Monalia's World

Observations on a New Life in Spain

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Senegal Part 3 (of 3)

20 February, 2009 (11:52) | Living in Europe | By: admin

There is windup bird that comes by every morning just as the sun is coming up. He makes a strange and elaborate call. He only does it once and then flies off of, so we are unable to record him. Some things are meant to be experienced and not documented. We saw him this morning. We happened to both be awake early and sitting outside our hut, taking in the sunrise.

Mark woke up today feeling really good after three days of feeling like crap. He spent all of yesterday in his room under the covers and fully dressed trying to keep warm in 30 degree celcius weather. All of his joints hurt, his knees, ankles, elbows, even his teeth hurt. He found it hard to eat even fish. At one point in the night he has had to get up and take a bunch of aspirin and put on even more clothes to keep warm. About two hours later he wakes up completely drenched in his own sweat and feeling great. I am thankful we have 2 rooms.

Today he is really happy that he can spend his last two days in Africa doing something other than lying in bed.

Even though he is still feeling pretty bad he ventures out to the beach with his guitar to watch the sunset. The African sunsets are just incredible with a huge sun and soft dark blue grey red atmosphere everywhere. The air here is thick with dust, humidity, campfire smoke and gives everything a beautifully eerie quality when the sun goes down.

As he is headed for Solo Tam Tam’s shack along the beach he sees a group of very young children playing in the old beach fire pit that was dug for New Year’s Eve. They keep waving to him and so he goes over and sits down with them and pulls out the guitar. He is immediately swarmed by about 25 kids all wanting to play his guitar. After a few moments of chaos they work out a system where Mark would touch each child on the shoulder to show what the order is for taking turn in playing the guitar. When they get too excited they become obedient when Mark gently admonishes them to be careful while playing.

While they are doing this, one girl removes the headband Mark is wearing to cover a gash in his forehead which he got while swimming yesterday. She proceeds to braid his hair. When she is done he has a complete set of corn rows. He puts his head band back on and notices one kid off in the distance with his face completely buried in the sand and convulsing with sobs. It looks like Mark, in the chaos. has forgotten someone’s turn at the guitar. Mark points to him and tells the children to go get him. They bring the kid to him and Mark gives him the guitar. The kid is still sobbing with huge tears rolling down his face onto the guitar, but a smile starts to appear as Mark claps to his guitar playing.

Finally Mark grabs the guitar and starts playing one of the African songs that we have been developing while playing with all of the musicians here. The children start dancing, some with beautifully smooth water like movements, some with wild abandon with their eyes rolled back in their head. They all start singing as well.

For Mark it is a moment of absolute pure joy and will always be one he will associate with Africa.


I have fallen into a state beyond hunger. I do not want a chicken or cow to be killed simply because I want meat tonight, so I have adapted to the spaghetti and pomme de terre (potato) diet. Mark is a fish eater, so he gets a bit more protein than I do in Africa.

I’m a little worried about Mark. I’m afraid he might have overdone it, so now we just have to get him home and possibly to a doctor. Presuming he has the constitution to bounce back once back home in Barcelona, it will have been worth it all. He’s really thrown himself into the African experience with total abandon and passion, as have I.



M. is my girlfriend from Barcelona and K. is her boyfriend. They inspired us to come to Abene for the music festival. K. is from the village of Abene, and we see them every few days. They are staying inland (about 1 1/2 km up the road) and we stay on the coast. We mostly see M. during the week when she comes to have a swim at our beach.

I was going to insert a photo here of my girlfriend M. with her boyfriend K. but she prefers the anonymity of no name or image.

M. stops by on our last afternoon and invites us to a jam session tonight with K. and friends at their compound. Mark is too sick to come with me so I set out alone with my melodica. It is a starry night, so I don’t need my flashlight. I drink in the aromas and sounds of Africa as I walk and realize I will miss it here. I will miss playing music every day. It makes me teary eyed to know this will be my last jam for a long, long time. I have lived and breathed music every day we have been here. I will miss that very much.

  some night sounds from my walk to M.’s

My final jam with K. and his kora player (also named Jalil) proves to be a worthy final climax. We all sit around the campfire. The kora begins its pattern, K. plays a djembe drum and sings, and growing campfire chorus joins in on percussive instruments and sing along. I play melodica free form over the top, interweaving like a bird. This is really fulfilling for me, M. singing along in some songs, recording others. It is memorable to share such a magical experience with a girlfriend. I am sorry Mark is too ill to be here. But we are an interesting couple in that way – we have our individual memories as well as the ones we share. For two musicians like us, this trip was all about music and pure sound. We will return sated and with a renewed vigor and passion for music. And now it breaks my heart to say goodbye to Africa. We have genuinely connected with the country, have inspired and been inspired by musicians we meet.