THE FOREST VOICES TOUR
diary

March 9th 2014

Last night at Tala Tala we were all ready to do the promised evening gig, but it never materialised. In the morning they tried to persuade us to stay another night, but that was impossible. We had managed to persuade the British High Commission to book Baka Gbiné to perform at the Commissioner's residence the following Friday night so we had to leave on the Tuesday to be sure of getting there on time. As Clyde, Jonny and I weren't going to be returning to Gbiné after the tour I was keen to see the old folk, who were at Djamba camp, before I left. I had planned to walk there this afternoon and return on monday. Already it was getting too late for that to be possible.

Breakfast by the Ngoko

All in all it was a bit of a farce. We weren't payed as much as promised as we had only done one performance. Not exactly our fault as we'd been ready to do more, but no one would tell us what was happening. I'm not sure it was their fault either as it had all been arranged by "the manager" who over the last few years had shown that he wasn't able to manage very much.

That is a problem here. Your title is all important. It is enough to be called "the manager". The thought that you might actually have to be able to "manage" something isn't an issue.

He only had the job because he used to own a satellite phone. I had found that I could buy credits for the phone cheaply on the internet in UK, text him the number to get the credits, he could sell the credits at a good profit and could give cash to people as instructed. I could get more Cameroonian money for my pounds, and smallish sums of money (around £50 at a time) could be easily and cheaply sent to the Baka. It was win win until Orange built a mast, mobile phones reached Moloundou and no one wanted to use expensive satellite phones any more.

The next time we returned to Gbiné we found that he had made up a contract to be Baka Gbiné's manager. So as not to rock the boat, and because we needed someone in that role on the ground, we didn't argue, but waited to see how it would work. It became evident that it didn't and the Congo experience was really the last straw. After that all the Baka musicians decided they didn't want him to be their manager any more. We told him this and that he wouldn't be travelling with the band on tour. This caused us problems as you will find out over the next few days.

Martin & Pelembir on the ferry

A bus came to take us to breakfast. It was all of 400 metres away from where we were staying! The bus seemed a bit over the top but at least they were treating us well. After breakfast overlooking the River Ngoko (with real butter and cheese!) we insisted on leaving. We hunted down all the musicians who had scattered amongst various girls' houses, and got the ferry back to Cameroon. Since our transport hadn't yet arrived we set up in the street and did a short impromptu performance much to the delight of the locals, many of whom knew the band and their music.

Our transport arrived, but the police wouldn't let them pass the barrier for a while because they didn't want us to stop playing!

At last we were back at Gbiné. It had been an interesting journey but we were glad to be back.

Martin


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