I wish to thank you all and extend wishes for a peaceful, prosperous and happy 2017.
I want to report on the wonderful collaboration project that was recently completed with Sousou Cissoko and Jaliya Connection.
Our joint project, Jaliya Groovy Music Exchange, aka WAW Music! (West African Women in Music), organised by Sousou Cissoko and Jaliya Connection with a generous grant from The Swedish Performing Arts Agency was perfect. We were able to meet all of our goals and overcome all of our challenges. We learned a lot about what we need to do to go further and continue the work. The project and tour was not only a complete success, it was a lot of fun. It was an honour to work with the inspiring artists that that made up our team: The great percussionist, Lisa Ladberg, filmmaker, Stefan Erdmann, and of course, the amazing Sousou and Maher Cissoko.
The talented winners of our competition and pioneer players in WAW Music! group1 are: singer/ songwriter/ rapper/, Mary Corea from Tujereng Guitarist/ multi-instrumentalist, Hawa Ceesay from Kartong, and drummer/percussionist Kaddy Camera, also from Kartong. Congratulations for your hard work in preparation and your awesome talent! All three are students of GALs .
Below is a journal of our tour and activities:
The WAW Music Road Team:
WAW Music! group 1 aka (tba) on Stage: Our GALs, Mary on Guitar, vocal and Rap, Hawa on lead guitar, drum and dance, and Kaddy on Djembe and Sabar. Plus Sousou on Guitar, Kora, and vocals, Lisa on Djembe and Sabar, and MM ME 🙂 on Bass. Sousou’s Daughter Awa often joined us on drum and dance.
Sousou and Maher and band, Yousoufa on Cahon and childcare, Lisa on Djembe.
Driving and support: Albert and Les
Kids: Awa, Kemo and Mo
We began our adventure there at GALs, in Tujereng, Gambia, where the audition and first rehearsals were held. After three days of intensive rehearsals, we headed out to our first concert at the Boukotte Festival in Bignona, a city in the Cassamance region of Senegal. It was a big stage! Big lights! Big sound! An international lineup of great performers with Sousou and Maher at the top of the bill. Our set was after midnight. The group’s first show was good. The energy was fantastic! Still, the girls did have some self- critique, wishing they had done this or that better. We assured them that for a first show, it was great and will only grow.
After the show, we went to talk to the people and hand out our fliers to all the girls we saw. Many wanted autographs. Boys wanted the fliers as well. They said, “we want to play music too, but we have no instruments or a teacher”! One boy who said he himself was a rapper, claimed to be in love with Mary. I said, how? Do you know her? I asked him how he felt to be onstage and getting attention from everybody. All those people claiming to love you, but they don’t know you. You just want to do your thing, right?
He understood and agreed, saying it was really the music he was in love with.
In the morning, the mayor of the city came to our hotel to greet us and tell us that the people of Bignona had never seen anything like us before. They loved it!
Back to Tujereng for our 2nd session of 3 days of training and rehearsals culminating in a big show at Fandema Hall for the end of term closing ceremony before the holiday break. The Groovy African Kids also performed one song and Kids guitarist, Rohey Sambou, who had rehearsed all week with us, performed with WAW Music Team. She will surely be able to travel one day, especially if she keeps practicing!
The next day, We got back on the road headed to the Djouloulou Festival in Djouloulou, Senegal. This festival was an open air stage at a lodge on the edge of a salt river with mangroves. It was deluxe for all as we had rooms on site and could sleep a bit before showtime, which was again around midnight. The girls were happy with this performance calling it their best. Sousou and Maher rocked the house with their full band at this show.
The next day, we headed to Abene for our final week of workshops and our last show. Our time at the beautiful Jaliya Camp in Abene was wonderful. In between songwriting sessions, private lessons, rehearsals, yoga and more, we enjoyed the beach, great food and the culture of Abene. The amazing balafonist/ dancer, Marika Autio was also in attendance with a group of dancers from Finland. She shared her talent with Hawa in a private balafon session.
For our final show, we were honoured to be a part of the first Jaliya Camp Music Festival. It was a lovely intimate outdoor stage under the trees, with nice lighting. We only plugged in the electric guitars and bass. No microphones. About 50 people from the neighbourhood were invited. Lisa and Sousou spoke about our project to a very interested audience of friends and neighbours from the area. Our group opened the show and played our entire set. Hawa and Marika played one song, and Sousou and Maher played some of their most lovely and intimate acoustic numbers. We all joined them onstage for a rocking version of “Jangfata”. Afterward, there was a question and answer session. Some of the guests asked the girls about their experience in the project. . Somebody asked about the support of their families. Luckily, all three had parents who were thrilled, proud and fully support their efforts in Music and that they were able to discover their talent. Another of the questions was if the girls considered themselves feminists. The answer: absolutely!
On the last day of the project, we had our final meetings and formal interviews with the girls and heard their feedback about the experience. All 3 were very happy to have participated and are further inspired to continue with their music education and pursuit of a creative life and career. I was happy to inform them that since they were selected to participate in this project, they were automatically upgraded in status to “trainer trainees” back in school at Fandema. That means they will be assisting me full time and receiving the education and accompanying perks that will put them on the track to employment in the centre (or elsewhere), as a trainer or teacher. There were some tearful goodbyes at our departure from Jaliya camp, as we loaded up the gear for the last time and headed on the road back home to Gambia.
Now, some not so good news:
At the Fandema closing ceremony on Dec 23rd, there had already been a serious deterioration in the political situation. The directors decided and announced to the entire community that an extra 2 weeks would be added to the 2 week holiday break, giving time for the political problem to be resolved. On Dec 1st, the Dictator Yayah Jammeh, lost his first election in 22 years against a coalition candidate, Adama Barrow. The incumbent lost and initially conceded. The Gambian people took to the streets in celebration. It was incredible to see the happiness! Then a week later, he changed his mind and decided he would not step down. Since that time, there have been numerous attempts by the regional and international communities to negotiate the steadily escalating unrest.
Our family decided to spend the holiday time here in Senegal, from where I write this. As of yesterday, 26,000 Gambians had made the same decision. European tourists are leaving in droves on the recommendation of their embassies. Fandema and The Groovy African Ladies music school session 2017, is shut down until further notice. Earlier today, the newly democratically elected president was inaugurated at the Gambian embassy in Dakar. Now, after 22 years of legal oppression against the Gambian people, Yayah Jammeh is now officially regarded as a rebel. ECOWAS Troops are are on the way or already entering the Gambia. We are here, awaiting news and praying that no innocent people will be harmed, including the Gambian military, who are refusing to fight for Jammeh. We are hoping we can safely go back to our work in a new Gambia full of hope for the future.
PS: Our fundraiser on Generosity is still live and active. Please donate to support music education for women and girls (and Boys) and change lives!
Also check out WAW Music!
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