Sunday, July 24, 2005

Kilimanjaro to Ndutu

Ndarakwai – Tarangire – Ngorongoro – Ndutu
July 24, 2005

Ndarakwai Ranch in West Kilimanjaro is a gem. Peter Jones and his staff are among the most welcoming, capable and cheerful people we have ever had the privilege to stay with. Our praises to Eliza the manager, Thomas the expert Maasai guide, and staff members Msuya, Jackson, Janet, Emmi, Rose and Phillista, as well as guide Puce who is in training. And our special thankjs to Hendrick for his excellent cuisine!

On day one we saw 35 elephants at the watering hole and numerous other kinds of wildlife. On day two we visited a real Maasai village nearby and spent two hours with the people and their goats and cattle. Far more happened at Ndarakwai, and we'll post it later. Owner Peter Jones is our guide throughout our stay in Tanzania; more about him below.

Tarangire National Park was exceptional as well. We saw our first baobab trees there, plus hyrax, banded mongoose, wildebeest, and much more. A spectacular view from the lodge is replicated at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Ngorongoro Crater (really a caldera, as Peter pointed out) is massive, deep, and extraordinary. We saw 45 hippos in a pool, some of them turning on their backs and wiggling their surprisingly delicate feet. Cheetah, lions, jackals, crowned cranes, huge elephants, and beauty at every turn.
Ndutu Lodge ( is in the western part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, just east of Serengeti National Park and on the Serengeti plain. We’ve seen 8 giraffes at a time, eland, flamingos and – most remarkably – a leopard in the wild only 15 feet away, growling as it sprang from hiding right next to us and ran deep into the bush. We were at Olduvai Gorge today with our guide Peter, whose photograph is there at age 19, working with Mary Leakey and others on the fossilized Laetoli hominid footprints from 3.5 million years ago. Peter is an amazing person: totally practical on the one hand, yet living a lifetime of study and research as well, on hominid evolution and its African context. Great sense of humor and great with a Toyota Land Cruiser. We are exceptionally lucky to have found him.

Surprises and particular pleasures so far on this trip: The climate in the dry season (now) is bright, dry, breezy, warm by day and cool or even cold by night. There are essentially no mosquitoes or other annoying insects in the highlands where we are now. Tangawizi ginger ale is the perfect refreshing drink after a warm and dusty day on safari. Serengeti and Tusker beers are our local favorite. The landscapes are superb. The food has been superb. Endless fascination. Endless absorption. Very happy to be here. Very lucky to be here.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Tuning Up

We’re learning as fast as we can about Africa, her people, geography, history, culture, educational systems, Swahili, music. Here are three playlists of favorites.

March 2005 (Take 2)
Music from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, who are considering federating.

Tabu Ley Rochereau (Congo DRC, Kenya) – Muzina
From a founder and master of pan-African pop, a prayer in the name of the Father (Tata), the Son (Mwana), and the Holy Spirit (Mpeve Santu)

Ayub Ogada (Kenya) – Chiro
Ogada is of the Luo tribe of northwest Kenya. This song is an old man’s advice: “See the world but never forget where you came from.”

Samite (Uganda) – Tunula Eno
Samite now lives in upstate New York. Based on a traditional Ugandan song, this is Samite’s tribute to his deceased wife: for each bird in this world is another that loves it.

Tabu Ley Rochereau (Congo DRC, Kenya) – Nairobi
“Harambe”, “together” in Swahili, refers to Jomo Kenyatta’s program in the 1970s and 80s to foster mutual work and progress. The response “Nyayo” means footsteps, as in “we will follow in your footsteps to continue our work together”.

Orchestra Makassy (Tanzania) – Nakolela Cherie
Like Tabu Ley, Makassy has roots in Zaire / Congo DRC. In this song a man pleads for his wife to come back and take care of their children.

Samite (Uganda) – Mwatu
About wooing a woman by promising to provide for her – be it meat she wants, or only vegetables and tofu.

Ayub Ogada (Kenya) – Ondiek
About a hyena in human form – beware of some among us!

Tabu Ley Rochereau (Congo DRC, Kenya) – Sala Noki Pascal
“Get a move on, Pascal!” What Tabu’s fiancée Georgina told him in 1961. They married soon after. The familiar Caribbean rhythm comes originally from Africa, of course.

Bernard Kabanda (Uganda) – Nnankya
Kabanda is master of the Kampala musical style called “just a small guitar”. Nnankya got him drunk and stole his money, but oh she is so beautiful!

Samite (Uganda) – Ndere
A love charm.

June 2005
Music from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Madagascar.

Vusi Mahlasela (South Africa) – When You Come Back
From the soundtrack for the excellent movie Amandla! – Power!, a revolution in four-part harmony – about South Africa’s freedom struggles. Vusi is known as “The Voice”. I wish he always sang as purely as here.

Oliver Mtukudzi (Zimbabwe) – Ndima Ndapedza
From the master also known as “Tuku”. Bonnie Raitt’s song Help Me Lord came from him. In this song a Shona farmer exhorts his community to cultivate their fields as well as he has – and as well as Tuku has his.

Church of Christ Choir (South Africa) – Ngangiboshiwe
A Zulu choir. What does the song title mean?

Miriam Makeba (South Africa) – Beware Verwoerd
Also from Amandla! (see above under Vusi). The renowned Makeba warns Hendrick Verwoerd, former prime minister and architect of apartheid, that resistance will emerge and never end. A classic song from the period.

Lucky Dube (South Africa) – Crazy World
Great reggae, especially on his early albums.

Sibongile Khumalo (South Africa) – Thula Mama
A lullaby: Don’t cry, baby, your mother is coming home soon.

Oliver Mtukudzi (Zimbabwe) – Wongororo
“Take time to think … take it easy on the drums, my girl, the night is still young … it is wise to be steady.”

Rossy (Madagascar) – Midona
From the soundtrack to a PBS special about Madagascar’s plant and animal life.

Oliver Mtukudzi (Zimbabwe) – Mai Varamba
A mother tries to keep her son back from throwing himself into the cruel world, but he has to in order to become a man and to provide for a family.

Lucky Dube (South Africa) – Khululeka
“Khululeka” is Zulu for “to be free”. From a live concert available in whole on CD.

July 2005
A mix from across Africa, but mostly from the west and north.

Habib Koite (Mali) – Imada
What an opening! The memory of a love from secondary school, still poignant after 20 years of separation.

Rokia Traore (Mali) – M’Bifo
“Thank you, my love, for being at my side no matter what. … Now I am strong.”

Alpha YaYa Diallo – African Guitar Summit (Guinea) – Cette Vie
“This life, sometimes sad, sometimes happy. What is going to happen?”

Habib Koite (Mali) – Sarayama
“Malian woman, charming woman. … Thank you for being the pillar of the family.”

Cesaria Evora (Cape Verde Islands) – Velocidade
The legend sings in Portuguese of an extravagant, mischievous, hip-swinging woman whom the street has nicknamed Speed.

Pa Joe – African Guitar Summit (Ghana) – Obaa Ya Ewa
Young woman, your roaming is not good for you. Come home, come home to me.

Habib Kiote (Mali) – Wassiye
If you have a daughter who is like your wife, you are doubly blessed.

Oliver Mtukudzi (Zimbabwe) – Rirongere
A compendium of Shona proverbs that say in sum, plan, plan for tomorrow!

Danone O’Sow (Ivory Coast) – Tesegu
A lullaby: Sleep, my dear. You are close to my heart.

Vusi Mahlasela (South Africa) – Mayibuye
Mayibuye: let it return. From the soundtrack for Amandla! (see the previous playlist above).