words and images from my mind


Goal:

Goal: 

Goal: to take one thing and post on my blog each day

Goal: 

Goal: 

Goal: 

Goal: don’t yell at them

Goal: 

Goal: i’m talking to myself.

Goal: make a decision

Goal: figure out how ‘they’ do it.


love this love project

Two Rugs by Maxie Rockymore is the poem that I chose.  Dave calculated that we have known each other for 10 years.  I know we have shared the stage on many occasions but never actually performing together.  I know I have always admired his funk style, and I was geeked when he noticed my chest isolations in some piece or other...

Dancin Dave VI grande

Where did I see him recently to say - 'we should work together?' How did we actually make it happen after he stood me up once, came on cp time once?  The Love Project and the poem Two Rugs and the idea in my head of who I would want to be all up on in a dance like that...who can move real good? who has many styles?

So now we are working together, all up in the lab laughing and making connections.  I'm happy because Dancin' Dave is doing all the work.  I like working with agreeable motivated people.  I like saying yes to Dave, he's definitely got it going on.  Our piece is turning out tight and he's up for the ideas I had in mind, mainly getting all up on each other.

Check out the finished product at The Love Project.  Friday and Saturday December 28 and 29, 2012 - 7pm at Pillsbury House Theater.


dream music

a tribe called quest, little dragon, billie holiday, in a sentimental mood

2012-12-06 00.21.57

these are the notes that came to me the first time like it was the second time or more. like movie music. like something heard inside the womb.

these are the tracks that i guarded  jealously, yeah that's correct, like they would deteriorate each time they were heard by someone else's ears.  my relationship with these notes is threatened by your presence.

these are the sounds that make me want to move, like when antibalas or chicago afrobeat plays and my body drops when it's time to drop.  niash controlled by the bass not me. i'm working it out through motion. i'm so blessed.



393 Piece Set


2012-12-23 08.19.32

Ebrima has been saving up for a Lego.  For a long time he wanted the Uruk-Hai Army which was 29.99.  He had 17 saved up from drumming and dancing all summer and fall.  He got a big boost from the Choo Choo Bob video gig, so when his plans to sleep over at Aparii's fell though I said he could go ahead and shop for a Lego.  He picked the police helicopter from the City series, ages 6-12, 393 pieces.  35.94 at Kmart.  

2012-12-22 19.36.50

I contemplated making him wait till Christmas to open it, but he wanted to get started building. I sorted the pieces for him and told him to call for me if he needed help.  He proceeded to blow through the first bag of pieces without my help, so I let him keep going.  He kept working, kept asking me to open the bags and barely asking for help. He would occasionally freak out and I would make him take a break. Way past bedtime, one meltdown forced me to make him go to bed without finishing, but he got up early.  I made him clean up his room before I let him finish.  

After building the whole thing and playing with it a little while, the perfection of it started to become a problem.  Pieces of it would break as Ebrima tried to play with it like a toy, and he started to realize that the fun of Legos is the building of them and making stuff.  Several meltdowns later, a few of which were Yonci-related, the helicopter was in pieces that were being repurposed.  

2012-12-23 09.01.55

I had to let go of any notions of what I thought should be done with the lego.  My son worked for it, bought it, built it, and decided to do something different with the pieces.  It would have been different if he had not completed it, but tried to abandon it halfway through or was unable to stick with following the 'constructions' (as he calls the instruction books).  I'm feeling my initial pride gain layers and I feel like I'm getting to know my son's personality more deeply.  This kid stayed up till his eyes drooped trying to see the legos he was building.  He's the type of kid who is attracted to the process of building legos but doesn't have to keep them whole once's he's built them.  He's the type of kid who will break down his lego for parts for another project. - he's moving on.  This is also the same kid who hugged me so fiercely and cried so loud when the legos started to fall apart; he couldn't deal with their instability.

Am I sugarcoating? Of course.  I let my kid shop for himself at christmastime and then he threw a hissy fit over some legos not fitting together.  Maybe a harsh parent would say he didn't deserve to touch the legos again, but I wanted to see him finish.  It felt important that he was the one who really wanted to finish - no one was making him.  Kujichagulia.


Surface Tensions

Galsen 2012: Core and Clarity- Jerome Foundation Travel Study Grant Final Report

IMG_7495


-live by time (not the clock)

-exchange of knowledge (not one way)

-core and clarity (strong and grounded)

Describing the experience :

- excerpts from my Galsen 2012 Journal

...I’m trying to explain to people what I'm doing sitting here writing on the

computer.  I have no way to communicate that its all about the process.  I need to

get better at any of these languages.  Today has been a crash course in the

language too because nobody speaking English and my broken French and Wolof

have to be enough.

...Today Aziz created a dance intensive in the area outside the kitchen.  I'm not

sure exactly how it got started but soon I was being told to "taxawal" and

"fechal."  We did some kind of thiakougoune combo that everyone seemed to

know the bakk to.  Like many of my experiences learning these forms, it's such

big part of the culture, the daily life.  There is no changing into dance clothes or

going to the studio.  We just started.  No drums - so the bak and the rhythm is all

verbal.  We learned in a group and everyone is learning - I even got used as the

example for Mis and Mame Diarra.

...The praise drumming and singing.  Apparently they decided to do some singing

and drumming - at first they told us that people would not be dancing because it

was more of a praying thing.  But people started dancing and everyone was

doing the latest dances.  Then they would pass the mic and an n'guewel would

sing a song - everyone knew these songs - I guess we can say they are like

hymns.  There's some call and response - 2 microphones and and bootleg system

with a CD player and mixer and some announcement speakers that look like they

are permanently mounted outside of the house.

...Take ci rip is like “be on it”  tak is like wrapped up.  like if my hands are totally saturated

with paint.  you are in the middle of it - yes you are a part of it. 

this is a wrestling beat

it’s braggadocios and calling a challenge

it means: I can take you and we are about to get all up in the mix with it!

you are dirty already in this game

the bakk is for Aomar Balle - he is from Pikine

before the wrestling match begins they do a lot of dancing and this would be

part of it

Galsen 2012: Core and Clarity- Jerome Foundation Travel Study Grant...the n’geuweul could be called by anybody - you don’t have to know them

personally because you will know them by their last name automatically and then

you know what to sing.  Everything is memorized - of course.

n’gueweul can be called for a praise singing thing - or they can just decide to

host a praise singing and drumming session

n’gueweul can be called for a tanneber

n’gente

n’chant - praise singing

take - wedding

dedge - funeral - no drumming just choral singing

...We had practice today in a neighbors courtyard that has a lot of room.  Backa, 

Vieux, and Ablaye Ndaje were drumming and of course Lamin was hanging

around trying to play something.  We did the routine that is becoming known as

“tass ‘m’batass” - which contains the thiakagoune.  Also practicing “tak g’rip” with

the bak and adding the “Facebook” to it.  We practiced solos but mine was wack i

wasn’t happy cuz i wasn’t on the beat.  Aziz says it was good but I need to make

my arms way bigger.

...I imagine how my sister Kehinde’s face would look like if she saw where we

were practicing at yesterday.  We started out at the end of the cull de sac where

the guys play cards under a tree and behind the soccer goal.  Then we moved to

a sandy spot near a big puddle “in the back” as Mame Binta put it.  I said: if I step

on a rock while dancing you are going to see the first time I get mad in Senegal.  

But it didn’t happen.  In fact I almost busted my ass trying to dance with flip flops

on. Oh Senegal! Oh Dakar! Oh HLM 6!

...Today we are supposed to go to M’Bor (sp) for a tanneber and simb (faux lion).  

Some people called Backa to come so it’s gonna be nice - hope we can get

there… One thing for sure is that anything you plan may be subject to change.  

The 5th step is always subject to change

...danced up until the very end of the drumming, and I did follow the plan that i

made - to dance it like a club and kick it with friends.  danced with Ndeye Falli

and Mathie bu Mak - these are my older sisters my maks - and it is like dancing

with my sister Jewel.  Looking into their eyes as we dance and smiling.  So crazy

with good energy.  Watching the young ladies dance - come out and do their little

routines and go for it - hear them screaming for each other.  Seeing the little

little girls - especially my homegirl in the blue dress - just inspired to dance and

be danced with.  I danced Bara M'Baye and Leumebuled on a chair with my friend in the green - watched Ndeye Falli drop it low in front of the drummers.  Daba tried to call in sick and then she went out there to shake her ass with a big smile.  

Doing our routine (me and Deja) and really starting to perform it and looking at

the kids and the people's faces and getting all kinds of di!erent energies from

people and most of it good or at least indi!erent.  Afterwards, on woman came

up to us and said that it made her so happy to see us dancing the Senegalese

way.  And the niece of Backa who had the baby was so so happy which was good

because we were so so late and now I realize that it seemed like he wasn't

coming because we were stuck in some bogus ass tra"c all the way to Parcelles.

...Today we went to the beach to chill and practice.  The beach name was ArenBi, 

pronounced kind of like R&B.  There were a grip of little roofs built and a bunch

of playground equipment and those canvas beach chairs from charlie Brown

cartoons.  We got there by two taxis because we had to try to meet Aziz Ndaje.  

So we had to pull over on the freeway and wait for him and then split up into two

cabs because we also had the drums.  We is the crew: Backa, me, Deja, Vieux and

Aziz.  So when we got there we were just chilling, buying bissap and bui and

co!ee.  Aziz changed into his dance clothes so I changed into dance clothes but

we weren't really starting the practice - just reviewing and fooling around.  Then

Backa was like lets go swimming so I changed into my bathing suit and laid

down in the warm sand with the sun full in my face.  It was so so hot in the city

today - everyone was freaking out and saying 'tangana torop' and stu! like that.  

So the beach (geg) was so cool and nice that I decided to lay in the sun and just

get sand (suf) all over me because I thought we were going into the water soon.  

A woman came by and she was like 'oh I love the drums and I live over there and

i heard the drums so i had to check it out'  Turns out she is Takko aka Durum - a

famous actress and comedienne and she dances and sings on the side.  She's an

artist.  I was just chilling because Aziz said we could chill and do what we wanted

but Aziz had Deja learning an tassou for the leumbeul and working on some

Bara M'Baye so it looked like I was a lazy lug. 

...Ok I am shifting because I have gained some clairity in what I need to find out.  I

have met a bunch of different kinds of griots and I want to ask them all the same

set of questions so I can get a sense of how they each see themselves and how

they see the griot culture collectively.  Like also how they fit themselves into a

structure

People I want to Interview for Géwél 2012

Baba

Galsen 2012: Core and Clarity- Jerome Foundation Travel Study GrantTakko aka Durum

Soso Niang

Rama

Aziz

Vieux

N'Géwél: the griots sitting in front of you

Géwél: all the griots or one griot

géwél nga: you are a griot

géwél la: i am griot

géwél en: those guys are griots

...Working on Fass in rehearsal was cool.  I am learning how to put my own flavor

on it while staying inside of the lexicon.  Using short solos to build a vocabulary

of middle moves because I have too many breaks. Aziz told me not to turn twice, 

once was enough.  I gotta use some 1-2-3's and toe turns, backwards- also the

slow hits right and left and front and back, kicking your own hand and etc.

...Reflecting on the Gewel Tradition:

Its like the society finds a place for everyone - the Gewel's place is for those who

are naturally inclined toward music, entertainment, engagement with people.  

The person who would be chosen to speak for the group or give the keynote

address.  The orators and the poets, those who flow with words and rhythms

easily and naturally.  The place for those who express with their bodies through

movement what other have only words to say.  Somehow over time these types of

people were recognized for the beneficial things that they o!er to the society.  

Laughter and happiness are important pieces to the well being of the people.  

Honor and celebration of milestones in life are marked with rhythm song and

dance, and that is an important way to acknowledge those times.  Western

culture we have all these pieces of paper where we place all our import as far as

marking the important times.  So what does it say about a culture where the

acknowledgement is so deep yet not lasting in time?  Once the ceremony is

finished we have only the memories, and the retellings and the laughter that

keeps coming back from those memories.  When I watch the videos of the

ngentes they never show the most joyous and happy parts where everyone is

gigging and enjoying each other.  There is a gap between what is really

important about those events and what is shown when someone decides to

video it.  The video shows rows and rows of bored looking women dressed to the

nines with masklike made up faces.  But the real party is when everyone is

gigging to Baye Fall singing or freaking the leumbuel chair or face to face

smiling with your sisters dancing.  

This is also the part that is never taught in the dance class, that actually cannot

be taught in the dance class.  Although it is good to know the steps that people

here just learn by default - otherwise how are we gonna know them?  

...Today Oct 11 we went to Goree to see the maison d'esclaves and climb up top

and see Foxy.

...I got up and went to Daba Niang's brother's wife's Ngente and I'm glad I did. 

There was a Yaye Fall woman who was singing the lead. Backa told me that Baye

Fall are not griots, but that some griots who are Baye Fall will be the ones singing

and playing the drums.  Because you have to be born into a griot family but

anyone can become a Baye Fall who wants to follow that life.  He also told me

that the father of the baby and the baby momma's father decide what kind of

ngente its going to be, is it going to be just the praying and no party, or will they

have praise singing, Baye Fall singing or more of a Sabar playing and dancing.  

This particular neighborhood also had a marabout pass away so they decided on

the Baye Fall singing because its like praying and partying at the same time.  

When we arrived at the ngente there was a tama player and a dude saying tassou

and a dude playing the big kalimba, I forgot what it is called.  Anyway, I heard

them ask "is that Backa?" or something like that and then they started singing

this song to like welcome him or something.  It was tight, but then this old guy

started yelling at them from the balcony 'hey don't play!' because of the

marabout.  That's another something that would never happen in the US.

...The very last day we went back to my favorite beach and spent the afternoon

living and laughing in the Gewel way - drumming, dancing, soloing, making

bakks and tassou, buying drinks and food, making attaiya and just generally

being Griots.  As the sun went down I went to the water - and I took the Gewel

anthem - the Sambai Bayan and I sang it for my family.  This song I learned is

known by all the Gewel - without exception, and everybody knows how to put

their family or anyone’s family into it.  It’s like the basic element of Gewel

singing.  I feel like knowing about the Gewel anthem is unlocking a key to the

way Gewel sing.  So I was psyched to find out about it.  I put my family all in it

and I went to the water and just sang as loud as I could toward home.

Impact on my art and my artistic development:

• new choreography and technique in Sabar drum and dance for myself and my

company, Voice of Culture

• Learning the Gewel anthem, Sambai Bayan, has unlocked the technique of

signing for me

• conducting the Gewel interviews has confirmed my assertion that I am a Black

American Griot, because according to the responses, I am doing all the duties

of a Gewel

• Making artistic connection with ‘sama professeur’Aziz Ndaje - training with him

and talking with him for the weeks I was with him has influenced my

understanding of traditional and contemporary African dance.

• solidifying the collegial relationship with my main collaborator Backa Niang, 

and making connections with his family of Gewels means I have a sustainable

source of culture and information from an authentic place

• an abundance of video and audio recording will serve as source material for a

new work that I will be creating in 2013 - the work is to be performed at the

Walker’s Sculpture Garden in August.  My experiences at ArenBi, the wrestling

beach, will play heavily in the work.

• Backa and I have been inspired to make a film, some kind of documentary

about the Gewel life in 2012 and beyond.  We have connected with other like

minded individuals in the US and Senegal, who may want to be involved in the

project moving forward.

• new questions have arisen for me about WHY it’s important for Black Americans

to connect with Africans on African soil, and especially in the context of art. - 

im sure these questions are going to show up in the contemporary work that I

create.

• I have been inspired to plan the trip for the members of my dance company

and the collective I am in, Oyin, to travel to the continent - and I now have some

more knowledge and connections to make those plans a reality.

Galsen 2012: Core and Clarity- Jerome Foundation Travel Study Grant

Kankouran

IMG_6573

This is a picture on the way to Thies from Mbour.


We travelled to the town of Mbour for a tannebiir being thrown by some friends of our teacher Aziz Ndaje.  The sabar party was really nice and we danced a lot.  Coumba, Aziz's friend, told us that there was going to be a Kankouran the next day.  Vieux said that early in the morning, the boys who have completed the circumcision and initiation go to wash in the ocean and then they do the Kankouran.  I still wasn't clear on what a Kankouran did but somebody else said that they can jump like 2km in one jump and that people just run from it all day. 

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The Tannebiir crew in MBour

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Sama Professor Aziz Ndaje

Deja and I decided to sneak out early and get away from Backa, Vieux and Aziz because we thought they were going to make us miss it anyways.  Once we got ourselves down to the beach, we realized that there were a lot more people in Mbour than we thought the night before.  The beach was teeming with young people, everyone looked like early 20s and younger, and something about the light or maybe it was  the special day, but everyone looked damn good, fresh hair and clothes and all style.  There was a huger crowd down at one end, and we could see that they had been in the water and were moving out - so that was the group of young men that had passed the circumcision.  

We began walking toward the big group and when we reached a certain point, there was a huge gap where no one was really standing, like a separation. I now realize that  the gap separated the bystanders from the people that were a part of the ceremonial events surrounding the Kankouran.  When we tried to cross the gap, some people were like "Hey!" and then we went back.  Somebody started running away and everyone started running too and I yelled "Deja!" and started running.  It was a decent crowd of people and I was scared to turn around and look for Deja in case I fell down and got trampled.  I kept yelling "Deja!" as I was running, and when people finally stopped - because we weren't even really running from anything - I couldn't see her.  She was about 10 or 20 paces behind me and she was like "I cant even run for my life."  We cracked up. 

We climbed up a very steep sandy hill to get a better view of what was going on down the beach.  I took off my shoes because I only had one pair of shoes with that were flip flops that Ndeye Falli gave me so I didn't want to lose them or mess them up.  When everyone on the beach started coming up to higher ground, I got a thorn in my foot trying to walk in the bushes with no shoes.  There was hella prickly stuff around too, and one guy stopped to make sure I was ok and of course try to talk to me about USA, bla bla bla.  After we shook that guy, we went down this narrow alley where people had stopped at the end and we could see a big crowd in the next street circling around. I saw the brown hairy top of the Kankouran go by the opening of the alley super fast and people were all in a frenzy.  We walked closer to the end of the alley and then people started running back towards us so we ran up toward the side of the alley where there was somebody's house wall.  One guy jumped up on the wall and yelled in wolof "Hey guys! I'm up here!" to no one in particular.  I was considering jumping on the wall for a quick exit when some dudes with huge sticks came into the alley and starting swinging on people.  One guy tried to protect us with his body and he was saying "Don't touch them! don't do anything to them!" but now that I think back on it I cannot remember wether he was yelling in French, Wolof or English.  But the dudes who were swinging on the crowd didn't look like they cared so we started running and one of my flip flops came off.  I was like 'I'm not going nowhere without my flip flop' so I tried to get it.  Dudes swinging the clubs seemed super pissed and they looked like they were definitely trying to chop people's heads off, but I got my flip flop.  When I looked for Deja she was so far away and I was like "See, you can run."  She said "Yeah when people are trying to chop your head off I guess I can." We cracked up. We decided we had had enough of that alley so we started walking the other way.  

We walked all over the town trying to see where the Kankouran went.  We ran into Aziz and Backa over by Coumba's house where they said they watched the Kankouran go by from behind the compund wall.  We continued down the sandy streets looking for a big crowd.  We wandered past a huge puddle and the donkey cart parking lot.  Everyone seemed to be walking toward us, and I was like 'OK let's get a closer look so lets keep going.  The farther we went, the more people were like "Hey! Where are you going!  Don't go that way!"  I was trying to be hardcore like I didn't care  but the people were getting pretty insistent that we turn around.  Even the man selling Cafe Touba picked up all of his shit and moved.  The Kankouran came by surrounded by a huge group of people, and as I look back on it, it seemed like it was moving very fast, like faster than a human.  Maybe that's the foklore getting mixed up in my memory, and this is probably how the ledgends carry on.  Like 'Yea remember when the Kankoran ran faster that the car??? oh ya!'  

After all this traipsing around,  it finally clicked that this Kankouran was not for the whole town - just for the people doing the ceremony and that's why the majority of the town was being kept at bay from looking at it.  I still didn't get to understand how the Kankouran is significant for the initates, but it seems like they have to keep bringing new men into the group so that the tradition continues.  These are the guys with the red hairy bracelets and the big sticks trying to chop people who get too close. 

We decided to head  back to Coumba's for some coffee and bread and then we were heading out - back to Dakar - or so me and Deja thought.  Little did we know that we would be driving around Mbour visiting people for about 3 more hours.  We spent a long time looking for one of Backa's nephews, Muhammad's place, asking everyone along the streets but no one knew.  The houses in MBour are really big and palatial.  It's like the suburbs. Then we finally stopped by another homie's house named Am.  Am makes these cool shoes out of rope and he also has good pants.  His mom makes thiouraye (incense) and she gave me two jars when we had stopped by the night before.  He got into the car with us and we went looking for Muhammad on the other side of town.  We got there and found out that Muhammad was at somebody else's house in town or out running around looking for the Kankouran.  Later on in Dakar, Muhammad would show up with some hair from the Kankouran which is supposed to be good luck.   Anyways we finally found Muhammad and then we went to see Aziz's uncle at a house in town that was not palatial at all.  I thought I was going to catch mildew poisioning up in that mug, no disrespect.  A lot of places in Dakar are molding away too.

Leaving Uncle's house we drove down this one street where the Kankouran was.  The Kankouran handlers were in the street like 'drive by fast! hurry up!' I looked back over my shoulder and I saw the Kankouran, full body, looking at me.  It had big dents for eyes and mouth and it was standing still and I swear it was looking at me.  I turned around real fast and my heart was beating and I was like "What happens if the Kankouran looks at you!?" I felt bad for looking.  Aziz said that if your not pregnant then nothing will happen but if you are then something is gonna get messed up.  Later, Backa told the story of one of the aunties who got scared by a Kankouran when she was pregnant and the resulting baby who is grown now just wags his head like a Kankouran and sometimes he screams but that's it.  The second time we came super close to danger was in the car when we were really on our way out of town like for real.  This was the time that I started crying.  We were driving past where the Kankouran was coming out from a side street.  We were forced to pull over by the crowd at the dudes who were manning the crowd control.  I saw the look in one guys eyes and he was very serious.  People were yelling and running past the car on all sides, it was like we couldn't drive and not hit people so we had to pull over.  'Get down! Put your head down!' Backa was yelling in English and other people were yelling in Wolof.  we just huddled down in the car until the crowd passed and then we pulled back into the main road and turned on the way out of town.  We stopped to drop off Am who was still riding around with us, and then I tried to make a joke because i was already choked up with water in my eyes and act like I was crying because Am was leaving.  When I got back in the car i tried to keep my head down but eventually Aziz saw me weeping a lil bit and he sang me a song till I felt better.  

Im not exactly sure why I was crying.  Maybe it was all the emotions because we had had an amazing time with the ladies we met at the tannebiir in Mbour and then Deja and I had a nice night in the guest house that we got to stay in, and a lot of cracking up and talking convo during the day walking around looking for the Kankouran and pontificating on all sorts of things.  I just got choked up, I can't call it any other way.

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Of course there's no pictures of the Kankouran because you cannot take pictures of the Kankouran.


Geuwuel 2012

1. Yow, gewel nga?

2. Lan la gewel di def? Yow, bahn nga cii def?

3. Lutax nyu soxla gewel?

4. Yang xale gewel nga yakar ne nyo et nyo apres? (comme kan?) Yena ngileeni dimbale?

5. Nanga xame nooni  (fechey, tassou, teguey, waxhey, woiey)

6. Ndah mangama woiel/fechel/teggul/tassoul tutti Ma hol/Ma dege. Ban ----- mo le gunna nex?

Mbindaan

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Ami and Adama play the background - as usual...


Who cooks lunch and dinner for ten or more every day?  Senegalese women and maids do.  Who wears your baby on her back to the marché and back to buy ingredients for said meals every day? Senegalese maids do, that's who!  Who washes clothes for 6 family members by hand, hangs everything to dry and irons with hot rocks in a metal box?  Senegalese maids do!  Who answers the call to bring me a lemon, bring me a cup , bring the baby upstairs, bring me some matches, bring me some sugar? Who cleans the floor by hand? Who pulls the rugs out to the roof to be aired out? Who watches a grainy TV at night in a hot ass room with the kids?  Who has to eat with the kids and clean up after them all day long in addition to everything else they have to do like make coffee and breakfast and clean up the breakfast and sweep and wash the floor and the bathrooms? 

I wonder some things about Ami and Adama, the helpers in our house and I am determined to find out.  What do you like and where do you go?  Where is your family and what are your ideas?  I'm the crazy one who keeps on messing and joking with them and telling them thank you for cooking and all that.  These girls work hard and I couldn't do half of what they do in a day.  I was looking forward to being treated while I was in Senegal, but I forgot who actually does all the legwork to make the treating happen.  Senegalese maids do, that's who!

Xale N'Geuweul (Young Griots)

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After we picked up the car, we drove Aziz and Vieux back by HLM-Grand Yoff and we saw there was a tannebiir going on.  Everyone was at the tannebiir - all ages, well maybe no really old people.  In fact one old guy got mad and was yelling at everyone for a few minutes.  I got some of it on tape.

There were two young boys dancing.  These boys were so amazing with their command of their technique and the control of their own bodies.  These were not cute kids who put together a little routine, these were professionals, in the industry of the oral culture.  So they are very ‘commercial’ in one sense.  They are making their money from their talents so they shape their material to the current trend and style, they plan their words to appeal to the money giving public that support their art.  I don’t know if they would even call it art, because it is truly how they live.  This drumming and dancing is not separated from life, it informs everything that they do.  Who is going to tell them to go to school?  That’s how Backa put it - like who around them is going to encourage them to leave the dance and attend to the homework?  That formal westernized education seems to have no real use or meaning for them.  They can live their whole lives outside of that system - deeply emmeshed in their own cultural system, they can achieve real success, be fulfilled, and held in high regard by their community, and they can pass it on as they grow.  I’m asking myself ‘what’s wrong with that?’ because coming from where I'm from, Im taught to believe that you gotta go to school to make it.  The question is forming in my mind and it has something to do with the kinds of opportunities that I want to see my people have.  And yes, I do consider these African people to be my people too.  Its something like: how can I support my people in maximizing their opportunities without judging those choices according to some rigid, westernized notion of what those opportunities should be?  It’s not quite clear yet, but if this trip is about core and clarity, then I can feel it coming...

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