Youssou, encore une fois

YoussouNdourOn Saturday we went to see Youssou in a very different venue than last time. It was a concert space en plein air, as they say, and it was packed with a generally younger, more casual, and much more energetic crowd than at the Grand Theatre gala.

I almost skipped this show because of the fear it could never live up to the first one, but then I realized that would be incredibly silly. And in the end, the two shows had such different vibes that they were like apples and oranges.

One thing remained constant, however: the ungodly hours. Youssou is nearing 60 years old and yet he came onstage at 1:15 and finished performing at 3:49am. (I know the precise time because by that point I was checking my phone every five seconds.) He and his band kept asking the crowd, “Est-ce que vous êtes fatigues?” and my whimpered “Yes”es were completely drowned out by the delirious “Non!!!!”s.

But earlier in the night, when I was not yet falling asleep on my feet… here’s the moment that gave me chills. (That’s my beautiful and charming “host sister,” Cecile aka Mamie, at the end.)

I’ve now heard this song, “New Africa,” live three times. The first time was in New York and I got baby chills. In Senegal, the baby chills turned into enormous adult chills, and I felt a bit like a sucker for cheap thrills. But can you blame me?

It was an awesome night. There’s a longer video here (including amazing drumming and dancing) if you want to see more.

happy weekending

Dakart

After ten days straight of nothing but eat-sleep-edit, by this past Thursday I was feeling out of the woods enough on my video deadline to take a little break. During this little break, which has inadvertently extended to today, I have inexplicably decided to continue staring at my computer screen, to set down a few links that will go completely stale if I don’t share them soon. Also to post some pictures from the Dak’art Biennale, which I managed to get to just under the wire, on its last day this week.

First, the links:

Pick a country, pick a decade, and listen to the popular music of the era. My friend Jennie posted this link to Facebook a few weeks ago and I have been meaning to tell her since then that it has made me so so so so so so happy. Right now I’m listening to music from 1960’s Congo and it is amazing. I could spend the rest of my life blissfully down this rabbit hole…

Anthony Bourdain has lovely things to say about Senegal, and I agree with all of them.

There will be a refugee team at the Olympics. This is amazing, and there needs to be a documentary about it (and I need to work on it).

In Morocco I kept telling shop owners I was just looking but might come back to buy later, and without fail they would respond, “Inshallah,” which I found hilarious because I had just finished reading this article.

Hyperintelligent commentary on the usage and interpretation of “woke.”

The ostensible reason I am posting this article about getting chills while listening to music is because I like that the word for that sensation is French, but the real reason is that I love beyond measure that Air Supply was part of the study.

A reminder to stay positive while learning another language.

The end of sleeper train service in France. 😦

When West Africans dress, the fabric is the message.

Instead of renting one apartment, sign a (pretty expensive) lease that lets you live around the world.

On the pleasures of traveling alone.

The seven joys of traveling, from a joyful traveler. 

In English, double negatives make a positive, but that’s not true for all languages.

15 slang French words every French learner should know.

Along the same lines, 20 funny French expressions. (Can someone French please confirm that number 19 is still in common usage? Because I would like this phrase to come out of my mouth as often as possible.)

Why are white people expats when the rest of us are immigrants? I refer to a foreigner intending to stay someplace temporarily as an expat and one hoping to stay permanently as an immigrant but I guess that is also fraught.

And now, some Dak’Art favorites:

Dakart_TheHistoryofMonuments

The piece above, which at first glance appeared to be a sculpture wrapping around the gallery wall, turned out to be a photo-mural featuring real people. I loved it. The artist explains. dakart_africa

Dakart_IFAN1

The above were all at the IFAN Museum of African Arts, which I intend to revisit soon to check out the permanent collection. I mistakenly thought that one of the other Dak’Art exhibition sites was at the old railway station that I passed by and went gaga over on one of my first walks in Dakar. It was actually only for performances, and there were none the afternoon I visited. But what there was… was the most spectacular train station in disrepair I’ve ever seen. This may be my favorite place in the city. Also, I am in love with the French phrase for railroad: chemins de fer, literally “routes of iron.”

cheminsdeferan_old_train

And now I’m off to grab something to eat before getting back to editing. Enjoy the rest of your weekends!

a prequel to Youssou

boy_with_broken_balloon

It’s a shame I couldn’t get around to writing about Youssou til more than a week later, but I was busy preparing for and then going on a second pick-up shoot in the Kaolack region over the weekend. 

Speaking of that shoot… here is the moment when the women of Forou Serer, a tiny village of 300 people, showed me what’s what when it comes to celebrating.

I literally get high off of the music and dancing in this country.

Please enjoy this video as a preview of the profound awesomeness that is to come… Up next, YOUSSOU!!! 

my weekend with Youssou

Youssou_a_DakarTickets in hand for Youssou N’Dour on Sunday. I’m so excited about this show that I would pay good money just to fast forward the clock a couple of days.

Acquiring concert tickets here is quite a different beast than in the United States. It’s quite a bigger beast, I should say. Whatever, bygones. We have tickets and all is right with the world.

I don’t have any weekend reads to share this week except for this one, which makes me want to seriously dial back my encouragement to get to Cuba. I hadn’t considered how an influx of visitors could further deprive Cubans who have very little to begin with. 😦

Passez un bon week-end, tout le monde!

Orchestra Baobab heart heart heart

I said it last week and I’ll say it again: Afro-Latin music is the best stuff on earth.

After an incredible show, Saturday night ended with me sitting in the lead singer Rudy’s car waiting for the ride home he promised me. (I made that sound way more titillating than it actually was because I can’t help myself.) He was about to get in the driver’s seat but then disappeared, apparently to distribute ngalax around the neighorhood. When he showed up again twenty-five minutes later, he said he had to go to a meeting. It was 3:30 in the morning. I’m so accustomed to these lost in translation moments by now that I just laughed, considered it a fun non-adventure, and took a taxi home.

This situation, by the way, was not of my own making. One of the people with whom I went to the show was a guy named Doyen who works at the language center where I’m taking classes. He used to be a radio DJ and is good friends with the band. Rudy offered me a ride because he offered Doyen a ride.

Alas, it was not meant to be. But it is pretty remarkable how small a world it is here and how up close and personal you can get to the amazingly talented musicians in Dakar. Next time I see Rudy I am going to ask him for advice on taking drum lessons here. Because why not.

post-weekend update

referendum_vote.jpg

I tried to post all my weekend links on Friday, then on Saturday, then on Sunday, but Senegal’s circa-1996 Internet had other plans. (This place has given me such a sharpened appreciation for the impact of the digital divide.) Oh well, at least now I can share a photo from yesterday’s referendum (my neighborhood polling station, above) and a video from the Cheikh Lo show at Just4U on Friday night:

Three thoughts:

  1. Latin-West African fusion has produced the most amazing sounds on the planet.
  2. Cheikh Lo and the thousands of other stately gentlemen walking around this city put America’s hipsters to shame. The combination of tunic, leather slippers, beanie, aviators, and ornate silver jewelry is just about the coolest thing I have ever seen. I don’t know why the Sartorialist hasn’t gotten around to visiting this place.
  3. I really do want to leave everything behind and learn how to play that over-the-shoulder/under-the-armpit drum.

The weekend is now over but here are some weekday reads. They are all from the New York Times, because now that I’ve traveled to a far reach of the planet, I can no longer travel to a far reach of the Internet.

Ugghhhghsfgkdfhgjkf$@#^$*#@^%!*#$(@&%.

Bilinguals have superior social skills. 

How to find a local guide when traveling solo.

Six of the ten least happy countries in the world are ones I am really hoping to travel to this year. :S

There are only two cruises I want to take: this one and the one that tours Alaskan glaciers with the elderly.

Americans: get yourselves to Cuba, stat. Look at this if you need convincing.

How to travel with an eye to settling down.

Have a good week! As for me, I’ll be returning to Kaolack tomorrow to shoot some pick-ups in the 100 degree heat, yippie!

 

Last Saturday, or: the honeymoon may be over

pape_et_cheikh.jpg

Having studied my map diligently, I set out on foot at about 1pm in the direction of downtown. It was supposed to take about an hour and fifteen minutes. I saw a lot of familiar sights and a lot of new ones; it was a nice walk. After about an hour I decided to stop in at a supermarket for a drink and to check where I was. I had not busted out my map before then because being seen with one would make me susceptible to all sorts of propositioning I didn’t want. Continue reading

le week-end is here…

IMG_6285.jpg

Tonight I was planning to check out an acoustic set at a restaurant only two blocks from my house… but then I got lazy. I literally haven’t been out once past 8pm since arriving in Dakar so it’s high time I get my nightlife on. Tomorrow! I’m going with someone I met at the language center to see a popular Senegalese band, Pape et Cheikh, at a club called Villa Krystal. Or we might change our minds and go to see a reggae band, Tiken Jah, at Just4U, which is apparently a very cool place in spite of its ridiculous name.

I also just found out that Youssou N’dour, whose music is half the reason I’m in love with Senegal, is playing a benefit concert at the fanciest hotel in town next Saturday. The unfortunate thing is that tickets are $100. I don’t think I’ve paid that much for a concert anywhere, ever. $100 is a small fortune here… though it’s worth a small fortune to see Youssou in his home country. Then again I’ve heard he plays here often, and I’ve also just heard about another great show the same night, so I might go to that one instead.

Anyway, it’s nice to be spoiled for choice. I hope your weekends are similarly filled to the brim with amazing options.

Here are some weekend reads, provided your internet access is not, like mine, virtually nonexistent.

What do free, open, and peaceful borders look like? 

This article about straightening out croissants is not from The Onion, but it could be.

Both this lady and her lawsuit are awesome.

“How scared or not you are is an emotion, not a statistic.” How to make rational safety decisions when it comes to travel (and many other things).

Language learning has made me more open to try new things, but unfortunately not in the way illustrated in this cute cartoon.

Two dishes tied for France’s favorite. For some reason neither of them are choucroute garnie (which came in third).

This documentary about an Afro-Cuban community’s links to Sierra Leone is on my to-see list – for the next time streaming video becomes a remote possibility.

You can now download all of NASA’s beautiful / awesome retro-style space travel posters for free.

An alfajores recipe (alfajores = best cookies on earth)

Passez un bon week-end!

[Photo: boys playing soccer one street from my host family’s house.]

L’Etranger: bof

The Stranger

Finally read the English version of The Stranger, a few weeks after finishing the French version. It took like two hours. I was happy to confirm that I had in fact understood the story, and that my impression from the French reading – that the main character seemed not so much existentially detached as developmentally disordered – stood firm. I know that was not Camus’ intention and that this literal interpretation of the text makes me somewhat dense, but so be it.

And now for your listening pleasure, the song running through my head the entire length of the book (here’s the connection):

[Photo: Anthony]