Heather in Senegal

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

June 2
Two days ago I saw someone passing the garden with a kora, a big guitar-like instrument. I stopped him, got a short concert out of him, told him I play violin, and got a date for yesterday morning. The kora player showed up at the garden with two other musicians as I was finishing the morning’s work. We sat on the trunk of a fallen tree, and they took turns on the kora while I played violin. They taught me one piece and I improvised through a few others. As planned, they returned in the afternoon as I was finishing work, and we went to the house of the guy from whom Jenny and I are buying drums. We worked on the piece they had taught me, and we started a few other Senegalese songs. I tried to teach them a Turkish melody and then an Irish jig, but I was disappointed by their inability to grasp the melodies.
Today one of the musicians came to my house. I guess I had mentioned my neighborhood's name, and once in the area he had only to ask people where the toubob lives. I tried to make my sister greet him so that I could learn his name, but she did not understand my need and only gave him a curt couple of questions. I thought it creepy that he had sought and found my home. He had little to say, and when he did speak his words were very quiet and hard to understand. I refused to make much effort for him, so we sat in silence as I ate a mango. He was mad that I had not been at the garden when he arrived this morning, and he wanted me to come to his house to play music. When he told me he was angry I could not help but laugh at how absurd it was that someone I had met only two days before should sound so severely betrayed. He must have realized he was being silly; the righteously angry expression on his face broke off into sheepish laughter. Eventually he got up to leave, and when I showed no sign of joining him he looked genuinely surprised. I tried to gently explain that his visit to the garden this morning and his anger about my absence were the result of a misunderstanding that was rooted in my poor language skills, and therefore we should avoid further trouble by postponing music-making until I speak better Pulaar. He said he did not understand. My mother, who had been sitting with us for the whole visit, said a brief something to him, and he scurried off. My mother then told me that I am welcome to say she threatened to beat me if I go to his house, but that he may come to ours. I was quite touched by her suggesting I use her as an excuse to keep myself safe, and it pleased me that her thinking was so similar to that of my real mother.


At 7:17 AM, Blogger Mom said...

Dearest Heather,

Your Kolda mother is wonderful!! I thank G-d that she is keeping you safe. As you go along, you'll develop the ability to be friendly and at the same time establish boundaries.

Playing different kinds of music--so nice. For a brief description of a kora and a few pictures, go to http://www.kairarecords.com/kane/korapg1.htm


All my love,

Mom (:-)

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Bex07 said...

Wow, how amazing to get to play music and learn some Seneglese songs, Heather! That is great! And i am so glad you have a caring, watchful Kolda mom - I would have been creeped out by the musician showing up unexpectedly, but it sounds like and your K. mom handled it gracefully.


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