Back in Segou
We are in Segou for the 2nd edition of the "Festival sur le Niger" starting on Feb 2nd. We arrive well before to watch preparations unfold.
When we return to Segou 24th of Jan. Nico and his team have accomplished a lot of work. The stage is set-up. No lightening, no sound installed yet, but still some days to go till the opening.
Obsessed with the idea of enlarging the space available to the audience he has embarked on a huge task of creating a beach.
"I can put another 500 people on the beach right in front of the stage, and they'd be so much closer, ... good for the atmosphere". He expects so many more people to come this year, the 2nd edition after a pretty good start in 2005.
Nico (Legendre) and Julie (Dupas) are professionals in their field, have both studied festival (event) organisation in France. Julie especially is primed re festivals as her stepfather Marco Petenzi was the director of Terre de Couleur for many years. When she was a teenager she had already been involved with all aspects of organising a great festival.
They know their stuff. It's Nico's energetic drive and Julie's calm experience in the back that count.
In 2005 on vacation in Mali, they met Mamou Daffe, director of the Festival sur le Niger, and were hired on the spot for the first edition. Mamou Daffe is a visionary who wants to create something magic, "bring new life to Segou". Julie and Nico were rehired for the 2006 2nd edition of the Festival sur le Niger.
End of January 2006 they look back on 6 month of hard work that will soon culminate in sleepless nights during these last moments of preparation and the time of the festival itself, 2nd to 5th of Feb 2006.
The beach! How to? and how to stabilise a beach? Sacks, flower/rice sacks seem the answer! Where from?.
Tony, one of 21 Lebanese in Segou and owner of the most important bakery in the region and friends with Hasna (Arabic brother/sister hood at work) is more then happy to get involved and let us have all of his empty sacks of flower. He uses about 80 for making his bread everyday.
Remains the issue of arranging for enough sand to fill those sacks. The task is arduous as all sand has to be shipped by small boats (pirogues).
A second stage is being constructed, being worked until late. Ismael is the artist responsible for stage design. Yannick is a voluntary/volontaire from France. Salary is a ticket (backstage pass). After the festival poor Yannick falls seriously ill of Malaria. Comes from working all these late hours. Poor man.I am told he is back on his feet.
One evening Fred walks onto the stage, Fred a Frenchman who we have met numerous times before in Mauritania and Essakanne. He is about to end his months of travelling through Africa before flying home soon. Why not some festival action to finish off.
Preparations going ahead.
When you hear the music for the first time, loud, promising, only hinting at what it will/might be, once everything is tuned - the real act in a few days.