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January 5th, 2009

Well I made that last minute decision and went to  Kafountine in the Cassamance, Senegal - two blissful weeks!  We are both back now, delighted to find more kora and kora bag orders but struggling to keep warm.  Kafountine at this time of year is like the UK on a good summers day, the evenings are cool and there are hardly any mosquitos.  

 

The house, as you can see is coming on well.   When Adam goes back out, hopefully in February, he will be rendering, plastering , painting and tiling.

Kath x  

 

 

The blocks are made on site, the walls built and left to harden in the rainy season.  The tin roof is now on and later will be thatched. Since these photos the doors have gone in and the windows should follow in the next few weeks.

Courses/Workshops By Jan 2010 we hope to be able to run our first workshops there - no idea of price yet - too many variables at the moment.  If you are interested in learning the kora in a warm, beautiful, calm setting, 10 minutes walk from the longest beach I have ever seen, get in touch!    The plan is that there will be no fixed course dates; instead  a kora teacher will be available every day for a few hours tuition, the rest is for relaxing, practising,  swimming, and enjoying the local culture.  There will also be the opportunity to make your own machine head kora to take back to the UK.

 

April 16th, 2009 and we’re back from another trip to Kafountine where the house is now habitable, the well water is drawn by a solar-powered pump and the young orange trees are flowering.  

 

As you can see, compared to the photos below the house is now becoming a home. Beautifully simple and traditional, there is no electricity, the shower and toilet will be outside and are still being built. Eventually we will thatch the roof but that is more cosmetic and will help prolong the life of the tin.

 

The garden is growing well, bananas, oranges, ‘custard apples’ and coconuts as well as a lovely array of flowering plants.  An avocado orchard is planned as a future income (and food!) source.

 

We are still on track to set-up kora  workshops for a small group of people in early 2010 so if you’re interested do get in touch.

View of the house from the right
View of the house from the left side
Inside the house

Dec 11th 2009 and its finally happened - workshop dates are agreed, houses are finished and ready to take kora-playing guests (and their friends of course!)  The main house and garden are now well established and we have had our first crop of peanuts, thanks to the endeavours of Diabate, shown below with Moustapha (left) making yet more Hatiya (another crucial job, making the signature strong sweet tea) The next crops are cassava (a white root vegetable that I really like) and bananas.  The banana is the most amazing plant - two that were planted last year are already producing in excess of

thirty fruit each. Did you know they start off like this? Positively alien-looking! We should be able to pick them for Christmas. Adam and I are back in the UK mid-January, straight into planning the teaching side of the workshops now the venue is ready!

 

Even the

washing line is beautiful!

November 26th , 2008

Adam is in Senegal now, working on the house in Kafountine set in several acres of  bush, filled with butterflies, monkeys and birds.  Thankfully few if any mosquitos, and its hot, dry  and sunny. The house, complete with well, water tower, fruit and cashew trees is part of a  long term goal to be able to spend ever more time in  West Africa and where we hope to be able to run workshops,  but first Adam needs to get the roof on!  The walls were built before the rainy season and left to soak up the rains and then dry and harden.  Needless  to say we are using local skills and materials and our good friend Moussa has been invaluable in making it happen. Not a holiday home but a way of life in the making.  
 

As I sit here in  beautiful but chilly South East Wales you can imagine me typing this and smiling through gritted chattering teeth!  Hope to go out for a couple of weeks, but will be a last minute decision.    

Kath  x

 

 

May 2010 We are kicking off in style on Saturday 5th June in Skenfrith with Toumani Diabate coming to visit us on his way up to the Wychwood Festival in Cheltenham. Quite an occasion as Jess (Adam’s daughter) will be there and Toumani has wanted to hear her sing for some time now.  We have a gap until 14th August in Oxford as we are still hoping to get back to Kafountine and experience life there during the rainy season for the first time.  We also have work to do out there to prepare for the group workshop in February.

      Having finished the living accommodation, we are now building a house for Diabate, our guard and gardener.  One of our kora students has kindly donated some money from his 50th birthday party to help us get the house built and to be able to send Diabate home to Mali to visit his mother and family. You don’t just employ people in rural West Africa, you become part of their lives and vice versa.

August 2010 We’ve had two people come and stay at Kafountine to learn the kora and relax at our lovely site there. See their reviews here and we are getting bookings for the group workshop in February 2011. Neil, who came to Kafountine in March, helped us raise money towards getting Diabate the guard and gardener to see his family in Mali. Diabate is now back in Kafountine after a very emotional reunion in Mali. He hadn’t been back for about 8 years and as there was no way of contacting each other (we take our communication infrastructure in the UK for granted...) they thought that he had been killed during the coup in the Ivory Coast.  

 

Check out the Skenfrith workshop page when Toumani and his band came for lunch and despite his tight schedule sat and helped our workshop participants.

 

We had a lovely time as always at The Music Camp in Gloucestershire, introducing more people to the kora.  We are a regular feature of the camp and it is a wonderful event, small, friendly and full of lovely people. We cancelled the August 14th workshop as you all appear to be away on holiday and only had one booking! Instead we held a mini-workshop here at the cottage in Skenfrith for Christine who had booked and invited local kora players Chris and Jess. I think we’ll do that again as it was very relaxing teaching at home and we were able to keep the cost down too. Sorry not to be seeing the lovely people at Oxford Quakers Meeting house as they were so helpful arranging it. but maybe another time. However it has freed us up to go to Boomtown Fair where we will be holding beginners workshops. Then it’s over to the lovely Tribal Earth where we are holding workshops again.  Finally we pop into Superspirit and then a few days to recover from the festival workshop circuit before we run our own in Embercombe, Devon. Really looking forward to that - staying in yurts, fire circle, being fed and lots of friends coming to play kora - bliss... The last planned workshop of the season is at The Hatch in Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire - looks set to be a lovely weekend. We were delighted to discover that Ben from The Hatch has a kora - pure coincidence!

 

Kafountine is calling but neither of us will get out there til November at the earliest. Diabate’s house (also known as The Guard House) is now at the roof stage and will be finished before we get back out there.  So now we have ‘The Big House’ and ‘The Little House’ (shown here with its flat roof designed for getting up early and watching the birds and monkeys in the trees around you), soon to be joined by ‘The Guard House’ - you cannot fault the originality of our house names... The houses are available to rent at £200 each per week - sleeping from 4 to 6 in each.  I will be creating a page for the houses but if you are interested in getting the family out there, with or without kora lessons, get in touch.  The dry season is October/November through to June so perfect for escaping the British weather and experiencing a completely different way of life.

October 2012 Wow...over two years since I updated this page. Shameful - no excuses (OK lots really!) Facebook has now become the place for news, new photos etc so this may be the last News update on the website for another year.  I send out regular emails to keep everyone up to date with what is happening.  So find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or join our e-mailing list for the latest news on workshops and developments.

 

 

In the meantime - Adam is about to head back out to Kafountine for another winters season of teaching.  I’ll be joining him in January til March when the majority of our kora guests come and stay. We now have several regular visitors, keen to get back to that place in the sun and spend some quality kora-time.  They have left us some wonderful reviews in Google Maps and Trip Advisor

 

Diabate the guard and gardener is now married and he and the lovely Aby both live in the house we built for him a couple of years ago. We have developed the site further, increasing guests privacy yet still maintaining our open gate policy which means we still have plenty of local visitors and friends.