Flashback: Cameroon Chronicles - Day 6 - Morning Nostalgie Radio & Bantu/Kundé Rehearsal
Originally posted 3 March 2012
Why do these radio programs start so early!? Sigh... Thanks to our friend Lydia Hall from Comoros, I've taken to packing breakfast bars and other snacks with me, and have found that this buys me some much needed sleep & prep time in the morning, rather than paying for the overpriced (and not included :-/ ) breakfast buffet at the hotel.
So, we show up at Nostalgie Radio (yes, it's related to your favorite station in France ;-) bright and early, and are greeted by the warm and welcoming Carole Leuwé. This is one woman who does NOT need our presentation on Web Presence and Music Entrepreneurship - I already recognize her name and face because she found me on Facebook two days ago and dropped me a line to let me know she was looking forward to our visit! Now that's both classy AND savvy!
She introduces us to Falix Fetue, the main host of this morning's program, and manages to scrounge up a cup of tea (thank you!) for us before we hit the air waves. They make us very welcome in the studio and ask us questions about our professional history, and what it is we're doing here in Douala - and they generally help us make a good pitch for our concert this evening. We sing a couple numbers live on air which get them snapping, and before we know it, we're being bustled out to head on to the next event.
A little while later, we pull up in front of the French Cultural Center where the folks from "l'Equipe Du Sud" cultural organisation have gotten a great head start on set-up. We do quick sound check, and immediately obvious that we're in good hands, technician wise (phew!) - then it's time for show and tell!
We're introduced to the gentlemen (no ladies!?) from Bantu Jazz and Kundé groups, both part of "l'Equipe du Sud". As has become our habit, we ask the folks of to give us a little demonstration of what they typically do, and I also suggest that if they have a song they think I could learn quickly and sing with them, they should give that some thought.
All of a sudden, this velvet-seated western style auditorium is filled with an over-layering of raucous and infinitely complex Cameroonian rhythms! Once again, Jeff and I are pleased to realize that we will have NO problem working with these guys :-) And they're on the case as well! While we're sitting there listening, Serge and Frank come over bearing a piece of paper with a short neatly written text, including a French translation. They've figured out something that should be fairly easy for me to sing with them and are eager to make it happen. Yet another sign of the professionalism we'll be encountering throughout this day/evening.
So, they finish their exciting ruckus, and we jump up to rally the troupes for the shared rehearsal. We throw out a couple of titles to the bass and keyboard players, and they seem to be ready to deal with some jazz standards. The percussionists seem to have disappeared from the stage in the meantime though, so we take a few (20?) minutes to sort out a few classic jazz tunes we'll be doing with just the rhythm section. A quick run through of "Georgia" and "All Blues" and I'm immediately assured that I'm in good hands. These guys have a sense of musicianship and nuance that will make us ALL look good together on the band stand :-)
Then we've gotta get the rest of the gang back up to sort out the big group numbers. It takes a little back-and-forthing to get clear on what we're asking for during the percussion breaks et al, but once they get it, they've got it! We hardly even bother to run through the more straightforward blues tunes like "Sweet Home Chicago", 'cause it's obvious there's nothing to be concerned about. So, inside of 35 minutes, we've sorted what we'll be doing with them on our end.
Now, it's time for the other end of the exchange... What will we be doing of theirs? Jeff decides to sit this one out "This is your thing, Keri". Ok, fine. So, they start up the percussion ensemble, and sing through the text a few times. I'm having trouble feeling exactly where it is in the rhythmic cycle I'm supposed to make my entrance, so I ask them to be really clear and give me visual/physical cues when it's my turn. We struggle a bit around this idea, and it's clear that I'm not quite making the grade yet... and then I'm given the key : "Voici le temps fort!" ("Here's the 'one'") - Serge shows me where the cycle starts (not quite where I thought it did!) and all of the sudden, the rest falls into place! (It reminds me of one of those ah-ha moments I had when struggling to learn an Ella Fitzgerald scat where, once I accidentally breathed at the same time as her, the whole rest of the phrase suddenly made sense!)
So, now I know where I am, and where the "temps fort" is, and the rest is a piece of cake. I sing "Meyé massé" - "I am proud" - with them for a bit, and then we agree, like with the American blues, that the general free-for-all will be obvious once we're on stage together, and we don't have to work out all the details in rehearsal.
Now to catch up on some more of that rest and conserve our energy for tonight's high-profile show!