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A feast and some dancing

I have turned into a producer of the dance again. The two dutch girls I met on Sunday have decided to visit tonight so we are arranging some bulaboo at Baba Laurians place. Last time I stayed with Baba Lau we had drumming and dancing every night. At the time I had no way of knowing if this was normal or for my benefit but in retrospect I guess it was like having the local garage band rehearsing in your living room. Those drummers and dancers were Lau’s friends from the same village up country but those guys have long moved on. Some back to the village, some further afield- to Denmark mostly. A couple have died, probably of AIDS.

We go round to see Tina, the leader of the group that Shegera dances with and arrange for them to perform at the house this evening. In truth I don’t really want a performance, I just want to join in a rehearsal, to recreate my previous experience of togetherness and my welcome into the company as a fellow musician and dancer. Things have changed. In 1992 when we organized dances for the tourists there was no payment involved- just a lot of food and a “gift” for the dancers to buy some drums. Now the rate is 30,000 shillings a performance.

The pig is gone. One moment peaceful in her little house, the next her anima flown, cold meat on the hard granite. She squeals frantically when they lead, then drag her to the slaughter ground. Perhaps pigs know their fate. The cut is quick and clean, a Machete sawn through her neck in less than 5 seconds. Her body jerks and fights, even after a minute she is still fighting as they pour hot water over her to prepare the skin for shaving. Within 10 minutes her legs are haunches, her feet and head ready for tomorrows breakfast soup, a stack of ribs graces the stone table and one of the lads is cleaning and plaiting the intestines and preparing the offal. Within 15 minutes we are eating big chunks of fried liver. Kirk would have loved this.

I did not know this pig but it’s death effects me. Perhaps just the shock of the brutality of slaughter. I am left trembling but I keep a smiling exterior, joking along with my friends.

The tension builds as food is prepared. I am anxious about little details. The students at Bukando said they wanted to see the dancing tomorrow but I only switched on the phone this morning. Is the time on the phone the time I received the message or the time it was sent? Is tomorrow today or tomorrow? What if they don’t come? Will I be forking out £30 dollars for a big party on the hill with Laurian’s fatted pig the main course. This is worse than putting on Shakespeare in the Park. Everyone is happily going about their role. I have nothing to do until the wageni arrive.


Edele comes up with Emmanuelle and impatiently demands that I come sit with her to talk. She has clearly decided to bag herself a wazungu and wastes no time in asking me if I want to kiss her. I decline her kind offer. I am not here for such things but I get the feeling she is not going to take No for an answer.

In the back of my mind sometimes Laurian is a confidence trickster and I am a foolish dupe being set up for a fall.

At 6pm I head down to Kisesa to wait for them. The drums are being wheeled up the hill and a trickle of familiar faces are heading up to Baba Lau’s. I have a text message saying the dutch girls are on their way and will be here by 7pm. I talk to Innocent and to a very charming and gentle looking woman called Maimune who gives me her phone number and invites me to her place for food.

Little Sala wants me to carry her to bed and is pulling on my arms. I let her curl up on my shoulder and carry her to the road to wait. I am anxious and irritated by the young man Samson who just wants to talk in English and doesn’t seem to have studied the basics of body language. I am tired, on edge and snappy- though Sala, half asleep is spared my irritation.

At ten to eight I get a text from Rainer, they have had an accident with a daladala and have had to head back to Mwanza. I’m sad they aren’t coming, disappointed there will not be a bigger audience for the drums, a little peeved but resolved to fork out the cash for a display just the same. Despite these feelings it is a lovely warm night and I walk back to Bujora in a cloud of gentle bliss.

Everyone is very concerned- “Pole sana”. They trust no one has been hurt. Baba Lau had already anticipated and sorted things out with the dance troupe. There will be dancing anyway, they are here, the drums are here, this is their hobby it is what they do. There will be feasting with lots of pork. There will be no performance fee. In the end I get the experience I wanted in the beginning. To be together with the dancers like it was 15 years ago at Baba Laurian’s shamba. I am impressed by how well Laurian anticipates and organizes, keeping everyone happy with his softly softly approach. He takes me to one side. "I have been talking with Cos" he says. "I have told him I do not think he is the one to go to Kinesi because of his drinking. Leo is a better man to go." Again he has anticipated and eased- without any prompting from me.

Another situation resolves itself as I arrive. Eleda has failed to get permission for her mum to stay, despite telling Laurian that she would. Her mother has come to fetch her home.

We sit down to eat the most delicious meal. Tender well cooked pork with a rich sauce with rice. My enjoyment of the food is greatly helped by my inability in the light of the kerosene candle to actually see what I am eating.

Of course after the food the spirits come out and we sit and talk some more. The sister who comes up to finish cooking the pork joins us and the presence of a woman lightens the atmosphere. We share songs- I play some English Folk tunes on the recorder. They like me to play. even after the first night when I go through my usual repertoire, when we are sitting round the fire they call for me to play again.

When Laurian goes for the third bottle of spirits I head to bed. I do not like to see them get so drunk.

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