Monday, March 19, 2012

Another Musical Adventure

First, a note about Camp G2LOW

Thanks to all of you who have generously contributed to support the Leo Camp G2LOW.  Our camp has reached our fund raising goal, but two of the other camps are still in need of support. If you were thinking about making a contribution, please consider donating to Camp Fafa where the Burkinabè have taken the lead in planning the camp. They do not have as many Peace Corps volunteers helping with fundraising from America. They have same purpose, to give a summer camp experience, leadership training, and education for a healthy life style to Burkinabè youth and any help will be appreciated.

Another musical adventure

Last Sunday my friend Nadine, one of the English teachers at the Lycée, told me that there was to be a musical performance that evening at the one “night club” in my little town, called Point Jeune.  It was the same place where the wedding reception was held I told you about in an earlier blog. She invited me to go with her.  We arrived at 7:30 for the 8:00 performance, not being sure whether there would be a big crowd or not.  There was not.  In fact, when we arrived, they told us that the poster advertising the event had been printed wrong and that the concert was to start at 9:00, not 8:00.  Rather than go home we went inside to have a Fanta and wait.  They had a big sound system blasting popular African dance music.  There were 5 or 6 boys about 10-12 years old dancing on the platform that serves as a stage.  They were interesting to watch. One of them was particularly good and a man who had also believed the advertisement, and was there early, watched them for a while and then tipped the one boy who was particularly good, asking him to dance some more.  One of the basic steps seemed to be shifting weight from toes to heels and back again, while turning the feet, thus moving sideways.  Another involved taking a stance with feet wide apart and then moving the knees toward and away from each other. Now that I have described them, I think they are a bit similar to some of the moves in American dances from the 1920s, but definitely with an African twist. Maybe that is where the Charleston came from. The boy who was especially good seemed to know all the selections being played and seemed to have routines worked out for each one, with hand gestures, pointing up or out, or touching the floor, punctuating the dance when there was an appropriate place in the music.  The music was blasting so loud that I stuffed kleenx into my ears to protect them a bit.  I wish I had thought to take my ear plugs! It seemed that each boy was dancing for himself and paid no attention to what the others were doing.

About 8:30 a rather large group of French people arrived en mass. I recognized a couple of the men as folks I had run into at the Lycée on Thursday.  They had been handing out little slips of  pink paper on which were a couple of coffins with people in them.  I was curious what it was all about so I introduced myself to them and asked them about it.  They said they were advertising a movie about AIDS that would be shown at Point Jeune that evening. There would be one in French, followed by the same one in Moore, the local language. I had not realized that they had a group of young people with them.  It turned out that the whole reason for the musical performer giving a concert was because this was the group’s last night in Burkina Faso after spending some time here going around the country presenting their AIDS program. The young people immediately took over the platform for dancing and the young local boys were shooed out by the manager. I don’t think they had paid admission and the manager had allowed them to come in to dance until the program got started.

The young French students, who looked to be late high school or early college age, danced in what I expect was a style Americans would recognize.  Several times they formed a loose circle and one by one people would go into the middle and do some move of their choice.  Others would then imitate that movement or step.  For other selections they seemed to know a particular set of movements to go with the song and everybody did the same thing (a bit like line dancing).  One song seemed to be something about elephants, and several of the young people waved an arm in front of their faces, like elephant trunks, each time that word came up in the song, and then joined hands in a line and ran in a circle.  Eventually the talked to the “disk jockey” who was selecting the music from a computer, and got him to play “It's Time for Africa,” a song you may have heard in the US. They had a whole dance routine worked out that was pretty impressive. The contrast between the “each boy for himself” style of the Burkinabè and the group interaction was interesting. It might be age, but I am inclined to think it is cultural. Or maybe it was because these young people were all friends who had just shared a big adventure and they were having a last fling before going home.

About 9:30 the management folks seemed to be getting ready to present the artist, but, instead, a Burkinabè and two of the boys in the French group took the stage, the Burkinabè with the African instrument called a kora, and the French boys with a violin and a clarinet. It was clear that the man had been working with them to try to find a way they could play together. 

After that, the French students took over the microphone, thanking the adults who had been with them on the trip and the manager of Point Jeune, and then they did their “It's Time for Africa” routine again. It was quite good, but the video I made of it did not come out.  Not enough light.

After some more adjustment of equipment, the featured performer finally took the stage about 10:15.  He played an amplified acoustical guitar and I could remove my improvised ear plugs and actually enjoy the music. He had a great singing voice and played very well, accompanying himself on all his numbers, although he occasionally had the computer guy play some pre-recorded backup tracks.  He did one number with the kora player, but otherwise it was a solo act. He sang in French until the French group left, because they had to be in Ouaga by 7 the next morning to get their plane, and then he switched to Moore.  I guess the lyrics in Moore were pretty amusing because most of the audience laughed and seemed to be enjoying the songs.  While he sung in French and Moore and I could not understand the words, the rhythm and basic style reminded me of 1960’s folk music.  He taught a call and response chorus to one of his songs to get the audience involved and encouraged people to sing along or clap with the music. About 11:30 Nadine and I made our exit because I had to be at the Lycée for a 7:00 class.  I was sorry they had not started the program a bit earlier because I really enjoyed his performance.  All in all it was an interesting evening and a different kind of Burkinabè music than I had heard before.

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