Friday, March 21, 2008

Things go slow, time goes fast....


3/21/08
Hello there!
Sorry for the long wait. I even wrote the below post and never made it to the internet, at least not at a time that it was working..In fact, it is not working now, as I’m sitting in the internet shop, typing this little apology. After the first 2 posts, which both took about 3 hrs to send, I did some travelling and all my attempts have failed...I promise to update the blog with lots of pictures and music when I get back to the states. This time I can only post one picture, but it is typical of what I’ve been doing the last 3 weeks...
Everything moves so slow here that time passes very quickly... I always thought it was the other way around.

3/09/08

Wow....some time has passed since my last entry...sorry. the last week or so has been a mix of lethargy and emotional. After my first couple posts, things quickly sort of shifted in to a lower gear, and I kind of fell into the Gambian way of doing things. Well I should qualify that as to being the way my friends here do things...or not do things...
A large part of the population sits a lot, especially the male part. Unemployment is high, and most of the people I am around are griots, so music is what they do, so when there is a performance they are playing, when there are students, they are teaching...In the heat of the day, sitting is an easy option...some days, the only option.
So, instead of giving you the journal entry style...I’ll just recap some of the events, and adventures, and news that has shaped this last week and a half...

Most importantly, I have to share the news that my grandmother, Gladys Richardson, passed away last saturday at the age of 100. Through Gramma Richie I’m tied to the land of Sonoma and Mendocino counties going back to the late 1800’s. Gladys was the second generation and I am the 4th on my mom’s side of the family. The Nobles, Ferries, and Grahams settled up in Pt. Arena, Gualala, down in Russian Gulch and into Freestone, and eventually my gramma ended up in Santa Rosa, where she was in the first graduating class at Santa Rosa High School. The night she was born it was so stormy that the doctor couldn’t make it (I’ve also heard he was too drunk at the saloon to brave the storm), but she was the easiest to come of all her siblings. She became a school teacher and married my Granpa Richie (Barney) and they had my mom Jan and aunt Gail. My best memories of childhood are with my grandparents. I’ve been lucky to spend a lot of time with her since I’ve been back in California, but not nearly as much as my mom who spent up to 4hrs a day with her for the last 4 or 5 years, and has seen her everyday for pretty much the last 10. She wasn’t able to do much for most of those years and listened (read) hundreds if not thousands of audio books(being legally blind), but her stories have given me such a strong feeling of my roots. She will be missed.

So, I found that out while at my second stay at Sanyang beach, and it was a good place to recieve the news, by the beauty of the ocean, especially since she was a child of the coast.

So...as for recording...a lot of the “lost” time in the last couple weeks has been surfing the learning curve of learning Logic (my recording program)....which I must say is quite easy to learn, especially when you’re on the spot with limited energy reserves. But the brain doesnt’ seem to function as well in the sweltering heat here. I finally figured out an issue with the levels where I was having a real hard time monitoring the levels, and there are so many little switches, real and virtual, that somehow effect the volume you here or are recording....that my mind can glitch.
The main problem however is the classic one for me. I have two mics....I have a five piece band to record. I could record live, as I did with the traditional stuff, but then you have really nothing to can edit or mix to perfection....so we tried everything to simulate playing live while just recording one track at a time.
We put Jali in the back room, Ishmeala in the front with the jembe, and Bambo in front wit the bass plugged right in to the interface...the problems were that a) the jembe bled into the kora mics...BADLY...b) I have only two sets of headphones, and only one output that plays in stereo, so one person only gets to hear with one ear, and the bass player didn’t have any headphones, and neither do I...I just watch the levels and hope they don’t peak, and c) the bass level is soooo quiet because its just going in with no preamp, so I had to turn everything down and the bass up and the line and main outputs....then change it all back to listen........
So....we came back and put live drum kit on top of the jembe, kora, sratch bass, thinking this would solve all our problems by having a solid beat to put every else back on top of and trash the old tracks....this didn’t work because the old tracks were kind of all over the place tempo wise....so much for a solid beat....At this point frustration was setting in because recording here is very energy consuming, we hole ourselves up in the room and do take after take....I learn from my mistakes, etc....this all takes time and energy.
So, I decided.....ok, plan c, we’ll just find some of the programmed beats that fit the rhythm of the songs and play along with that, add bass, jembe, vocals, I’ll put down real drums at home as well as guitar and keyboards. But none of beats really fit.....so, then the epiphany came and I just figured out how to use the drum machine built into Logic and made the beats that are actually supposed to be there....And now its going smoother. yes...I’m in Africa recording AfroManding music with.....gasp....a drum machine, but fear not...you will never here it....except if we want you to.
More sessions tonite.

I’ve not played a lot of kora in the midst of all this and I was just about to become passive aggressive about it since I’m paying a lot of money to learn...but decided instead to skip Dakar and just stay here and focus on my lessons hardcore every day.

So the adventure was a little trip to Casamance....just to Kafoutine...a place I had built up in my head as being paradise....and it lots of ways it was. Much more lush than in the Gambia, peaceful, beautiful, the beach is amazing, lots of wildlife. But getting there was such hell that....well....I don’t know...looking back its all funny of course...
so we cross the border at a place that there are no border police (gen-darmes sp?), so I get no stamp coming into Senegal. Shortly thereafter, the bus is stopped by the the police and everyone’s IDs checked. They take mine, I have to step out, some “negotiating” which turn into yelling(jali and Ishmaila, not me...I just stood there), which turned into Jali chasing the car as it drove off (yes the police) with my passport....
I was pretty shocked that my passport had just disappeared with the police, but everyone said...oh no problem, just get it tomorrow...ok...I guess thats what we do.
So we get a taxi to the place we are “staying,” a nice little lodge in the bush, by the beach, except no one had his number, so after about 1/2 hour some people come and say he is out of town..so we go to another house....I should say we go (quite a ways) to a house, pass it, walk quite a ways, and then turn around and ask some people and go back to the house, which we had walked right past....anyways...tired.
Also the money thing was confusing me bad. Dalasis to CFAs. It seemed like everything was ridiculously expensive...but it turned out that we had just gotten a VERY bad rate at the market, as in he pocketed half the money....so I thought I had twice as much as I did. We ended up with just barely enough to take the bus back to Brikama....
Oh yeah. so we get to the other house and their friend is not there, but his wife, a british woman named Malika was, and she was so very hospitable and let us stay there two nights....I felt horrible that I was only able give her a few dollars for her kindness. She had other visitors passing through, a man named Manfred and his wife and twin baby daughter....the couple had met when he was driving through Morocco (she’s from morroco) and they’ve spent the last 3 years travelling around Africa in a 6 wheel land rover. He takes pictures of musicians and dancers at various festivals around Africa and showed me some of them...Just incredible shots....see for yourself...

So we made it back here and despite the heat, it was good to be back with a sense of purpose for the rest of my trip...to play kora 3-4 hours a day...keep trying my Mandinka, get this band recording ironed out, and then just do the easy, peaceful work of recording solo kora...and a couple demos for his brothers and friends. Its pretty neat to record and burn a cd right then and there to give to people...But if all goes smoothly, I will have some really good stuff when I get back and will be able to help get an album going for Jali....of course I also have an album to work on and gigs and tours and all that when I get back. I think I should also enjoying...doing nothing, at least a little.

1 comment:

Susanna said...

Steve, great to read you're keeping well in Gambia, and I feel your loss of grandma. The souls who enter our life bring so much!
Keep well and see you back in Cali.
Best, Susanna