Djembe d'Or and Malaria.
I am quite happy I could participate in the Djembe d'Or Festival, got to know Jeannot JB Williams its founder/journalist, and many others working in Guineans music industry. A weekend without much sleep, - and again on Coartem against Malaria. Another wave of Palu has just rolled over me.
I have a new theory. You have to let them bite you. Only bitten and infected by the virus, the human body can produce antibodies which eventually give you enough immunisation so you don't get the disease every time being bitten. So get Malaria, let it come and treat it. Eventually I should develop some immunity. Malaria is dangerous and kills but only when not being treated.
This now is definitely going to be my last week in Conakry. How many times have I said this?
It is hard (so many friends and projects) but time to leave (I have an appointment in Ghana).
The week with RFI, Radio France International in Conakry, Prix Decouvertes.
Jeannot invites me to attend, through him I get to know the people from RFI.
And it is well set up, good equipment, good personal.
Radio France International has been organising the prix decouvertes, price for newly discovered artists in Africa, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean since 1981. Now famous stars like Tiken Jah Facoly, Rokia Traore, Habib Koite, Calinhos Brown have had their carrier debuts facilitated through the prix decouvertes RFI. An impressive history and list of now great names. Winning Salif Keita for the presidency of this year's jury lends the RFI price a particular legitimacy.
For a few days many Guinean artists make their appearance on the ground in front of the stadium. Entrance is free to this live radio show.
Presenting of this years finalist, Blick Bassy will only be present on Saturdays concert.
Concert in the Stade du 28 Septembre, Conakry.
PS. 201104, always been curious what some people do with my photos, really this is a different genius, Adam Fiveonehundred's Good Morning Brain exercises.
Entrance is free and thousands come. And it looks as if this could be great event.
But then, the lights don't work. A catastrophy. One of the electrical power units fails. Ba Cissoko played in complete darkness. Not much to do for a photographer. The crowd was not satisfied either. And soon the music and performances took a back seat, we all concentrated more on the crowd who threatened to come down from the tribunes, and some hundreds actually managed to do so.
"Tiken Jah Facoly's concert here last year left 4 dead." hints to me a fellow photographer. Crowd control is always a big issue and always taken too lightly in Africa. I leave after Blick Bassy, from Cameroon, one of this years nominees. Noone is listening anymore. Prefer to spend my last evening in Conakry with friends. And it is no fun taking pictures when it is dark.
Blick Bassy, Cameroun.
Return to Bamako.
This night when we walk out of some bar at 2. Lancinet, his wife and I, all a bit sad. Then someone attacks from behind trying to nick my camera. I hang on to it, just cannot prevent him from stealing the SB600 Nikon flash, which I became so used to using it. But Dieu merci nothing else has happened. Nothing like this ever happened to me here. But frankly in Paris or London would we ever dare walking around with expensive equipment in dark streets at night? And the guy was only an ill prepared petit. Thanks god.
Sunday I prepare the Land Rover.
Monday 10th December I leave very early morning. Intentions are to reach Kan Kan and rejoin the trek of Sayon Camara, and Babakoudou and Grand Devise. They are touring with USAID and the German Guinean Society on a HIV/Aids awareness tour leading them to Labe, Mamou, Kan Kan, Siguirie, Kissidougou, N'zérékoré and other places.
When the sun rises I am already far from Conakry. Pass Mamou at 12. Just before Dabola, a wheel bearing breaks, a U-joint needs replacing as well. Grounds me for 8 hours. I reach Kan Kan at 2 in the morning. Miss out on the spectacle.
There is still Siguirie the next evening. But even here I would not see Sayon Camara on stage either. When Aisha in the warmup session sings her second song, Koumi Koumi, the audience in the packed theater is about to freak out already. This could be Sayon's hottest concert I would see I think. But when the crowd outside the cinema, those who do not make it inside start rioting, throwing stones against the cinema's doors, security decides to stop the performance. To be repeated another time at a larger venue.
I enter Bamako Wednesday at lunch time. Guinea has been very good to me this year. I have a plan to return.
Re Lancinet from Ballet Sanke, he became my best friend down here. He and Fanta his wife have two children, a boy and a girl. Their boy was born when both were 15. Lancinet has a twin brother, his mother gave birth to a total of 11 children, 8 are still alive, 4 boys and 4 girls. His mother gave birth to a 2nd pair of twins (daughters). Twins are common in Africa. And of course - Lancinets father took a 2nd wife. and......
Return to Bamako 2, what is so different between Conakry and Bamako?
12 Dec 2007 - Wednesday - Back in "civilised" Bamako, neat and organised and clean it is, or rather seems when you reenter from Guinea, like out of the jungle and into the city. Don't get me wrong, Guinea has become my favorite country. Just I think again here in Bamako before tossing away rubbish, spitting on the floor, ashing on the table.
So what is different between Conakry and Bamako? Probably that people started putting rules in place here in Bamako for too many aspects of life and started living accordingly, most worrisome are proud to live by the rules because this is European (civilised). Bamako has 20 times more mopeds, and they stop at traffic lights. Of course the hundreds of motorcycle accidents make rules neccessary.
Percentage of new cars is so much higher here. Most lights on cars work in Bamako, many streets are lit at night, there is a laid out road network in use, sealed avenues, greenery, palm trees and roundabouts. Conakry is really in the early stages nuilding a functioning street network. Dark at night. Apart from a few exceptions, work is rather repairing then constructing. And many vehicles lack either one or both lights. There are no traffic lights in Conakry.
But Conakry definitely has started moving. It'll be different in a few years.
There is less TV watching in Conakry, more dancing and drumming and celebrating.
Guinea and Mali are predominantly Muslim. But Mali is Sahel, means sand, still Saharan/Arab influenced. Large parts of Guinea mountainous, forested. Old traditions survived or just mingled with new influences of Islam. They say Islam never managed to really penetrate the forests.
People eat better and more in Bamako, most Guineans are skinny, as a result of not eating enough, and the non changing diet of rice and sauce/gravy.
Conakry is a never ending chain of smallish street commerce, women and men, a table, a hole in the wall, anything is sold anywhere. And all streets are the same in this respect. Bamako is nearly the same.
Bamako also is a bit less living in the street, cooking, washing, rearing animals then in Guinea. Still certainly there are still lots of cattle and sheep and chicken roaming in Bamako, and if you leave the main streets, you see as in Conakry, washing of clothes, children, kitchen, etc. Just there seems less of all that here in Bamako.
And Bamako is, when entering from Guinea a huge construction site, and property prices have risen for long. So where is the place to go? For me Conakry.
Bamako has taken off, Conakry is still waiting, - a bit, - or about to take off.
Guinea, land of so many resources.
While I think about all that, the Intelligent Jeune Afrique (2nd to 9th of Dec 2007) runs a report on Guinea summarizing its economic potential, though all has been known for a while.
Guinea is home to two thirds of the worlds known bauxite (aluminum) reserves (CIA fact book talks of half, still a lot). It has gold, diamonds, iron ore, some say probably oil.
Niger, Senegal (Balfing), Gambia all of the great West African rivers have its origins in Guinea, Jeune Afrique talks of an estimated potential of 6000 megawatts of hydro power, yet one of the major problems to economic development the country experiences is shortage of electricity, power cuts, many cities are just black at night.
The country has more than enough rainfall, agricultural resources seem vast, 70% of its population live of it, yet its contribution to GDP is a just 25%. Production could be a lot more diversified and industrialized.
So really if politics changed (since Feb 2007 there is a new popular prime minister Lansana Kouyaté: "We have changed the way we do things"), the country should have a brighter future, that may this time not leave its people behind. But president Lansana Conté, second leader (after Sekou Toure) in Guinea's 50 years of independence and by many perceived to be responsible for much of the malaise in the land, still sits firmly in power. He could at will revoke his prime minister. And in Jan the Jeune Afrique asks, - who is going to win Kouyaté or Conté.
May god be with Guinea, you want to say recalling Feb 2007 strikes and dead.
On the other side the business and investment community has brushed aside concerns over political stability and embraced the country and its prospects.
So maybe we have started to move already. The boom ahead?
Maybe I am going to be there as well.
I want to go back to la Guineé.