Sunday, August 15, 2010

Alpine climbing!

Caution (I jan to o la! (in bambara)): No music this time.

I had a free weekend away from my flies, so I took to the mountains. Washington's North Cascades are a great alpine playground; tons of (melting) glaciers, fairly solid rock (depending where you are), and tortuous approach hikes that'll put hair on anyone's chest. Since devoting my last two years to research I haven't been out climbing as much as I used to/want to.

Objective: East Ridge of Eldorado (below). A really moderate snow climb from the bottom right up to the left. The approach is actually harder than the climb-- roughly 5000 ft up, straight out of the car, battling through thick trees and endless boulder fields, and then trudging across the glacier in the boiling sun. I camped just off to the right at the base of the rock ridge.

And here is my lovely pad for the night, a cozy nook between some boulders. Surprisingly warm, protected from the wind. And melt-water was running not too far away-- always a plus.

A well deserved dinner: pasta veggies, wine, and hot mango drink! All that's missing are some candles and a date.

I climbed Forbidden peak a few years ago (below), and had a nice view of it from camp.

I don't know why I fool myself, I can't ever get away from fruit flies; I brought along some light reading. This paper (below) describes photo-activating a modified protein by using a laser, in order to activate the modified protein whenever desired. If the protein isn't hit with the laser it's "off". So they blast a group of cells in the fruit fly egg with light and induce its function, which happens to be involved in group cell migration, and study various conditions to suss out the developmental regulation of the specific migration of those cells. Pretty cool.

Settling in after some wine and bedtime reading. It got cold with the wind, but I stayed pretty warm between the rocks in my sleeping bag.

Just after sunrise.

The moderate East Ridge of Eldorado. I didn't take the traditional alpine start to the day (4am) because I knew it didn't get cold enough to completely freeze the snow overnight (none of my water froze), which would make for easier travelling. The climb itself was easy, the exciting part is just up over the sky-line...

...where you traverse this knife ridge. In reality it's probably a solid two feet across, a little smaller than a sidewalk, which everyone can easily walk across. The exciting part is how steeply and immediately it drops off hundreds of feet back down to the glacier on either side, and the whipping wind-- it's fun.

A nice view from the top. This might be Dorado Needle, but I'm not sure. It doesn't really look like a needle.

Peanut butter sandwiches are a staple, although if I eat another one I might vomit. There can be too much of a good thing and I reached my limit on the summit.

On my way down I passed three old-timers slogging up the snow, which was getting progressively softer and mushier as the sun cooked it, making for slow, sometimes painful climbing (why an alpine start, if cold enough, is better).

After climbing, packing up and decending a total of ~6000 feet, I finally made it back to the car to be attacked by big, biting, black-flies. I walked back to the river to jump in and rinse off but just one step in reminded me why I don't like swimming in glacial rivers-- they're too damn cold.

Monday, August 2, 2010

K7-18: Bintou Sidibe

In place of an image of the Bintou cassette, which I don't have, is a picture my friend drew in one of my notebooks that I rediscovered the other day. Thanks Nicole!

Voici another wassoulou treasure. My brief searches for information on Bintou Sidibe were rather fruitless (although this was cool). Bintou is of the old school of wassoulou women, among Coumba Sidibe, Kagbe Sidibe, and early Oumou Sangare. One brief conversation with friends in Yanfolila at the time, recounted a story where Bintou and Oumou recorded their cassettes at roughly the same time in the late 80's, and essentially raced to get them on the market. As I was told, Oumou's cassette got there first and blew up (perhaps for obvious reasons when you listen to both side by side), while Bintou remained locally famous, but not internationally so.

I don't have a version of Oumou's "Moussolou" cassette up to download, nor have I come across one in the vast internet ocean. And the quality of the youtube links that follow aren't great. Nevertheless...listen to the similarities between Bintou's track Nene and Oumou's Diaraby Nene. And then listen to the nearly identical opening to Bintou's Neye Dounanye and Oumou's Djama Kaissoumou. It wouldn't surprise me if they had a lot of overlap between studio musicians which may have fed-back between the artists.

Oumou's versions, and her cassette overall, seem tailored to a broader audience, more tightly arranged, quicker and less exploratory. Bintou's on the other hand are long-form and embody the impovisational prowess for which local Mande music is known. (That might be a question Ngoniba can answer(?))

In general I think I prefer the long-form and extended instrumental parts in Bintou's tape. The relaxed tempo of all the music is quite pretty and the small ensemble allows the intricate and rhythmic playing of each instrument to blend very well; nothing is muddled (wait for Vol. 2, full of synthesizers and drum machine). Oumou's production incorporates modern drums (mostly just a hi-hat), a violin instead of soku, and pop arrangements. Diaraby Nene might be one of my all-time favorite wassoulou songs out there (especially the remastered 2003 version where you can clearly hear the kamelen'goni).


*update* here is Bintou's cassette cover