Tuesday, August 27, 2013


A perfect large half moon is rising over the rooves of Ladbroke Grove. It is a warm English late summer night.  I sit precariously perched on the window ledge of my top floor flat, a glass of white wine in my hand,  watching the last revellers ploughing their way through today’s debris on unsteady legs. 
The music systems which have been belting out reggae and soca all day have been silenced. But somewhere a private party is in full swing and suddenly a voice makes a surprise appearance to greet us: Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane and ‘Don’t you Want Somebody to Love?’ is filling up the enchanted air.
For the first time in 8 years I have been in London for the Notting Hill Carnival. I have my own flat back for a month before going back to Mali. Much has to be accomplished in this month: work for MaliMali; the library project and the flat needs to be refurbished before I let it again as I leave.
But today I just enjoyed the Carnival- I always go to a place on Talbot Road called ‘Baz’s Rockin’ Blues’. They have the best music and there is really no need to go anywhere else. They play ska, rock steady, and have live blues/jazz. I was so happy it  still existed after 8 years- the same faces, the same fun! Some old faithfuls greeted me as if last time had been yesterday. Baz himself, (who, it is rumoured, is the son of the great John Mayall), kissed me and welcomed me back, resplendent in silver sequin suit and his accustomed fedora . When I arrived clutching my coffee and croissant it was still early and they had not officially started (see above)- they were playing something Malian- I recognized that it was Bambara. In fact they were playing Bassekou Kouyate! 
But always, after spending the day at Talbot Road, I end up at my top flat window looking at the last floats going by on Ladbroke Grove. This is the conventional carnival experience, all feathers and glittering headgear with the throng of the multitudes around and the thump thump of the soca from the sound systems.  But now even those floats are gone.
My neighbours opposite are dangling their legs from their top flat windows too and we wave and toast each other with our last drinks.
In a couple of hours all traces of carnival will be miraculously wiped out.  Tomorrow morning life resumes here as if nothing ever happened. But here and now is a dreamy and shimmering moment...
(written last night)


Blogger Susan Scheid said...

"Some old faithfuls greeted me as if last time had been yesterday." You know, somehow, that's the nicest thing of all. Enjoy your sojourn!

1:34 AM  
Blogger mary said...

A great reflection on the festival.You paint such a colourful picture of the sights and sounds of the day.And we enjoyed Bassekou at Glastonbury!

8:39 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Thank you both! might see you later up north Mary!

2:39 PM  
Blogger Howard Lane said...

Wonderful memories of when I lived in Cambridge Gardens off Ladbroke Grove and loved the carnival! Some years after I was lucky enough to perform in it in the bateria of a samba school with the late great Alan Hayman.

I haven't been back for ages - the crowds are a deterrent, but it's great when you are already there. Gaz Mayall, rather than Baz, aka Gary, is indeed the son of John Mayall, and his Rockin' Blues clubs have been a mainstay of London's music scene since the 80s. And I am listening to Bassekou Kouyate right now from last week's prom as recommended by David. I am inspired to dust of my balafon and do some practising!

Your reposted blog has had 170 reads so far, but I expect your own blog gets a great deal more interest. Thank you!

8:41 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Oh! thank you Howard- Yes, sorry, of course it is Gaz, sorry!
Yes do dust off that balafon!

9:57 PM  
Blogger David said...

Howard - brush up your balafon and bring it to one of the soirees Sophie PROMISES in Ladbroke Grove before the month (September already, ouch) is out.

12:23 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

the soirees are ON! Starting on this coming Tuesday!

6:44 PM  
Blogger mary said...

Yes, we really hope that you can make it 'up north'. You will need a break from house restoration but the balafon soirees sound fun!

1:49 PM  

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