Blog

On this page you'll find a blog feed from my Wordpress Blog. It's basically only active when I'm out of the country on some wild adventure, typically in a part of the world where the food is spicy, the weather is ungodly hot, and the tea is made like this. Oh, and where the hospitality is simply unmatched, just like the culture of music. Note: the feed process sometimes messes up punctuation... it wasn't me I swear!

Doudou N’Diaye Rose Was Still as a Mountain 

On this day, August 19, 2015, we mourn the passing of one of the greatest percussionists of our time, the Senegalese master Doudou N’Diaye Rose. I was never lucky enough to meet him, though I did encounter him once from afar. What follows is that short story, written on Friday July 18th, 2003.

I saw him by himself in one of the side nooks next to the dance floor. He was in a light blue traditional boubou, and it was dark so his face looked mysterious. He was still as a mountain while everything moved and…

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On December 11th 2013, I Don’t Know What I Did 

On December 11th, 2013 I wandered into the new music room in my new house, where my koras are now kept. It used to be that I stored everything in my bedroom in my old apartment because I had no extra rooms it was like a museums warehouse. Furniture upturned, dusty gemstones eyeing you from the desk, components of koras everywhere, a broken hand-carved wooden window-door I brought back from the Dogon Country in Mali resting on the floor with its hand-hammered nails waiting to be put back in.

In the new…

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What to Write and What to Keep 

Youssoufa’s Band at Kasumay

After writing these words, I took a voyage into the palace of my memory that is the resting place of my experiences. They are all in there somewhere and now I’m choosing which ones to share with y’all. I recently read an article by a memory athlete on how the technique of storing and recalling bits of information works. Briefly, each bit of information that you want to remember is associated with a visual image, and these images are stored together in locations that you can…

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What to Write and What to Keep 

Youssoufa’s Band at Kasumay

After writing these words, I took a voyage into the palace of my memory that is the resting place of my experiences. They are all in there somewhere and now I’m choosing which ones to share with y’all. I recently read an article by a memory athlete on how the technique of storing and recalling bits of information works. Briefly, each bit of information that you want to remember is associated with a visual image, and these images are stored together in locations that you can…

Read more

Kairaba plays in Senegal 

As of this post, Kairaba has played five gigs: one in Thies, two in Mbour, and two in Saly.

We are struggling to find adequate equipment and have experienced everything from broken kick pedals, malfunctioning high-hat clutches, fried 110 volt power supplys, missing jembes and congas, blown speakers; we’ve played without tom-toms, amplifiers, audiences or payment. Three of our shows were basically auditions to get a later gig.

But all our gigs were trumped by a birthday party we played in the street for the…

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Kairaba in Senegal: Sabar, Kairaba HQ, and Bomb-ass Food 

The Senegalese love their most popular style of music: Mbalax. Kairaba’s first show in Senegal was at a club called Palais du Cultur in Thies, opening for a somewhat famous MC called Mode Faye. His group consisted of drum set, bass, keys, 3 singers and a battery of 5 percussionists: one tama (talking drum) and 4 in the sabar ensemble. It was mbalax with a twist.

The power of the sabar ensemble is something to be reckoned with. As a percussionist who has studied complex polyrhythmic forms of drumming for…

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Mali Variations 

Yesterday Austin and I went to visit the bougou (Quarter) where I lived last year for 4 months, Kalaban Koura. Half of my baggage consisted of gifts to friends and host-family there, and I unloaded it with firepower. Each person got something special and by the end I was throwing atomic fireball candy in the air to deafening applause and screaming. The living room at the Doumbia’s exploded with love and gratitude, and all my gifts were put on or turned on immediately and then everyone disappeared. My host…

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First Week in the City of Close Calls 

Welcome everyone to the first communiqué from the 2011 Mali-Senegal Kora-Building Kairaba-Playing Voyage Into the Motherland.

When we touched down at Senghor and exited the plane it was 6:30 am local time. Austin and I had sat facing the WCs near the back of the plane, so our transatlantic flying experience was devoid of awareness of how close we actually were in relation to the ground. The dawn in Dakar was a stunning orange, like my coveted turban I had bought in Mopti the year before. But even more…

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The Beethoven and the Bach of Mali 

So now things are real different. School program is over, classes are over, the other students have gone, and my friend Austin is here from the States to visit and study music with me.

ISP

My last school assignment was to do a month-long research project (ISP – Independent Study Project) on a topic of my choosing that related to the program themes of health, gender, community empowerment and development. I did mine on the kora, naturally, even though it doesn’t relate that much to the themes. Overall it…

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LBGTQ Fishing 

A quick note about photos: I stopped posting them here because the process sucks and Facebook is so much easier. Can someone tell me if the links in the post about Photos are working for those of you who are not friends with me on Facebook? Thx. If they work then maybe I’ll link to them at the end of each blog post or something… Now on to the goods.

OK I’m back after a long hiatus. Sorry bout that. Blog blight or something got me. Actually, I traveled for almost 2 weeks and when I got back I had to hit the…

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LGBTQ Fishing 

A quick note about photos: I stopped posting them here because the process sucks and Facebook is so much easier. Can someone tell me if the links in the post about Photos are working for those of you who are not friends with me on Facebook? Thx. If they work then maybe I’ll link to them at the end of each blog post or something… Now on to the goods.

OK I’m back after a long hiatus. Sorry bout that. Blog blight or something got me. Actually, I traveled for almost 2 weeks and when I got back I had to hit the…

Read more

Transport Publique à Bamako 

Il y a quatre modes majeurs de transport à Bamako : Les SOTARAMAS, les taxis, les cars, et les buses. Le fleuve Niger n’est pas utilisé pour le transport de peuple à Bamako, mais il est utilisé pour le transport de Bamako à des autres régions au Mali. Généralement, c’est le pauvre qui prend le Sotrama parce qu’il est le mode le moins cher. Par exemple, un billet de Sotrama coute entre 100 et 300 CFA, et c’est la destination qui détermine le prix. Le prix n’est pas négociable, c’est fixé. Cependant, le…

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More photos than you asked for. 

I’ve been uploading photos on Facebook because it’s so much easier and faster, so I’m adding some public links to the albums below. I hope they work. You don’t have to have an account to view them. Also, I’m working on another post; I went on a trip to Segou, Djenne, Mopti, and Dogon Country so I’ve been away from technology for the most part. But now I’m back in Bamako working on my Independent Study Project, which is the final phase of this program. I’m doing it on kora players. More to come. Enjoy the…

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Update on Letters to Mali 

Sad news y’all. I haven’t received ANY of your letters yet. I don’t understand why. I triple checked the address. Other people have gotten stuff at the same address. I’ll keep trying to figure it out. So if you have a letter in your hand to me right now, hold on to it until I come back with an update. And packages- I can get them. Wink, wink.