Much to your dismay, I am not actually skydiving to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I will be returning to West Africa, however, and I have a few things in store beyond my normal agenda of camel drawing consultations.
I am in the states, doing some side trips, staying with my mom, and visiting a sick grandpa.
I just got back from Boston, where I had the pleasure of seeing Vieux Farka Toure and visiting with some good friends. I have seen Vieux in concert a handful of times, most recently at la Nuit de Niafunke. Knowing that I also spent an afternoon at his house in Bamako and later met his family in the northern village of Niafunke, you may accuse me of having some stalker-like tendencies. What you need to understand, though, is that many Malian musicians are incredibly accessible. Also, if you travel to Niafunke, there is a good chance you will meet the farka toure clan as well – they are a welcoming bunch. That said, I am openly stalking Mamou Sidibe. If you have a line on her, let me know.
If you don’t know Vieux Farka Toure from this blog or from your life in general, here is a short clip:
We were able to hang out with him a bit before and after the show and I’m now planning on catching an as yet unannounced performance at Oberlin College in Ohio. If you happen to be in the area, let me know. The show is September 9th. It’s an empty date on his website, but I’m told he will be there.
Before Boston, I was on North Hero Island in Vermont, absorbing natural beauty and sharing some laughs with new friends and old. It was here that I looked into a telescope for the first time and saw Jupiter’s rust and cream bands and every crack and crater on the moon; to be perfectly honest, it just about split my mind in two.
North Hero Island, Vermont
I was fortunate to meet a lot of inspiring folks when I was last in Mali. I met Drew, the guitarist from Toubab Krewe. I met Chris, the man behind the incredible sahelsounds.com (side note: see this great kickstarter Chris is working on to provide distribution and financial compensation to a number of musicians in the Sahel). I met Stephen, who was doing research on the viability of biofuels in Mali. I met Kettly Noel (thanks, Sarah!), the Haitian born, Bamako based dancer and choreographer who was the director of last year’s Danse Afrique Danse, Africa’s annual international dance festival. This is to say nothing of the people behind the projects I featured on howtodrawcamels.com.
Another person I was privileged to meet was Mohamed Ag Ossade, the director of Tumast. Tumast is the Tuareg cultural center in Bamako and their mission is to challenge misguided perceptions when it comes to Mali’s most northern populations. One of these is that the Tuareg are synonymous with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (not true). Tumast holds weekly events, which include cross-cultural gatherings like a night of Dogon and Tuareg music (see footage from one of their hosted concerts here). Right now, I am working on building them a website, which you can check out here: tumast.com.
In other internet related things, I am doing a bit of web design locally and working on other projects like sickontheroad.com, which is starting to become profitable and, I think, a good resource for travel health.
In two months or so, I will return to West Africa. I will fly to Ghana and spend time with friends in Newtown, Accra. I will also be doing some research into a possible film project I might be undertaking with a friend from Finland. I’m not going to say anything about it yet, because, you know, talk is cheap.
From there, I will travel to Cote d’Ivoire. In Abidjan, I am investing small small in a roadside restaurant started by my beloved former couchsurfing hosts, Faty and David, and a few of their friends. It will be a limited seating, carry-out focused affair. I should be there for the launch. I’m looking forward to this project because, as some of you know, I have aspirations to create a restaurant and music space (again, talk is cheap).
After Cote d’Ivoire, I will be heading to Mali by way of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, or by way of.. Cote d’Ivoire. This depends on timing. I need to be in Mali for this:
Essakane Film – Trailer/Teaser from Essakane Film on Vimeo.
Can’t see the video? click here.
That is the trailer for Essakane Film, a documentary my friend Andrea and others are working on about Festival au Desert, one of the most unique music-based gatherings in the world. Let me know if you will be there. We will have tea and play settlers of catan. Roll Call in the comments.
And that’s all I got so far.
I just started reading One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina and it is seriously living up to the hype (New York Times opened their review by saying “Harried reader, I’ll save you precious time: skip this review and head directly to the bookstore for Binyavanga Wainaina’s stand-up-and-cheer coming-of-age memoir.”) It’s been difficult to put it down.
Here is Nigerian author Teju Cole’s review:
Brilliant. What makes the book good is its impassioned account of the Africa we need to hear more about: the Africa of schools, weddings, television shows, jokes, politics, family gossip, and idiosyncratic dreams. What makes it great are Wainaina’s beautifully elastic sentences that fizz and crackle, pounce on their meanings, stretch and snap back into place, and evoke not only the self-replenishing wonders of childhood but the more complex wonders that follow. An outstanding book, bursting with life and full of love.
Reading anything interesting? Let me know in the comments.
Up Next: Another something that makes Mali a special place. This one does not involve bean eater jokes or music.