Monday, June 20, 2005

moving on

On Thursday morning, I will be leaving Douala for Bangangte in Cameroon's West Province. The West Province is considered to be the location of "Bamileke Country". As such, my research will be done there, maybe even in Bangangte: we'll see. Other ethnic groups - such as the Bassa - also dominate the West Province. The primary goal for the next 3-4 months is to find a tutor, or better yet, classes in the indigenous language of Bangangte and surrounding villages. It's known variously as Medumba, Bamileke-Bangangte, or Bamileke-Medumba. Bangangte is the home of an organisation whose purpose is to encourage the use of this language. My secondary goal is to find opportunities to make music. The 'telegram' (mentioned in a previous post) and the kalimba, or thumb piano, are the instruments I'd most like to learn. I will be living in Bangangte with the sister of my host in Douala. Also, I'm happy to be leaving behind the heat and polluted air of Douala. I haven't spent very much time in the West Province yet, so most aspects of life there are a question mark to me.

Monday, June 13, 2005

"traditional" music and contacts

Yesterday, I got back into the musical swing of things a bit. A friend of mine, knowing that I like music, especially drumming, took me around to a funeral to listen to the performers. As I approached the circle to give some money to them (as is the custom), I realized that, by chance, the leader of the drummers was the same guy who'd overseen my music lessons two years ago in Douala. He passed me his shakers and I played with the ensemble briefly. They finished shortly, and a different ensemble took over. They played some music I'd never heard before. I was told that these rhythms were very complicated and very old. The slit-gong, or "telegram" (hollowed-out log with carefully placed holes), was particularly captivating, and I might focus on that instrument in further lessons and recordings. The performers during this were all masked and dancers wore shells on their calves which added to the sonic tapestry. A lot of fun and very compelling.

Friday, June 10, 2005


Those of you interested in pop culture in general and music in particular may be interested to know that CDs have completely overtaken cassettes here. This is surprising only because 2 years ago, cassettes were still the preferred medium by most. CDs have become much cheaper all of a sudden. Video cassettes never became popular here, from what I can tell.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Yesterday from the plane, I had a great view of the Sahara. It was incredible. Landing in Douala, I felt a certain happiness to be back despite missing many people in my two homes of Toronto and Ann Arbor. Douala is much as I remember it - crowded and friendly. I'm staying with friends who live up in the hills, so it's a bit cooler in their house, which is nice. Down in the market, it's in the high twenties (celsius) or low thirties at the hottest. The rainy season is setting in so it will cool off a bit over the next 3 months or so.