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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 joinour e-mailing list for the latest news on workshops
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.