This year it is looking increasingly unlikely that any of our regular guests will be able to make it out to us in Kafountine this season. The travel restrictions, testing and quarantine requirements don’t look to be easing any time soon and though we are here and happy to host anyone, it will certainly be the quietest year we’ve ever had. So as there are no kora students for me to photograph, here instead is a butterfly that floated down onto my lap as I sat in the hammock after lunch (I know, hard life…). It was sadly dead but still just stunning.
We’re back in Kafountine! Adam and I usually leave here in April and come back in October but this year everything was turned upside down, as it was for everybody. So this time we went back to Europe in August, held a workshop in September and concentrated on making and shipping koras until just before we left France, arriving here 24th December, worn out but very happy to be back 🙂
I was asked if were excited to be on our way here, and I realised that the emotion was in reality relief, not excitement. Feels more and more like coming home every year. Now we have time to breathe I’ll be doing a newsletter over the next couple of weeks and will fill you in on the last few months and our plans for next year (subscribe below if you don’t already get my rare updates!) In the meantime here’s an image I took just a few minutes ago from our roof top terrace in the middle of the bush.
Due to CoVid and various countries quarantine requirements, many of our regular students were not able to join us. Because restrictions can be applied very quickly, until we actually started none of us knew for sure that it would happen but armed with plenty of anti-bacterial gel it did! We had a great time with a lovely group who spent a whole week immersed in the kora.
As usual it was a wonderful mix of abilities and the level of dedication to learning was impressive. That may have been helped by the horrible weather, which kept people focussed and near the fireplace and radiators! Usually our September workshop has glorious weather and is largely spent outside, with afternoons lazing by the pool or walking through the surrounding countryside. Hopefully the next workshop (15th-22nd September 2021) will be back to our usual autumnal sunshine.
Photo credit: Jacqueline Dozy
Right now we should be in a tent in the Charlton Park arboretum tuning hundreds of strings and showing festival goers how to hold and play the kora (well it would be weird if we started teaching French Horn and probably not so popular with our neighbours, so we’ll stick with kora). So though we are very happy here in Senegal while we search for flights to get us to Europe, we are really missing our wonderful international Kora Crew, all our WOMAD friends and the hundreds of people who come along to try out this amazing instrument! To capture some of that WOMAD feeling go and checkout their amazing weekend of WOMAD At Home and see if you can spot yourself in some of our workshop photos. Thanks to @_nic_kane for some great shots 🙂
We are really pleased that we have been able to confirm the September workshop at Mas de Jammes, France. Several booking have already been made by regular students and some new ones too – it’s always a lovely mixture, with absolute beginners encouraged by more experienced players. Private rooms are going fast though so do book quickly if you want your own space! Tents are always an option and there are still beds in the big shared rooms.
Rest assured, if the event had to be cancelled due to Covid19 or any other reason, of course we would refund any payments, though we would ask anyone who can to accept a credit note for a future workshop or item.
Because of the CoVid travel restrictions we decided to stay here in Kafountine, Senegal rather than head back to Europe mid April as usual. This is a new experience for us because apart from the very occasional storm when we arrive in October, we have never been here for the rainy season. We’ll be heading back to Europe in early August this year to finish kora orders and welcome people to our September workshop in France. In the meantime we have put up screens to keep out the mosquitos; they aren’t really a problem in the dry season so they are also part of this new experience…
It is, not surprisingly, very humid and warm, the temperature gauge seems to be permanently set between 28 and 30 degrees, so gone are the ‘chilly mornings of 10 degrees and lower! No need for a fleece at any time of the day or night, and we try to wear as little as possible for as long as possible. The gardens and surrounding bush have become incredibly lush, with flowers appearing on plants that we could never really see the point of before! The architectural bare branches of Frangipane bloom endlessly and wild plants produce amazingly complex flowers. Butterflies are everywhere and the birds are all in their best plumage. Small Monitor lizards seem less shy and the more common Rainbow Lizards have put on their purple yellow and white suits
We hope you’ve been able to manage OK wherever you are in the world during the CoVid19 crisis. We are still in Kafountine, Senegal where we decided to stay once it became obvious that travel and other restrictions were starting to be imposed. The May workshop in France, WOMAD, our UK workshop at Cwm MAddoc and Tribal Earth were all cancelled but we are very hopeful that the September Workshop in France (23rd-30th) will go ahead. So we should be heading back to Europe mid-July, and able to catch up with all our outstanding kora orders – we’re very grateful to all our very patient customers! See you soon 🙂
Hats off to our kora students, they manage to have a great time and learn loads, even with high winds and rain lashing down. Of course those in the yurt, cabin, houses, campers and caravans had it easier but nothing seem to dampen the spirits of the campers either! Sitting around the camp fire, singing their hearts out and eating great food together whilst absent-mindely humming the kumbengo to Kelefa Ba kept them happy and wanting more, so next year we will make it Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon again. Some gluttons for punishment even stayed on for some more kora time 🙂