Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The mystery of Karim


 Karim, my griot/gardener’s assistant/groom/chamber’maid’ (yes, since the Mali crisis started most of the staff have had to fulfil multiple functions) is a very unusual person. No one understands him, but that is part of his strange charm. He came from Yangasso one day out of the blue some years ago now asking me to give him a job. ( see June 10, 2011 and June 19, 2013) Noone knows where he eats or where he sleeps- although I have my suspicions that he sleeps in the laundry room... He is infuriatingly  incompetent in many ways: he can’t see cobwebs for instance, and therefore never removes them. He has made it quite clear that he thinks I am making a frightful fuss over nothing concerning the rubbish disposal- he is the one supposed to burn things and put things in their designated places.
Sometimes I ask him to sing when we have guests. He is a griot after all, and that is the main reason why I took him on.   I thought it would be nice for hotel guests to be serenaded now and then.  When he sings he will get something more than usual of course- I will pay him something extra even if the guests don’t.  But he can’t be commanded- at least in this respect. ‘Will you sing for us tonight Karim?’ I ask hopefully. ‘Non’, is the reply more often than not. There is no point of asking him why. He won’t reply.

But he is not insolent or impolite at all. He is just very much in charge of himself. He is very ‘cool’ : that is how I think I would have described him when I was a teenager.  Sometimes he does accept to sing, and then he brings his red painted Kamale Goni and sings my praises all night long.

6 Comments:

Blogger Susan Scheid said...

I remember a post in which you showed Karim with his red-painted griot. Somehow it's fitting that his singing comes when he wishes, as a gift.

3:10 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

yes, Susan, that is what I think too- and I don't get cross about it at all...

3:42 PM  
Blogger David said...

Rather magical and mysterious - your attitude is of course quite right. BTW we were given a box of 'griottes' on Monday - clearly not related to 'griot' (which is the singer and not the instrument, right?) since they're chocolate covered cherries in brandy from Fortnum's - a far cry from Djenne, and I know where I'd rather be as a winter storm surges in to batter us...

4:04 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Ah! chocolate covered cherries...!
a far cry from Djenné indeed...I would quite like to pop in to you and J for a cosy English evening munching 'griottes' while the winter storm rages outside!
And yes, a 'griot' is the singer/musician- it is almost what we used to call a 'minstrel.' I feel is quite chic to have my own minstrel, non? even a reluctant one....

6:35 PM  
Blogger David said...

Reluctance in this case can only make the heart grow fonder...nice that he is not a tourist entertainer to order. Bit like the crepissage not being announced in advance.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Nepal Trekking said...

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6:40 AM  

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