Seventh stop, Barcelona: Being an imitator of Maher Cissoko

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The way through the Pyrenees was the toughest stage so far! An incredibly continuous heavy rain (neither of us had never driven through anything like it  –  worse than the rainy season in Dakar!) and in some places floods of half a meter of water made Karin and Sousou exhausted of concentrating so much on keeping the car on the road. We finally arrived in Barcelona more than one hour after what it would have been without the rain and 60 kilometers per hour on the highways!

After Marseille we had high expectations on Barcelona where Sousou and Maher had also spent holidays four and a half years ago. But it was not so easy to play music spontaneously in Barcelona. The situation for street musicians seems to have radically changed over the last four or five years. This was confirmed by several musicians we bumped into. As a French/Spanish guitar player said “Barcelona has been turned into a vitrine for the tourists”. But aren’t street musicians part of the charm of a city, particularly for  tourists?

We started looking for a place to play in the morning and continued to do so for several hours but were everywhere told that the police could even take your instrument and make you pay a fine. We didn’t want to risk so much for sharing our music so we just fled into a Senegalese restaurant to have lunch. Fortunately we had then set up a meeting with a Malian musician living in Barcelona. He brought us to his friend Youssouf’s shop “Farafina” for a jam session. While introducing us to Youssouf one of the most curious conversations took place between him and Maher:

Youssouf: So what kind of music do you play?

Maher: Well, kora and guitar with different influences

Y: Ah, abit like Maher Cissoko then?

M: Yes… or wait a minute, I AM Maher Cissoko

Y: Are you that Maher Cissoko?? The one with the album that everyone listens to?

M: Well, I don’t know, at least me and Sousou we have made two albums.

Y: I’ll make you listen to the one of Maher Cissoko that I have. I listen to it all the time and I know all the songs!

As soon as the first sounds of the album “Adouna” were heard, everyone started laughing and Youssouf was amazed to have Sousou and Maher in his shop. He said that he had sold an incredible amount of the disc “Adouna” and that some people even know his shop through Maher and Sousou’s album.

Youssouf did have a very nice shop with among other things some miniatures of the car rapides (to be seen on Sousou and Maher’s album Stockholm-Dakar). And one of Maher’s very good friends that we had been trying to contact even got married there. He later passed by and joined the jam session and was later interviewed. To him, it is not possible being a jali in Europe; here you are only seen as an artist. And world music was to him everything positive there is about opening up to new musical influences and publics.

While moving back to the hotel, Sousou and Karin went up to the Ramblas to make some interviews with the people passing by on their views on pluralist societies. A good place for spontaneous meetings. We were for example told that the Spanish people’s lacking knowledge in English is a problem for their capacity of being open to people from other countries. Alot of the interviewees seemed to not consider the fact that people of different origins are to be found even within the Spanish society.

It was just a pity that we arrived too late and exhausted to meet up with the Chilean musician we had been in contact with. But a lot of next times are to come!


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Sixth stop, IKEA Montpeiller: Practising jaliya in a shopping mall

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It was abit sad to leave the wonderful plac of Marseille… So ,on our way to Barcelona we decided to try out a new way of playing and meeting people. When reaching Montpellier we saw a big IKEA and a shopping mall. We decided to stop by and see how the Jali role would work in that context and how people would react to the music. However, it turned out to be more than difficult to be a spontaneous jali (West African story tellers and musicians) singing for peace and human meetings in a commercial space. No one wanted to lend us the electricity and guards in red where moving around everywhere looking at us with interest, as though we were criminals just by walking around with our instruments and equipment. In more or less sympathetic ways we were told by the shop/café owners that there were no idea of even trying; the red guards would throw us out immediately. One would have needed to make a formal request for a permission long in advance, leaving We then decided to move towards a place we knew well – IKEA. The red guards didn’t reach there but after a while of playing acoustic music (and doing interviews with people watching) an IKEA person came out saying that we shouldn’t play to close to the warehouse. And when we then walked back to the car, we even heard at a distance tt IKEA were calling for the “Swedish musicians”. But we brought with us some interviews with people who stopped by to listen and a first experience of bringing the music to people in unexpected places.

Conclusion: It is indeed complicated prac to practise th Jaliya (spirit of the Jalis)   in commercial places in Europe – but important!

Fifth stop, Marseille: There are no limits between people or continents!

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Marseille… what to say?! When we left Lyon the sun showed up for the first time since we left Stockholm. And when we stopped on the road we realized that the climate was finally changing to a t-shirt one. When approaching the outskirts of Marseille there was an excitement in the car. Not even half way to Dakar and we had already found a city that we all felt was very much like the Senegalese capital. We just didn’t stop saying “This is exactly as Dakar”. The city showed up a very different architecture from other French cities and an incredible mix of people of different orginis everywhere.  We were very excited to hear how this would influence the mentality and the attitudes towards the meeting of people of different origins. Also, Marseille is a crossroad of people, origins and ways of living since thousands of years. Would it mean more openness towards meetings and differences?

After having checked in at the hotel we were all starving and decided to get something to eat. Just a few blocks behind the hotel we passed an Ivorian restaurant. That was where our wonderful night in Marseille started. By coincidence and through human meetings just as much events during this trip! Just by standing in front of the Ivorian restaurant, the owner called Mama Africa, came out and said that it was the African restaurant the most frequently covered in media. Sousou and Karin went in while Maher and Malang continued walking in search for a more “Senegalese” restaurant. They soon had to come back. We had wonderful grilled fish with aloko and attieké (Karin and Sousou) and Thieboudieund (Maher and Malang…). Mama Africa turned out to be one of those knowing everyone in the town (and she was proud about it). When Maher just asked her if she didn’t have Ba Cissoko’s number she came back with her phonebook so full of numbers that it almost fell apart. Ba Cissoko turned out to be in town and as he lived just nearby Mama Africa’s place, he immediately came by. We then spent the night in his company discovering some parts of Marseille, playing music at Mama Africa’s  and at Ba Cissoko’s favourite bar and trying  koras in Ba’s apartment. This was really an amazing and inspiring night with lots of jam sessions, discussions and interviews.  Everyone without exception immediately referred to a Marseille as a place where people are used to living together and are not afraid of meetings between people of different origins. People identified with the “Marseille spirit” more than with a particular country or sub cultural group. Marseille a Sunday night – so alive with all the people in the streets  and so creative with all the graffiti on the walls and musicians playing everywhere!

All of us left Marseille feeling that we will definitely be back! And Sousou and Maher have one more reason to do so after having left Sousou’s kora at Ba Cissoko’s place after having bought one of his “travel koras”. More space in the car to welcome our fifth team member Peter on board in Barcelona!

P.S When asking us who did what in the team, Mama Africa also granted Karin with an official title “For her I don’t need to ask – It is evident that she is the communicator! “

Fourth stop, Lyon: More meetings in a GPS less world

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Luxemburg is one of the most mixed cities in the world – 65% are not of Luxemburgish origin! Does that make the people more tolerant? Interesting interview about what meetings between people from different countries mean in one of the most international environments of Europe.

Yes, the moment had come – we had to buy a GPS. And take some time to breath. The nice female voice on the GPS helped us out of Luxemburg but when we wanted to find the street of a hotel where we thought we could stay, she was lost. Entering the beautiful city of Lyon, we therefore stopped a Lyonnais asking him to help us. He turned out to be very nice and even start drawing a map for us. While we explained about the journey and started an interesting interview, another car stopped. Initially the two men in it were waiting for us to leave the parking lot but eventually they came out and engaged in the conversation. We ended up with two very rinterviews/discussions around meetings between people and quite a good idea of the Lyon spirit. “I just cannot answer to why some are afraid of meetings between people of different origins because I just don’t understand it” said the first one whereas the other two said that it was all a question of solidarity and of being able to put oneself in the position of the other. They maintained that rich people are generally more egoistic and narrow-minded.  All of them said that Lyon was bourgeois city and that people therefore were less open. “It is completely different to Marseille” they said and we all felt very excited to arrive to the city we had heard so much about.

As we had been talking about human meetings and solidarity the two Algerians/French in the car probably felt that they just couldn’t leave us erring around in Lyon in the search of a hotel. So they drove in in front of us about one before they had us end up in the cheapest hotel in Lyon – Formel 1. Located in a quite shady backyard in the outskirts of Lyon. it made us wonder where we had been brought. But the hotel was very clean and when the initial kind-of-fear and deception over the plastic bag tortellini/24 hours old takeaway Chinese food passed, we met a range of interesting people. Actually the hotel was full of people of different origins and the reception was so small that it was impossible not to meet. We were warmly welcomed by the Senegalese receptionist who was very helpful and with whom we also made a thoughtful interview. “I don’t say it is racism – maybe it is me – but sometimes I feel that I could maybe have a better job with two master degrees”. At the Formel 1 hotel people glanced abit suspiciously at the Sousou and Maher Cissoko flyers that we left on the tables. Maher started playing kora in the entry and was accompanied by a Congolese drum player. However, this one just returned from a night of drinking and got quite menacing towards the Ivorian receptionist who asked him to stop. “You’re just a white man trapped in a black man’s body”. He even said he would kill him which resulted in four police officer turning up at the reception half an hour later. We also interviewed some Algerian gymnastic trainers visiting Lyon.

The conclusion of the day: with a GPS we would never have made all these unexpected meetings. Nothing goes up to handmade maps and discussions with real people!

Third stop, Luxemburg: A wonderful concert against all odds

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The third day was supposed to be the easy relaxing day. Not so far from Luxemburg and just some things from a music store to pick up and an uncle to visit on the road (in Cologne). But leaving Dortmund without a GPS and picking up the amplifiers we had ordered turned out to be a night mare (which would have been much worse without the help of Sousou’s uncle). It all ended up in a stressful drive to Luxemburg where we arrived just in time for the concert, without having eaten more than some sandwiches and in the same clothes as we wore when we started the trip.

But once in the very beautiful place  Exit Carré Rotondes the meetings with friends and a very well good sound system put us all in a good mood.  Sousou and Maher were happy to move away from the stressful day and go into the music. They were also happy to play with Pape, the percussionist who recorded the album Stockholm-Dakar with them. Malang experienced his first time ever playing cajun during the live concert and did it extremely well. We are all very happy that Walter Percussion gave us the possibility to bring with us even more rhythm. The concert was well organized and turned out to become a real success with an enthousiastic public. Finally the whole place was dancing and following the music. The atmosphere was warm and people were dancing, singing and constantly asking for more! After the concert the record table was crowded and almost all the new albums Stockholm-Dakar that we brought with us were sold out (but new ones are ordered from the prints).  Sousou and Maher received a lot of appreciation both directly after the concert and by email. THANKS to Laure Huberty who organized it all through her association K.

A clip from the concert:

Second stop, Dortmund: There is a meaning to everything!

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Before leaving Höör we reduced the bags significantly so that the cajun (drumming box) from Walter Percussion fit into the back of the car and didn’t have to be placed on the laps of those poor ones in the back seat. Still Peter, the camera man and fifth team member who will go with us from Barcelona to Marrakesh seemed abit worried when met him in Malmö showing him the (non-existing) space for his bags. We also did an interesting interview in Höör, discussing the paradox of Skåne: Why is the highest concentration of xenophobia in Sweden located to the region which is the closest to the rest of Europe? Is it the regional identity, the fear of being the entry point for people coming in to Sweden? And what is world music apart from a shelf in the music shops?

Two boarders, a ferry, a lot of candy and some highways later we arrived in Dortmund where we decided to stay for the night. The enthusiasm of staying spontaneous was still high when we entered the town. Only, it turned out that all the hotels were fully booked all over the region of Köln-Dortmund-Frankfurt. 9 o’clock in the night and we were starting to imagine a night in the car. That is when Maher made the magical telephone call. With despair in his eyes he dials the number to one of the few persons he knows in Germany. He only remembered that he lived in a small town somewhere. Maher’s exclamation “Dortmund?!” was the word that made the energy return to the car. It turned out that Maher’s old friend El Hadji (who has previously been playing with Sousou and Maher in Sweden) had moved from his small town to Dortmund. And he was happy to receive us for the night. Waiting for El Hadji at the train station we made a super interesting interview with two young men from Italia and Turkey living in Dortmund since a long time. “People are people”! They didn’t understand why xenophobia exists. They had both grown about with a diversity of people around them. But how do we find them again after having found out that the interview that we filmed was disappointingly not recorded? (If you read this, please contact us). We hope at least that we have now got to know all of the documentation equipment and worked out routines around who uses it and when (=record as much as possible with as many recording machines as possible)

We had a great time with El Hadji and fell asleep exhausted sometime after midnight/before dawn. A barika!

First stop, Höör: It is far!

The trip has started, we are on the way. Impossible to even enter 8000 kilometers into the counting system of the car! A jangfata de! All preparations in Stockholm are (almost) finished and everything entered (with abit of creativity) into the car. Still repacking will be necessary before leaving Höör. We have already started recording and inspiring discussions have come up in the car. What does pluralism mean to us?

Driving out of Jönköping into the dark forest we realized that there was no petrol. When we finally found a petrol station we filled 62,5 liters into a tank of 60… what does one not do for some extra adventures on the road?!? Sousou has a pain in her body already and Malang is complaining about the hours in the car … how will this end up?