Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tooba heads East, almost....

Hey Ya'll!
Kariya (peace upon you)!
Welcome to my first post. I'm starting this blog to chronicle my 2nd trip to The Gambia, West Africa in 9 long years. I ended up in Brikama, Gambia, after seeing an Ernest Ranglin show in London while studying abroad in 1999. I went to the show expecting the jazz-reggae hybrid I had gone crazy for in college, and instead had my mind blown with a 10-piece Senegalese mega-group. The stage was filled with strange instruments and percussion, along with an upright bass, trap kit, and Ernest on guitar. The next day, I found the cd, "In Search of the Lost Riddum," at the Virgin Megastore, and made up my mind to go to Senegal when my studies were finished.
A chance meeting with British kora player Ravi pointed me instead to that little smile curling up from the coast of Senegal, the Gambia. Surrounded on 3 sides by Senegal, and the 4th a beautiful coastline, I was told it was cheaper to get to from England, that they spoke English in stead of French, and he could hook me up with a place to live. He told me to contact Lucy Duran at the SOAS, and she would set me up.
It took me a while, but I figured out that this was the School for Oriental and African studies when I saw a sign telling me it was located at the next Tube stop on the way to school one day.
I wandered the halls until I found Lucy's office. I knocked, she came to the door, and within a day I was on the phone with Dembo Konte, a world renowned Kora player and Jali of the Mandinka people.
Long story short after a seemingly hazy, "yes, I pick you up at airport," I bought my ticket and after the necessary shots and other paperwork, I was on my way to one of the most amazing places I'd ever been to hear and learn some of the most amazing music I had ever experienced.
While there, I made many friends, most notably Jali Bakary Konteh, Dembo's son.
So, years go by, right, and I'm always thinking in the back of my head, "why have i not gone back?" Then guilt started to kick in, which I realize now was just the fire I needed sparked under my ass to get me Africa bound. After over 5 years of being out of contact, I tracked down Jali Bakary over the internet, found other friends I'd met there on myspace, and am now 3 weeks out from my trip....
last minute plans are taking most of my headspace right now, most notably trying to firgure out how to get the solar system I plan to gift them (hopefully with the generous contributions of freinds and family) there. Its looking to be a few grand at the least. but I think I can do it. If you're out there reading this and want to contribute, just contact me through this blog...more up soon.

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