January and February have been a busy time despite being far too cold for my West African body and Soul! It has been a time packed with wonderful music and I had the good fortune recently to go to a concert in Bristol by the great Senegalese musician Baaba Maal.
Baaba Maal has been a great ambassador for the music of West Africa for many years, he is one of the most famous international artists to come out of Senegal and his energy and love for the music never dims. I have been listening to Baaba Maal for a long long time, he is a musician who feels his music deeply and only follows his own way. Listening to Baaba Maal’s music over the years has been a great influence to me, He is a very friendly welcoming and gentle person, who gave me great encouragement when we met after the show. It made me so happy to be able to give him one of my albums ‘Ligeey’ after all these years listening to his music.
Baaba Maal primarily Sings in the Pulaar language. He is the foremost promoter of the traditions of the Pulaar-speaking people, who live on either side of the Senegal River in the ancient Senegalese kingdom of Futa Toro. Baaba Maal has made some 14 albums or so in his long career spanning almost 30 years including ‘Traveller’ his latest released this month.
Make Believe its Africa at Destinations Olympia
Whilst fighting off the February Blues and trying to stay warm, Mark and I had a day of gigs at The Destinations Show in Olympia, where we played in front of an African Sunset surrounded by companies selling holidays and tours to generally much hotter locations.
It was a good gig, some very nice people selling mosquito repellent and nets let us relax in their Yurt between performances, so we were well taken care of.
With that sunset behind and surrounded by holiday destinations we had to do the performance in shades, it seemed only right thing to do!
Getting Live and Local in Derbyshire
From the dream of hot exotic destinations to Derbyshire, February brought us some Rural touring gigs for Live and Local, getting out and about in a van full of equipment and Instruments, its only the musicians who tend to be squishy in that environment. Really we do enjoy being on the road, meeting new people, spreading the Group Yakar Afro beat, Jazz Funk, Blues love thing. Our gig in Critch Glebe on Valentines night was Sold out completely, apparently they had to turn Fifty people who wanted tickets away, and they had people traveling from London for the gig, it is wonderful when you get a night like that, the promoter for that gig was truly amazing, he worked so hard and seemed to be enjoying every minute of it making the night a success.
This is the email I received from David the promoter that night
This is just to say a huge thank you to Amadou Diagne & Group Yakar for giving us such a wonderful evening in Crich yesterday. The feed-back has been fantastic, as you’ll see from the attached Word Cloud.
We asked the audience to describe their experience in 3 words – the response was unprecedented! The larger the font size, the more times the word was used. So basically your audience last night thought the gig was: entertaining; great; enjoyable; fun and excellent! I couldn’t agree more!
We all wish the band a hugely successful future, and I hope rural venues book you time and again before the band is playing to much larger venues.
With very best wishes
Sound Bank and Southbank
We have the next gig coming up in Bristol on the 27th of February at The Southbank Club in Bristol
Which we are working very hard to make a truly fantastic and memorable night. As well as my full Group Yakar band performing, There will be an exhibition by Artist David Cox http://modernart-dcox.com who created the cover for the Ligeey Album.
Part of the night is a sounds project, people have been sending us the sounds of their work, and we are creating a piece of music incorporating those sounds. We have had some great sounds already sent in to us, if you would like to contribute and want to know more please send us your sounds here http://www.amadoudiagne.com/sound
You can read more about it here http://amadoudiagne.com/southbank-club-gig
and buy Tickets here http://www.amadoudiagne.com/tickets
next up I will be blogging about Davids Cox’s artwork and animations.
When you are working hard creating,writing, recording it is easy to forget dressing the part, so when the time came for a photoshoot to be arranged I realised I needed to come up with at least one outfit suitable to do the album some justice. lucky I am also a tailor then!
A friend had given me a pin stripe suit some time before that I had never worn as it was a little on the large side, I liked the idea of a pin stripe suit as the album is called Ligeey which is a wolof word meaning work and what better way to look like I am meaning business!
I have a good industrial sewing machine I use so it was not hard to make some changes to the fit of the suit. Slimmer trouser legs and sleeves, a better fit around the body, a new lining with a bright african wax print, then adding touches of the same fabric to the tops of the pockets too.
My lovely wife found a black hat in our local charity shop to which I added some of the same fabric as a hat band. I then reworked a plain yellow shirt, giving it a bold stand up collar in the same fabric and some applique strips down the front of it.
My wife loves collecting beads so she strung up some of her favourite ones as a necklace for me that picked up the colours from the fabric I had used. She says the necklace contains a mix of some old African amber, venetian glass, wood and some of her most prized hand painted indian rose wood beads.
Caldo a delicious fish dish from Senegal
Last night I cooked up a Caldo for the family, a traditional West African favourite dish. My wife was seriously impressed so she wants the recipe, I dont really do recipies though as I mostly cook by feel and what I like, the dishes that remind me of Senegal and sharing meals with my big family. As a small boy in Senegal I would go help the fishermen hall in their catch at the beach and be rewarded with beautiful fresh fish, I would take my earnings home and this is the dish we would live to cook and eat. This Caldo of sorts was made from whatever I could find in the cupboards and freezer though traditionally in Senegal we make it with a fish called Rouget which I think is red Mullet, a very delicious fish indeed.
This was not a planned dinner at all though, so I was using what we had to hand which was some pollock fillets from the freezer, not so glamourous but cheap. This recipe really worked well for the not so interesting pollock as the sauce has a lot of flavour to it ( there is some smoked salmon fillet there too, my wife had just returned with her reduced to clear prize from the supermarket so it went in the pot of course)
this is my sort of Caldo recipe
Fillets of fish ( I used pollock fillets ) Red Mullet would be delicious or sea bream, If using those fish I would keep them whole, slit the skin and rub the marinade into the fish then leave covered in the fridge for 2 hours then preferably grill or barbeque, delicious! but this is the family supper and the poor mans version.
I always serve this with plain white rice, we often use broken basmatti as it is cheaper and works well with other dishes like chembu yap where the rice is cooked in the sauce.
4 Pollock Fillet (or the lux version with whole red mullet, marinated as above and grilled or barbequed)
2 onions sliced
1 small green pepper diced
1 or 2 carrots depending on size diced to same size as pepper
2 Bay leaves
1 large tablespoon of smooth Dijon mustard
Marrigold Buillon powder or a good stock cube smushed
2 tablespoons vegetable or groundnut oil
1 or 2 fresh whole scotch bonnet chilli ( They go in whole and must not be pierced, take care that they do not burst when you are stirring the sauce. The scotch Bonnet give a great flavour to the sauce without too much heat if they are cooked whole, I like to put mine on the side of my plate to squish for the flavoursome juices and the heat.
Salt to taste at end of cooking
Ground black pepper a couple of pinch ( to taste )
Basmatti rice to serve with the dish ( we tend to use the broken basmati as it is cheaper and we like to use it with other dishes like Chembu Yap where the rice is cooked in the sauce.
First make a marinade for the fish. Mix the sliced onions with the crushed stock cube or buillon powder, add the tablespoon of mustard,the ground plack pepper, the bay leaves (ripped to release the flavour), I like to add some of the pared or grated rind from the lemon to the marinade too. Slather his all over the fish then add a tablespoon of vegetable or groundnut oil, cover and put in the fridge for a couple of hours to marinate.
When ready to start cooking, remove the fish from the marinade and put aside to grill or bake.
For cooking the sauce I like to use a low sided heavy bottom saucepan, I add a little oil and when just hot enough I add the onions from the Marinade ( with the bay leaves mustard and all) I cook for a minute then add the carrot and chopped green pepper, let this sweat through untill the onions are translucent stirring to prevent it catching. Then I add the tomatoes and if needed a small cup of water, stir and then add the scotch bonnet and let simmer with a lid on for 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile I prepare the rice and heat the grill or oven.
I tend to lightly wash the rice then add it to a saucepan with cold water reaching about 1 cm above the rice, add salt, then I bring it to the boil on a high heat. When the water has evaporated from the surface and small craters are starting to form as the steam escapes, I turn the heat right down as low as it goes and put a lidd on it, a heat diffuser matt is handy for this. I let the rice steam for 10 minutes or so ( I check it from time to time) the rice should be cooked and should fluff and separate with a fork) Whilst the rice and the sauce is cooking I get the fish ready either putting it under a hot grill or putting it in a suitable baking dish with a couple of tablespoons of water and covering it with foil then putting it in the oven ( this works well for skinned fillets)
Before serving I add the juice of a lemon to the sauce and check for easeoning then I serve it up with the sauce piled on the rice and the fish on the side with some sliced lemon and my lovely scotch bonnet to squish.