Culinary Anthropologist

Fonio in the morning

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You wake up in the dark and look at the time – it’s only 5am! What could have woken you? You can hear insects chirping, and a cock crowing in the distance, but that’s not it. Then you hear low women’s voices, and the pounding – a deep, muffled, insistent sound. Drums? But why would people be drumming this early? Then you remember – it’s just breakfast …

Smdandegirls0001.JPGThis is Dandé, a little village up in the hills on the Senegalese side of the border with Guinea.  People here mostly eat fonio, a grain with little round seeds which looks a bit like couscous, and usually gets steamed in a similar way.  It was entirely wild until a few decades ago, and it’s very nutritious – but to get the little skins off you have to pound it in a large wooden mortar, with a huge pestle, for a long time.  So the women and girls of the village get up very early every day to start pounding …

I love this recording – the way the rhythm keeps changing and sounds almost musical.  But to listen to it, make sure you use headphones or proper speakers – on my laptop speakers it really doesn’t work (you can’t hear the deep bass sound of the pounding at all).

Click here to listen.

Click here to listen to more audio samples.

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