Friday, November 26, 2010

To the Market and to the Jam

I hitch a ride into the market for a mid-day stroll.  What will I find today?  Are their good bananas? Maybe some cookies?  Only Allah knows who will bring what to sell today. One usually has about a 30% chance of finding what one's looking for. So it's best not to get you're hopes up and just revel in the sweet surprises. For instance, today I am delighted to find: apples ! I also run down two little kids I see sucking on yogurt bags and I ask their mother where they bought it (the yogurt sellers walk around with the white plastic yogurt bags on their head, so there's no telling where you might spot them, like Where's Waldo).  The mother is very sweet, and she has me give her 8yr old son the money and he runs off to buy me two - how efficient.  I now can boast I also am familiar 'un peu' with the market layout; ie:  the ladies at one side sell bananas at extortion rates, the Peul lady at the other always seems to have a fair price.  I also tend to walk on the other side of the street from where they have the huge hanging dead animal carcases, and subsequent grilling action.  I return to the same fabric sellers, and whether they remember me or not, they always have a big smile when I show up (maybe its the 'here comes the white person with money smile' ).
        I am invited to lunch by one of my colleagues and I arrive as the last stirs of the big rice pot on the outdoor charcoal burner are being made.  We eat the natural 'local rice' (as opposed to imported white Chinese rice - i prefer the former) with a sauce of potato leaves.  This was my first time eating the potato leaf sauce because my Fulani host family never prepared it for me, it's supposed to be very popular down here in lower Guinea, but maybe they don't like it (maybe I will ask them later).  When thinking 'potato leaf' the first thing that came to mind for me was: goat food.  But actually it tastes pretty good, or is that the loads of Maggi (MSG flavoring) that's added to all cooking here. I wish with all my heart that someone would ban this stuff from the developing world, but it seems to be prolific.  The Maggi MSG phenomenon is everywhere:  cambodia, mali, vietnam, brazil, T & T, venezuela, senegal, morocco, etc etc and of course the inventor of the horrible 'Agi no Mono' (literally translated as: 'the taste of a thing' aka MSG) japan.  Let me start a campaign for natural eating.
         After I get through a meeting in the afternoon, I rush to head back into village for what I've been waiting for: a jam session !  I drop of the glass coke bottles I need to return to the boutique along the way and head over to the spot under the trees 'where the musicians hang out.' 
The other day I was heading home on my bike when I was waved down by Enriko, a student at the Arts University here.  He urged me to sit down and chill with him and his friends, Biggie and Bouba. Without much adieu they bring out a djembe and some congas and start jammin and freestylin.  One's got a cigarette dangling from his mouth the other has some m.j. and is working the rhythm with a Susu lyrical flow. The djembe has a hole in the top, but Bouba still gets a good sound out of it (musicians, no money to fix things : )
Enriko sings me 'bienvenue to Guinea' and I appreciate the warmhearted welcome.  Not content with me just sitting there and bopin my head, Bouba begins to teach me the 'Yankadi' rhythm on djembe - he plays one side of the drum and I play the other. Then he starts to hit a complementary rhythm on the other side of the drum and an insta-streetside-jamsession is born.  Cool, I dig this.  Villagers come by and stop and stare at this foreigner beating out their tune. I'm sure they thought it was just the boys playing, but now they see there is plus one.  We keep the groove going till sundown.
      So now I am back again for more.  Enriko's gone to Conakry to a recording studio for the night ( for his upcoming rap album) so it's just me and Bouba.  He's chilled out sipping palm wine he got in Dofilila today, and puffing a cigarette.  I tell him I hate smoking and he agrees that its no good and he'll try to stop - as does every man I give this counsel to (African women dont for the most part smoke). We pull out the guitar and he wows me with a bunch of Salif and African rhythms, so we work on that.  Bouba had a guitar before, but it broke, but he's hoping that one of his fellow students might bring a guitar he can use soon (school was supposed to start today, but its been postponed again till after the final decree by the senate in regards to the election). We play until my fingers are raw, so this must mean its been a productive session.  The jams not over though, we leave it 'to be continued.'  I walk back through the village as darkness moves into black, and at this time everyone else in village is either home or on the road back home. I stop in quickly to see my host family - mom has malaria again!  - admire the full moon, and then retire for the night.          

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