The town lies in the shadow of a giant rock. Bulbous granite, the mountain seems to have risen out of the ground, sprung like a prehistoric mushroom. The tiny village nestles up against the cliffs. Some even build their homes from the same stone stuff like the little fruiting bodies of the mound.
They tell us in the old times that the people here were winged and had talons for feet. That they could climb up the sheer granite face of the rock. They tell us there are hundreds of more rocks, just like this, and when I let my eyes wander past the yellowing grasses and withering plants of the fields, I can almost see their distant shapes on the horizon.
They tell us there are no musicians here. That they all left with the implementation of Sharia. They tell us to go to Lagos. We play with words and rephrase questions, semantically restrained by our use of the word “musician.” Yes, there are no musicians here but, they tell us, of the kumsa guitarists, the one-stringed goje players, the kakaki trumpeters, there are hundreds.
They tell us of a man in a village nearby, scarred on his right cheek. We travel to the village, but they’ve never heard of him. They tell us they heard music in that direction last night. We commission motorcycles and drive in that direction, across fallen branches, and through dry gullies. Sometime later, there appears a smattering of round homes with conical thatched rooftops and a few people. They’ve heard the sound of our motorcycles for some time now.
Dayhiru is a visitor here as well. A traveling musician from one of the innumerable villages throughout the countryside, that leave no purchase in my mind or my notebooks, he arrived the night prior to animate the wedding. His tiny guitar, cradled in his arms like a toy, was then wired into the enormous cone of a megaphone, the scratchy cry rolling over the fields, echoing off those granite rocks. Today he sings the songs of last night in full sun. When Dayhiru sings he nods and his body shifts. The rapid strum dances with the clatter of the cowries. Or perhaps it is the wind as it rattles the trees. He whistles.
We have so much to say. They have so much to tell us. But soon, a real wind begins, carrying dust and earth and blurring the distinction between land and sky. Obfuscated, we take to the road and stammer brief goodbyes. The wind and dust follow in our path, and we can longer see the village, the trees, the mountains, our memories, or even the name of the village which blows out my pocket and is lost to the wind and the sound of flapping of wings.
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These snapshots are my absolute favorite.
I am so thankful for you and the beautiful artists that I’ve gotten to know via sahel sounds.