Uncle Barnie Burkina Faso Pt. 2
This is a continuation of posts by Uncle Barnie on his travels around Africa, earlier editions can be viewed below:
The bus from Bobo to â€˜Ouagaâ€™ as the capital is affectionately known took 6 hours and this time the doors stayed closed. The nunnery I was hoping to stay at was booked out, but a delightfully spindly patron of the lord pointed around the corner and told me the name of a cheap hotel. This place was nothing like where I stayed in Bobo, and was more expensive, but I was getting the sweats on bad and couldnâ€™t really think of many other options but to just book in and crash. The whole place seemed to be permanently in shadow, which may sound relieving but was actually somewhat depressing. As soon as I walked out of the hotel onto the earth road to find a ciggie vendor a young man wanting to be my guide approached me. I had been fending off similar requests all morning, feeling a bit grumpy â€˜bout the whole deal of having to pay dudes for help. But this guy seemed like a cool enough guy, and I had calmed down a bit after having a shower and an unload. Paying dudes for help is just pretty much how it goes, and the sooner you can get over the idea that you are paying them, and that they therefore are indebted to you, the better. You can make friends, and get taken into their homes, and find out anything you want to know. And you are infinitely wealthier than themâ€¦ no matter how long it might have taken you to save up for your trip. So this guy, Herman was his name, seemed like a pretty sweet as type of lad. I told him I was in Ouaga for one reason only â€“ to find a musician called Georges OuÃ©draogo who used to play in an afro-funk band from the 70â€™s called Bozambo.
Herman instantly said he could help me out, so we went wandering. Not long after however, he suggested we stop for a â€œcafÃ© Burkinabeâ€ which he said with a sly grin. I said sure, thinking â€˜well its 11am, havenâ€™t had a coffee, jolly thoughtful of you my young friendâ€™. We ended up however going into his enormous sisterâ€™s dolo bar and having about 4 cups each. Herman, I was to discover, was a bit of a piss-head. After our â€˜coffeesâ€™ we tottered up to one of the main roads of Ouaga â€“ Avenue De La LibertÃ©. Here on a corner Herman met a friend and asked him how to find Georges. This guy got on his mobile phone, which he then passed to Herman, and within a minute we had an appointment for 10am the following day. Job bloody done. We went and had some more coffees in celebration, and then I went back to my abode for a chill.
That I night I wandered back up to Avenue De La LibertÃ© to have a look for some live music. I was hassled fairly constantly by guys wanting me to pay for their eye operations or daughterâ€™s educations, and after meagre donations to their bluffs I ducked into the first bar I could find. I bought a beer and sat outside, and was immediately joined by 3 heavily made up yet gorgeous local women. I knew the drill, so declined to buy them drinks, but did ask them where they went to dance. They said they would only tell me if I took them with me. Much as a night out on the town with 3 prostitutes in Burkina Faso sounded rather Bukowskian in a KapuÅ›ciÅ„ski kind of way, I declined, pleading economic impotence. I set off back for my hotel and played splash on the way with some kids in a puddle.
The next morning I met Herman and we set off to find a cab. On the way we stopped by his sisters again for another coffee. Her â€˜cafÃ©â€™ was about 4m x 3m and half filled with her and a large bucket of dolo she was funneling into various plastic containers, and half filled with 3 bench seats on which myself and Herman, and three other guys sat around drinking our morning beers. The three other guys were interested in chatting, so we talked about New Zealand, music, and milk products. After a fair amount of information was exchanged Herman and I continued on our way. The cab took us to Georgesâ€™ club. It is common practice in West Africa for a musician to own a club. Well common for older musiciansâ€¦ musicians from previous decades who have been lucky enough to make a career out of it. It is an interesting and smart enterprise, as it serves to give status to the name of the musician, it provides a venue for his or her band to keep playing, and in the long run is an investment. Georgesâ€™ band Bozambo has long since broken up. He does still play out occasionally, but his club is now used as a discothÃ¨que, which is a healthy revenue generator for him in his retirement. His club is good-looking, and follows the model of being open-air and circular, with a stage slash dance floor in the middle. Around the walls are delicious paintings of the man himself in his heyday, complete with mesh shirt.
Georges is an incredibly nice man. He has the tranquil air of a seasoned musician, and was most patient with my ridiculous French (PS: the contents of all these interviews will be included in the documentary I am making for Radio New Zealand in the near future). I was anxious to know if he had any recordings left of Bozambo so he invited me next door to his house. He couldnâ€™t find any, but asked if I would like to watch a DVD of him receiving an award from the President for 40 years contribution to the arts. We settled down on his couch and watched the alarmingly edited footage of Georges getting showered with gifts and money. Half way through the DVD (it was about 2 and a half hours long) I said I needed to go the toilet. I was directed outside by his wife, but then Georges told me to stop, and showed me his inside toilet. Half way through going for a piss Georges came into the bathroom himself and said â€œtwo at a timeâ€ and pissed in the sink beside me. I was almost done, but pretended to keep going and shaking off a lot until he was done. He ran the tap a bit then walked out. I went up to the sink, but the bar of soap was lying over the plughole and I didnâ€™t know if it had arrived there before or after Georgesâ€™ pissâ€¦ so I washed my hands on my jeans instead and rejoined him on the couch. I felt very honored to have been invited into his home, to watch the award ceremony, and to be in the presence of such a musical legend. Throughout Africa I was constantly amazed at the open-door policy of these musical greats. I found virtually no evidence of the cult of celebrity amongst them, just the respect they had rightfully earned from their community.
The following day was my last in Ouaga, and to be honest I was happy to be leaving. Hermanâ€™s dolo habit was monumental, and the constant and aggressive cash pleading was getting on my tits. Herman had invited me to his relatives wedding that night however, and I was excited by the prospect of going to a traditional wedding and possibly being able to record some music. I went to Hermanâ€™s house first, and took along a paua ring to give to the bride as present. When I arrived Herman was bleary eyed but happy, and introduced me to his extended family. We took photos and I ate delicious snacks of beans and rice, coleslaw and yam. We then went around the corner to the dolo bar for about an hour, where one guy refused to wake up, and then on to the wedding house. We said lots of hellos at the gate then positioned ourselves on two spare seats in the garden next to two stately ladies. The stately ladies soon complained to Herman about his smoking however, and we were pretty much asked to leave after he started the classic drunk-pacify act. I did manage however to pass my ring to one of the ladies, explaining it was a gift of good will from the nation of New Zealand. I had to be at the station at 5am to catch my bus to Ghana, so bade Herman a rather long and difficult goodbye. I paid him for his help, and he swore and declared that he would be at my hotel at 4:30am to walk with me to the station. I pretty much didnâ€™t believe he was capable of that, but said whatever was necessary to make him shut up and go home. I packed, and pretended to sleep for a few hours until 4:30. I couldnâ€™t remember the way to the bus station by foot, so decided to go to a main road and try and hail a cab. This proved to be difficult, and I had my only slightly uneasy feeling of the trip as I wandered semi-lost through the streets with all my possessions trying not to appear too obvious to the packs of drunken dudes heading home after a big Friday night. I finally found a roundabout and caught a cab to the station, where dear old Herman was sitting waiting for me looking like he had spent the last 3 hours wrestling giant fermented grains. He chastised me a bit for not trusting him, which I took ashamedly, and then he entrusted my safe boarding to a friend of his who worked at the station. We hugged goodbye, and he ambled off home, probably in search of a coffee to perk him up a bit. I made it on to the bus sweet, and fell asleep instantly thus sidestepping the slightly annoying African custom of only leaving a bus station until two hours have passed since the intended time of departure.