Sunday, 6 June 2010
Time for some more stuff which is at least vaguely about work.
Last night I went out with the team presenting a 'Musique Interactive'. Wonderful balmy night, clear star-filled sky. The day had been cooler; at one point I had gone past a sign saying 29 degrees. I was therefore comfortable in short-sleeved shirt; the night watchman was wearing a balaclava against the cold; bobble hats and hoodies were in evidence all around.
For these events, we set up a temporary stage and sound equipment in the middle of a road - not one of the main hard-surfaced ones, but an earth road in a suitable residential district. The sound kit is powered either by a diesel generator or by arranging to plug in to a neighbouring electricity supply. The kit is good but often in a state of semi-disrepair, and there can be technical hitches along the way.
The format is roughly as follows:
Play loud music, with occasional commentary from DJ, to attract attention and interest of residents of neighbourhood. DJ invites them to come and join us - the music generally manages this on its own. First kids and then teenagers and adults gather. Kids start dancing - almost all african kids can dance, some spectacularly well. As we get going, there is a kids' dancing competition - about 4 kids from the crowd are picked to come forward and dance in front of the others; they are voted off in turn by volume of audience approval/disapproval, and get sweeties as prizes. This is the warm up act, and generates a good atmosphere. (Freak Sideshow - for free - shake the hand of La Blanche/Toubabou).
Then there is some intro stuff from the presenter, explaining who we are and why we are there, and perhaps presenting local partner who has invited us. Then a succession of singers, good singers, in stage costumes, singing songs with HIV AIDS messages in them. Some of the singers are, I think, quite well known locally - some may be the winners of previous competitions.
Then there is a question and answer session, on HIV AIDS topics, with condoms distributed as prizes (to over-16s only).
Sounds relatively simple? However, things can go wrong. The diesel can leak out of the generator - so you make an emergency arrangement with a neighbour's electricity supply - whose meter may run out, so you need to dash to buy units to feed it with - and then when we turn on the full range of kit, it transpires that the amperage is not high enough to run everything, so it keeps tripping... meanwhile one or more of the many spare pairs of hands around (labour being cheap) will have dashed off on someone else's moped to buy the sweetie prizes which got forgotten, or some more diesel for the generator, or some diesel for the moped they were going to borrow but it's out of fuel. So it's all a bit more stop/start, and takes longer to get going, than might be the case.
But fantastic atmosphere, and as far as I can tell (which is not very far as most of this is in Dioula), no-one complains about the noise, which is considerable, and drowns out all competing local sound systems - and the neighbours are welcoming because it is good to educate about AIDS.
I have been out for MI previously, and there have always been technical hitches of one sort or another - there was the time we had to push the bus half a dozen times to get there and back; the time we got rained off - rarer here than it would be at home. That night at least one of the team was sure that we were rained off because we had picked the wrong night to come - it was a night when the masks were due to come out, and they would not compete with us - so the rain may have been their way of getting the message home. Who knows. Ours not to reason why.