzana where i am staying. she saved up some money and bought the land and the stuff to build the house for her, her mom, her family and some other folks. amazing. it was also great to see her and her family, there house is so nice and quiet up on the hill looking over bamako and the suburbs near me. they both work with a dance troupe in doumanzana and are getting ready for the regional selections which will lead the top artists into the regional troupes for the bienal coming up in the summer of 2005. make your travel plans now. anyway, i'm going to try and work with them a bit to study up, also sidy is going to teach me some djembe stuff. i have to get back into dance, haven't danced since i left boston, and joh and his company are having/just had a big show that i ditched for this trip. i've got to get back in shape for when i get back home!

more funny stuff - the horn in the sotreman we were in one of these days. sotremans are the green european delivery vans stripped down to the metal. benches are placed around the edge, giving enough room for about 8-10 people, if you're in the american mentality. here, it's normal to have 20 stuffed in the back. anyway, sidy and i were riding up front with the driver, and there were two bare wires sticking out of the dash. the driver would occasionally grab them both at the same time and activate the horn. great stuff. especially since the use of the horn seems so arbitrary to me here. honk to pass, honk to say hi, honk to honk, honk at animals in the road etc etc

oh yeah, and in case i was vague earlier, when i wrote you all and said i wasn't doing individual emails, i was referring to writing my stories down in email. i'll happily respond to your emails to thanks to those of you who have wrote here or to my email, i love getting notes from home.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

i skate for jesus

it's the little things that really make africa africa and make me smile.
today, my friend sidy is wearing his 'i skate for jesus' shirt. cause it looks good. not cause of the message, mind you. great stuff. i love it. i tried explaining skateboards and the rest, but to no real avail. when he gets to the us or jamaica, hopefully, he'll sort it all out.
we've been running around the past couple days trying to sort out his visa situation so he can get to jamaica and visit his girlfriend. hectic. so glad it's not me in his shoes. african travel. wow.
not too much time today, so i'll just share the other funny thing. yesterday, i was watching tv at issa's house with his parents and some other folks at the house. they were watching a broadcast from mecca, as the hadj is upcoming so there is tons of publicity to get people to go. so we watch tons of people praying around the kabah. when the prayers are over, the programming becomes the african music videos and the first video is one shot in a malian village, showing a goat sacrifice and tons of animist imagery. great. and then even better, the next song is a senegalese sabar video with clothes coming off. everyone at the house loved all of it. i love the inherent contradictions in everything and that it is all embraced.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

2 sides

this whole trip for me i think is going to be a 2 sided experience. starting with the filming of the 2 sides 2 everything film, and continuing on. for example, i've just been checking out some photos from jb and mindy's wedding or check out jb's site and type code 101004 to see all pictures. all the while sitting doing internet at the sofitel hotel at a rate of 4000 cfa/hour as opposed to yesterday at the mali internet cafe for 500cfa/hour. today though i have high speed connection and working mice and printers. whee. for ten times the price. not an everyday luxury to be sure.
today i'm headed to usaid to start trying to get some money for calabash projects here in mali. we'd like to be able to sell all the releases in mali worldwide as downloads and have the money come back to the artists here all while working with the government to promote tourism and the malian music industry via these sales and festivals.
yesterday was about hanging out with friends. saw moussa's family, issa's family and ran around town with sidy for a while hanging with his friends. i'll be headed with him to check out the troupe district du bamako rehearsal tomorrow and see baissa, the director and dance teacher there. i was so exhausted after just running around yesterday that i crashed last night at 10 after watching liverpool defeat olympiakos in the champions league and didn't get up until 8 this morning. i'm realizing again that if you are out of the toubab resort expensive hotels, you have to drink lots of water to stay active. crazy that.
i think i am going to start retroactively posting and dating some entries on this blog, so look further down for new stuff.

more mali

there is another post by jamie on the one giant leap site called goodbye mali, hello paris. i'll have to post a day by day of their time here when i get a chance to compare/contrast.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

2 sides 2 everything

well, the first part of my trip in mali is done, and i'm moving on to the next part. i'm sitting in an internet spot in fajiguila with sidy maiga, who some of you know. big hello from him to you.
the 1 giant leap guys left on monday night after an exhausting and productive trip here. we got film and audio of rokia traore in her village, oumou sangare in her hotel, ramata diakite on her roof, masks in safo, and tons of other great stuff. it was quite a trip working with the guys. despite the existence of a confidentiality agreement, i've got some photos and videos, as the film will enter post production in may after they visit another 18 countries and the film is scheduled to be finished in may of 2006. check their website and bulletin board for more info - check out the 'love from mali' post by jamie catto, the director, for his take on the trip. our gear will definently have to be 'hoovered' to get the dust out, this country is dry now and between safo and the masks there and rokia' village, there was tons of dust. my gear didn't go to safo, so it'll be a little cleaner.
the guys were staying at the sofitel in the center of the city at 78,000 cfa a night. wow. also staying there was rokia traore, ba cissoko and group, a bunch of military soccer teams in town for the CAM tournament. mali plays guinea in the semifinal tomorrow, bamako will be crazy.
the coulibaly house is great, they are all doing well.
it's quite biizzare doing email now. i've got a bunch of messages regarding fiji and i'm sitting in mali. both beautiful places, but very different. and tough to try and be mentally in more than one place.
last night was great, sitting on the roof of the coulibaly house looking out at the neighborhood as the sun set. all the red in the soil just goes off, and the sky also lit up. the trees go deep green, and the colors on the houses also go deep. amazing.
i start trying to get the calabash stuff lined up tomorrow, but first have to go buy some nice malian clothes since i didn't bring nice western clothes. then off to usaid and various government ministries. ramata is going to do some introducing and i've left info with oumou sangare.
i'm trying to email and blog at the same time, and having a tough go of it as the mouse works only about once out of every 10-20 clicks. grrrrr.
so, time is up, but i've found the internet cafe now, so i'll be back soon . . .
love to all.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


i made it to mali after 3 nights of consecutive red eyes. nice.
hit the ground running yesterday after being met at the airport by both sekou and ba coulibaly on tuesday night. nice to be back at the coulibaly house though. wednesday morning (yesterday) i got to the hotel d lamite in bamako and met the film crew and started lining things up. got some stuff yesterday and some today, we're going out now to get more. much more later, probably on tuesday when the film crew is gone. love to all!