Thursday, March 15, 2007

Just Go Up to the Door and Knock

Its Thursday morning here and I've just had a cup of coffee and some french bread for breakfast. Interesting as always to note the different colonial legacies. Gambia was a British colony, and so they have a short crusty loaf of bread and tea in the morning more commonly than the coffee and french bread I've ben enjoying here in Dakar. I'm cool with bread and tea, but it is nice to get back to coffee, even if its nescafe instant coffee, by far the most common way people drink coffee in West africa. There are billboards for Nescafe everywhere; there seem to be almost no other alternatives.

Yesterday I woke up rested after a much-needed long sleep and had a few hours on my hands before our Meet the Composer meeting with our filmmaker collaborators. I decided to hop in a cab and go to Studio Xippy, Youssou N'dour's recording facility. Its in the Almady neighborhood of Dakar, which seemed to me the Malibu part of town. Away from the crowded city, on a road that stretched alongside the ocean, it was a picturesque ride and the first time I'd seen coastal Dakar. Posh compounds, luxury hotels; this is not the Dakar I've seen so far. There have been some more upscale neighborhoods and some banlieues (favellas, slums, etc) - a whole range of neighborhoods - but this was the first along the water I'd seen.

Before I left the US I'd been talking with my friend Adam Rudolph and mentioned I wanted to go to check out Youssou's studio while in Dakar. His old friend Hamid Drake has recorded there so I asked Adam for Hamid's number to get the studio info. He said, "just go up to the door and knock." So i did. Youssou wasn't there but one of his sisters was. We spoke for a bit, I told her what I was doing in Dakar, and she got someone to show me around the studio. A beautiful, state-of-the-art live room and board with plenty of isolation booths, I felt like I was in a top studio in L.A. Youssou is finishing some recording for his next record this week so hopefully I'll get a chance to go back and hang while they're recording. We shall see....

Last night I finally met the person whose room I've been staying in, Willow's brother-in-law Mohammed Sao. Mohammed got to Dakar while I was in Gambia. He lives in San Francisco and comes back periodically to visit his folks. I'd been staying in his room and when I got back he moved into his other place - an apartment in a house around the corner - and generously let me stay in this spacious, internet-connected room for the next two weeks. When he found out that I was interested in meeting Dakar musicians in addition to the project Willow and I are doing and in addition my sabar lessons, he grabbed me and took me over to Pen'arte, the "jazz" club that I went to the first second night I was hear a few weeks ago.
Habib Faye , NDour's bassist, is an old friend of Mohammed, and Mohammed knew he was having dinner at Pen'Arte, so we went over and he introduced me. Thank you, Mohammed. Had a nice hang with Habib, his manager, and some European friends of theirs. We're going to get together again this week before he goes to Angola with Youssou for concerts. Lets see what comes of it.

Meanwhile, back to sabar lessons today at 2pm then meeting again with filmmakers at 3:30. Things are in motion.


Dan said...

Just found my way over to your blog - enjoying catching up on your travels and posts. You might be interested in a Foday Musa Suso interview I did last year as a preview of his reunion concert with Mandingo Griot society. You can download it here:

All best,

Harris Eisenstadt said...

dan, enjoyed the interview thanks for forwarding the link.
all best from dakar,