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Life, religion, and politics in Mali  

NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
19 Jan 2003

    Geography
  • Mali
    Tombouctou
    Locality
  • near Araouane
    Latitude/Longitude
  • 18.905   -3.528333
    Channels
  • Stereo
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 16-bit
    Recorders
  • SONY TCD-D7
    Microphones
  • Sennheiser MKH 30
  • Sennheiser MKH 50
    Accessories
    Equipment Note
  • Decoded MS Stereo

Show: Mali
Log of DAT #:9a
Engineer: Leo
Date: January 19-20, 2003

G = Godfried Peter Agbezudor
BO = Baba Omar
IM = Issa Mohammed
RC = Roberto Cerea
WD = Wade Davis
CR = Chris Rainier
AC = Alex Chadwick
CJ = Carolyn Jensen
Leo = Leo del Aguila

0:19
Leo says hi, same mics, same setup mkh 50/30, Sonosax, D7.

2:57 AC
Just ask him where we are, where are we? (FX. Truck motor in background). Oh I'm sorry, could you please ask him to say his name for us, his full name?

3:07 BO
Baba Omar

AC
Baba Omar, B-A-B-A O-M-A-R, and he's a guide.

G
Ya

AC
Uh, where are we?

G, BO
Translating

AC
Tungutai. What's that, we don't know where to go?

G, BO
Translating

G
He knows the way and it's a little bit west of us.

AC
He does know the way

G, BO
Translating

G
Sure I know

G, BO
Translating

G
Yes I know, and if you don't find, I know how to get out of here (laughing).

4:09 AC
How come you brought us here?

G, BO
Translating

G
Sometimes people make mistakes.

AC
I make many myself. Uh, ask him if this is the most difficult part of the route.

G, BO
Translate.

G
The most important difficult route is here.

AC
Of the entire route?

G, BO
Translate

G
The most difficult is this place.

AC
And why is this?

G
After all that we've done.

AC
And why is this the most difficult part?

G, BO
Translate.

5:29 G
It's because of the dunes and the soft sand.

AC
How long did it take you to learn to find your way through here?

G, BO
Translate

G
A lot of time.

G, BO
Translate

G
With caravan I have traveled and have done this many times.

6:07 AC
When he was learning was it hard to learn this part of it, when he was learning as a guide, was it hard to learn his way through here?

G, BO
Translate

6:39 G
We have people with soft heads and we have people with very hard heads, that is, people who find it difficult to let things out there. We have people who for the first time they know everything. It takes people some time to also get accustomed to ways.

6:56 AC
You said, Baba, that people make mistakes and I don't want to embarrass you, I don't think I could embarrass you, you are a great guide in the desert and a wise man, but could you tell me a mistake you made that was funny? Something happened on one of your mistakes?

G
(Laughs)

AC
Well I wanted, but tell him I make more mistakes on the radio than anyone else in my company. I make mistakes everyday (slaps), but most of them I've hardly ever gotten in trouble, only a couple of times.

G, BO
Translate

8:05 G
He's only moving toward a direction and now he's found out that's not the way and he's going to find a different.

AC
Thank you.

9:15
FX. Three poundings on a door(?)

9:21 AC
We've just stopped here. We're on the crest of a dune. We can see this town that we're headed for, Araouane. We can see the dune where it is. It's probably 20 miles away, uh, but, there are some series of dunes (car starts up while Alex talks) in between where, and we have to get through them, and as the great guide, Baba, said, there's only one door through the door through the dunes, and you have to find that door. This is the most difficult part.

9:54
FX. Car honk

AC
Okay we're going to get in the trucks and go

10:19
FX. Car honking, rumble of truck going

10:20 AC
We're stopped on the crest of a dune. We're, we've been looking for the way. We can see the town we're headed for, at least the dunes outside of it, about 20 miles away. But moving through the series of dunes here, the guide says there's only one door and you have to find that door. So that's what we've been looking for. We're getting called to get back in the trucks. We're going to go try to find our way. (Truck FX trail off a few seconds after end of speaking).

11:09 AC
We've had a little break down, had to change a tire. Uh, we're still trying to find the town of Araouane. I think we're going the right way. So we're about to, the caravan's about to start up again.

11:46
FX. Door closing.

11:54
FX. Door closing, faint sound of truck starting.

12:17
FX. Door closing and truck driving off.

12:22-16:59
Ambi. Truck driving.

17:13-19:27
Ambi. Car idling.

20:04-24:54 (there is a break in middle with Godfried saying, "hold on, hold on tight")
Ambi. Truck driving at a fast speed.

25:50-29:18
Ambi. Wind in Araouane.

29:53 AC
We're, so we've just arrived in camp. We're just south of the town of Araouane and we're going to get out and set up things for the night. This is our last night of camping. We're going to hit Timbuktu tomorrow, we hope.

30:08-31:38
Ambi. Driving through camp.

AC
I guess we're turning around.

AC (with ambi still in background of truck driving)
We're heading back to Araouane.

32:22
FX. Opening and closing truck doors, truck motor humming.

33:07
FX. People yelling out.

Some sound pops and jolts previously in Ambi. Ambi of setting up camp is clean 33:05-36:55

36:56 AC
So they lay out these mats first and then they're going to put tents on them. They're just kind of little thin mats for the tents and they lay out oh six or 10 tents, and a couple of tables. They set up tables on sawhorses, plywood, uh, sheets of plywood saw horses and folding chairs and you sit down and eat a very civilized dinner.

37:26 AC
This is great. This is, um, our 8th night of camping and the wind has dropped, finally. It's been so windy the last three days we've been barely able to record outside. But the wind has dropped, it's also much warmer here, we're now 300 miles south of the mine. And, um, it's feeling much more of what I imagined the Sahara to be, it is a little bit warmer, although it's still plenty cool out and there is a breeze.

39:57-46:36
Ambi. Setting up camp.

47:35 AC
Okay, um, we're in camp, we've had dinner, it's a little after nine. The soldier guards who are with us have a campfire every night and we've been over there a couple of times talking to them. We're going to go over again and say hello.

48:11 AC
We're a little south of Araouane. This is our last night of camping. There's a nearly full moon, it was full two nights ago, in a sky with haze and clouds, and a few stars poking through. A little light from the camp shows the desert floor moving away in the wavy patterns of sand. A line of tents and vehicles, and up at the far end the fire, the camp fire that the soldier guards make every night. And we've been up talking to them, oh, a couple of times and we'll just go again and say hello.

48:54
Ambi. Approaching the fireside. People talking. Turns into a conversation over women and etiquette.

49:48
FX. Banging sound.

50:20
Soldier asks Carolyn to sit down. Wade, Alex, and Robert think it's because she's a woman. Carolyn accepts and sits. Issa explains and interprets.

50:46 IM
Ya, he said that if you are traveling with a woman and find you get to a point where there is no more water, whatever is left we give to the woman. And if you are on a camel you get down, you let her ride and you walk with her.

Translating from soldiers

IM
So also if there is only a little bit of food, you give to the lady first.

Translating

So always she's very much respected and she's very much honored in our society.

51:42 WD
Let's ask these guys the other day when they had run out of water and they seemed so calm, Let's ask them why they seemed to be so calm to us.

IM
Translating

53:08 IM
So he said most of the time people who go with the caravan are people who have been brought up on, you know, camel, she camel milk, and with that kind of habit you can go three days without?

Translating

So he said the most important thing right now is to not run out of food supply. So if you have a little bit of water it's okay you can go make your tea and they have been trained by, um, they have been brought up on camel milk. Because of that they can go two or three days without really needing water, and also right now it's you know, the weather.

54:13
FX. Truck starting up.

54:53 WD
Was he raised that way?

IM
Translating

He said yes, but it has been a long time. He was raised on she camel milk.

55:15 WD
I just have one more question. The other thing that really impressed me that day is that even though they had very little water they made tea for us, and that hospitality was very moving.

55:26 IM
Translating (gets really loud in middle)

So he said this is really, um, you know, there was nothing surprising in it. It is, uh, you know, generosity has always been part of our culture. And even if you receive a visitor and let's say you only have a little bit for your children, you would prefer the visitor to your children. You would offer that visitor whatever you have, you see. If it's not enough you would give that whole thing to the visitor so the visitor is well received and comfortable. So this is one of the attributes, you know, of our culture.

Translates.

57:27 IM
Ya he said really, this is part of our culture, part of our upbringing. The men can just take off anywhere we want. Need water, need food, need money, any household you come to, they will receive you, you will eat, you will have your tea, and then they will help you get to your next point. This has been an old established tradition in Africa.

57:17 IM
So he said even if you go to cities (someone coughs), even if you go to Bamako, for instance, you will find there is only one person working and he have maybe 10, 15, 20 people just sitting at home, coming as visitors. They eat and he will pay their fares, give him gifts, and then they go back to the countryside. So this is a tradition that has been established and this is really what, uh, is making us feel special and good about ourselves.

Translates

59:04 IM
So he said, you know, that this is a common characteristic of all people who live in Northern Mali, you know, from Timbuktu to all the way down to Niger; may they be Tuareg, Swari, or Arabs, this is a common, a common character that these people have.

WD
Well it's wonderful.

IM
Translating.

1:00:47 IM
Ya, so he's saying that, um, you know he used an analogy that the Tuareg families are almost like the chief of the camp. You know you find one over here and one over there and if you come to any family, even if they have one single goat they are milking for the children, they will go ahead and slaughter it to welcome you, and then you go ahead to the next camp, they would do the same thing. These are all traditions of the desert, you know, to welcome the guest in our culture. Welcoming a guest is central, is the central key in our traditions. We always want a guest to go with a good souvenir of the tribe.

Translating.

1:02:02 IM
Ya he said, in our culture, like for instance, right now, you are among us. We are doing our best so that you have a wonderful time among us, because that's more important to us than anything else.

Translates

Ya, he said if you guys have questions you can ask questions openly instead of just going into a monologue like this.

CJ
And would you please thank him because we have all had a wonderful time.

IM
Translates

CJ
And that everyone has shown us a great kindness.

IM
Translates

1:03:40 IM
Ya, he said that we also know by the way, you know, you go back, you know, they welcome you for (unintelligible) and he also said that maybe, we also know that maybe even before you get here someone have, you know, shared with you the people in Northern Mali are not good people, we are bandits, and things like that.

WD
No.

IM
But those things are not true.

WD
No, of course not. What interests?(interruption). I was just going to say what interests me about this spirit of hospitality is it seems to emerge from the landscape itself because the land is so hard, it's so difficult, that no one knows when they will be in need of help. So I'm very interested in the culture of generosity and hospitality that have emerged from the desert as a way for everybody to survive here. Is that something that you have noticed? (Loud cough over last of the words).

IM
Translates

1:06:07 IM
He said that's it, yes.

Translates

1:06:18 IM
Ya, so he said, you know, just look at this vast ocean of sand. If somebody pops up, you know, shows up, you know there is no market here for him to go buy some supplies and things. So, you know, by it's normal that you would take care of his needs.

1:06:42 WD
That what I think is so beautiful is the, when landscape and the people come together in this way, that's what makes culture.

IM
Translates

1:07:24 IM
Ya, so he said that's a good reminder because the environment in which we are living is a very harsh environment. Let's say you are living, you know, coastal, in west African coast where you have fruits and foods and in those areas the hospitality is not that great (major pops and low sound)? Nigeria, really there is no hospitality over there(low sound).

1:08:00 AC
Actually I do have a couple of questions and they're, uh, they're different questions. Issa, if you'd just explain that I'm an American journalist and I work in Washington, but my programs are heard all over the country, even living in California you have heard them.

IM
Translates

1:08:31 AC
And, um, now there's this great question before my country, which is threatening to go to war against Iraq because the U.S. president says Iraq may possess very dangerous weapons and Saddam Hussein is a dangerous man and I wonder do they follow this news and what do they think of this news? This is a war that could happen very soon.
IM
Translates

1:10:54 IM
Ya, he said that's a very good question that you asked, Alex, but he said that here in Mali we are so daily observed with our own difficulties just to put the food in front of the children that a lot of things do escape us. Yes, we do hear the news, but in all honesty we are completely confused because we really don't know what is going on, what is happening there, you see. So, and, we were also aware of, you know, 9-11, you know, when it did happen. It is not something that, you know, we support, we are completely against any sort of violence, any sort of, you know, human life destruction. You see, it's not part of our belief, you see. And even that we see things on TV, uh, but again, you know, we are so much observed in our daily things to provide food for our children that still those things are too complex for us.

Translates

1:12:36 IM
Ya, he said all I know is, uh, you know, we are good allies of America, even ourselves, we have been trained, you know, by American experts, and so forth, so we are working hand in hand, you know, with, you know, our, you know, American friends, you know, as soldiers. Uh, this is really, you know, this is what I know, and that we are very grateful to learn from, you know, our, you know, from our brothers in America in terms of, uh, you know our military trainings and so forth.

1:13:17 AC
There has been a lot of trouble now in America for Muslims who find themselves under suspicion because they are Muslims and because America was attacked by American fundamentalists. Iraq is an Islamic country and I wonder if Mali is an Islamic country. We see mosques in this country, we see people praying every day, and I wonder if there is just concern that if there is that concern on the part of people here and if their friends are talking about this.

IM
Translates (audio goes low)

1:15:56 IM
Ya, he's saying that, um, yes, it is true that we are all Muslims and, however, the kind of Muslim that we have in Africa is a very tolerant Islam. It is an Islam of understanding, it is an Islam that believes in peace, in promoting peace. Uh, Sadaam Hussein, yes, Iraq, they are Muslims, but what's happening there is an individual case, it should not be generalized. Okay. And Mali is also known for its openness, it's tolerance. And even though we are a Muslim country we live here, you know, with our Christian brothers, with Jehovah Witness, with any kind of beliefs. We do have enough room for everybody here, you see, and what's important to us here is our own individual practices, you see.
IM
Translates

1:18:55 IM
So he's saying that, um, you know, already by, um, by, you know, having the American army come in and train us it clearly shows that we are with.

Translates

It clearly shows that we are with America, otherwise they are not going to come in and train us here.

CJ
What is he saying, about the two generals who came here?

IM
Ya, so this is, he said there were two American generals who came here, there have been two missions, you see, that came to Mali and to Timbuktu, and they started the training in some areas and they're still going to go on with the trainings. So that shows clearly that America sees Mali as a very tolerant and peaceful and understanding country otherwise they would not come here, yes.

Translates

IM
Ya, so he said also one of the qualities and characteristics of Mali is, clearly Mali is a multi-ethnic country and it is also a country of diversity; diversity of cultures and beliefs. We have Muslims, we have Christians, and also we have what you call traditional African beliefs. So our beliefs are not our problems, our problems are to be able to work and feed our families and think we have absolutely no problem when it comes to our religion because this is how our constitution, and the country, the country from the beginning have tolerated each one, each one, and their beliefs (loud coughing). However, in its majority, Mali is a Muslim country.

Translates

1:21:59 IM
So he said that, uh, you know, following 9-11, Mali was among the first African countries to condemn act of violence.

Translates

(very low at beginning) Ya, he said this is my point of view most of the time. You know, the newspapers and the media can flare up things, but in all objectivity in Mali, here, we are know as an open-minded and tolerant country. That's my own opinion, he said.
1:22:57 AC
I just wanted to say, for your comments in this hour of grief after September 11th and it's very kind and generous of Mali to extend its sympathies in its offer to console us as it did and the tradition of tolerance and respect that Mali practices is desirable for all countries and perhaps even my country can learn from the traditions and experience of Mali.

IM
Translates

1:25:36 IM
Ya, so he said that, um, being a soldier, I don't know how much to thank the American army for extending to us their assistance you know to us because the country here is a third-world country, even the military here is very ill-equipped and the American army, you know, has turned, you know, toward us and came and trained and clothed us, so, therefore, we are very, very, very grateful toward the U.S. army.

1:26:58-1:30:11
Ambi. Cooking in the camp.

1:30:19-1:31:27
FX. Wind. Well rope screeching.

1:31:27
Ambi of people talking and animals bleating (this is all underneath the sound of wind and animals and screeching).

1:32:33
FX. Screeching begins again. Wind and camel groaning as well.

1:33:13-1:33:21
FX. Camel groan underneath wind and screeching.

1:33:22-1:36:45
Ambi. Goats and camels, wind. People talking.

1:36:46-1:35:34
FX. More screeches. Camels and goats also crying out.

1:35:35
Ambi. Wind and animals.

1:35:53
FX. Well rope being pulled up.

1:36:39-1:37:29
FX. Screeching well rope.

1:37:30
Ambi. Wind and animals.

1:37:47
FX. Pouring of water.

1:38:02-1:38:39
Ambi. Animals, people, wind.

1:38:40-1:39:33
FX. Well rope screeching again.

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