Bunja Conteh – Kora player – The Gambia, West Africa

The deft-fingered, Bunja Conteh, and his Kora – melodic and hauntingly beautiful.

“I can sing from mornin’ to dawnin’ ” – Bunja Conteh

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Tap here or on the above image to watch Bunja play on Youtube – footage by Jason Florio

Bunja also happens to come from a lineage of griots (the traditional oral storytellers, poets, and musicians of West Africa). We’ll be posting more about him very soon.

More updates about the River Gambia Expedition incoming so please continue to stop by

The Florios (Helen & Jason)

for all future updates, please visit photostellstories.org)

 

Journal entry from our first expedition: Sleeping amongst the sacred stone circles – 3rd Dec 2009 – Kerr Batch, The Gambia. Distance walked to-date: 671.74km

Kerr Batch Stone Circles, The Gambia, West Africa

Children standing on the sacred stones, Kerr Batch Stone Circles, The Gambia, West Africa – image © Jason Florio 2009

The above image is also available in our ‘An Exchange’ section limited offer – starting at only $25/£16, you have the chance to acquire this image – to help raise funds for our ‘River Gambia Expedition 2012 – 1000km source to sea Africa odyssey’. Please see PDF for full range of images available for this limited offer. Names will be drawn out of the hat on 31st August 2012

Helen’s Journal Entry from ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey’

Thursday 3rd December, 2009 – Kerr Batch-Chamen, The Gambia, West Africa.

Distance walked to-date: 671.74km:

This morning, the old chief, Samba Camera, has come to the stone circles – doddering along, propped up by his walking stick – which was actually a hiking stick, that a tourist had given to him. We set up the backdrop and Flo photograph’s the chief amongst the stones. He looks positively resplendent, in his vivid, purple granbubu, saffron undershirt, a red-check keffiyah, topped off with a white crochet hat. Afterwards, we all sit outside the museum building whilst Flo interviews Mr Camera about the history of the stones and the surrounding area. It seems our host is somewhat of a well-respected griot (storyteller) – the oral tradition of relaying historic stories, songs and poems, passed down through the generations.

Florio interviews the old chief, Samba Camera, of Kerr Batch (with the translation help of expedition team member, Samba Leigh), The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Helen Jones-Florio 2009

Unfortunately, as we had heard repeatedly, throughout our journey, that true griots are becoming less in numbers, as the younger generation appear to have little interest in taking up the mantle of storytelling from their fathers or grandfathers. They seem to prefer to head for the Atlantic Coast and the tourist areas; or even much further afield.

H and campsite amongst the scared stones – said to be the burial grounds of kings – Kerr Batch Stone Circles, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Jason Florio 2009

Even though the old chief cannot not speak any English, it’s mesmerising to sit and listen to his guttural voice, as Samba translates. He is crouched low on his haunches – very agile for a man of his age – his face and hands, animated as he relays his stories. His grandchildren sit around, just as enrapt as we are. Perhaps, just maybe, not all of them will follow on the seeming trend to move towards the coast.’ from Helen’s forthcoming book ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – minty abanta!’

Boy hanging out – Kerr Batch Stone Circles, The Gambia, West Africa. Image © Helen Jones-Florio

Check out Florio’s award-winning portraits of village chiefs and elders ‘Silafando’ and more road-stories and journal entries, by Helen, from ‘A Short Walk in the Gambian Bush – a 930km African odyssey

Thanks, as always, for stopping by.

The Florios

Please click on the image below to watch Jason Florio as he explains how you can own one of his fine art photography prints, from a series of images he will take whilst on the expedition: