Thursday, January 15, 2009

Music Store on Benson

There are many music stores in Monrovia. This one was on Benson Street at the time of the photo; the background gives a glimpse down the street. At any time, a popular track will be playing through the megaphone.

It's also the store from which I bought the CD Belleh (right in the centre), from which excerpts are posted here and here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Via Accra

For Christmas and New Year we migrated to South Africa to spend time with friends and family. To use our voyager miles, we needed to go via Accra, with a two night layover.

In Accra, we again stayed over at Crystal Hostel in Darkuman with Mr and Mrs Qaynor, a.k.a. Uncle and Auntie. Darkuman is kind of like Soweto without Apartheid: far from the centre of town; a huge sprawling, lower to middle income residential area with lots of informal shops and market areas. Uncle & Aunty's house feels a bit like my grandparents', and has a big yard where they've built a double storey row of rooms - the hostel. Very homey, and a good neighbourhood for wandering around in.

We had our meals at the small but very decent "Decent Foods Restaurant" just around the corner: groundnut soup with goat meat; jollof rice and fried chicken; palava sause on rice. Just down the street is 'Not By My Strength' beauty salon, where I'll definitely have to go for a manicure next time. Judging from the number of salons - about one on every block - female grooming is a serious matter in Ghana and not to be attempted at home.

On Sunday we had a full day to spend in Accra, so went to Labadi beach, where tourists enter through the main gates and pay a hefty fee (everyone else goes around the side). A row of beachfront restaurants serve their customers under umbrellas, on comfy wooden chairs and recliners. There were assorted European and Asian tourists, middle-aged white men with beautiful West African wives and toddlers, lots of young people coming to swim and play beach soccer, and small-time entrepreneurs selling services from horse rides to manicures. Two life-guards frantically blew on their whistles, herding everyone into the narrow designated swimming area... It was a glorious day.

By the late afternoon Tumi and I went wandering through Darkuman in search of a pharmacy with an athlete's foot cure. Somewhere around the corner, drums were playing. After a few turns down the road, the music was suddenly just down the alley, so we ducked in to have a look. In the backyard of a home, a drumming group was playing and a handful of dancers in bright West African suits were performing. Some of the audience were seated in the yard, others standing on the road. A friendly woman waved us closer. After a while I asked: "Is this a celebration or a wedding?" No, she shook her head. "A funeral," and pointed me to a colour poster on a nearby wall, announcing the death and funeral details. Soon the first group of dancers retired, and now four others (or maybe they were the same ones) appeared wearing wide trousers and red, beaded headdresses with long cattle horns attached on either side. Their dance was a darker one.

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Some family pics:

Paul on the rooftop of Crystal Hostel:

Two continental travellers.