05 Sep Byggefest 2019
Even before holidaying in Denmark, I had offered to host a Balafon frame-making workshop, at the Byggefest 2019 in Ebeltoft. Once we got there, it turned out to be a 6-day, small-scale construction festival, with music; at the busiest time, there were 300 visitors. During the day, visitors got to work on all kinds of construction projects using wood. There was a big pile of wood sponsored by other festivals and DIY shops. There was an international volunteer group that was active during and around the festival. For instance, they had sorted all the wood, stripped it of nails and screws and stacked or put it together. There were mostly local groups / artists who, moreover, all came to perform for free because of their connection with the organising eco-village in formation: Grobund.
Arrival and preparations
A neighbouring old agricultural field had been commissioned for the 2019 Byggefest campsite. There was still grain with lots of herbs and poppies in between. Worked flat and then graded according to fire regulations. Here and there, fire extinguishers and fire whips had been put away. Finally, paths still had to be mowed and a night fire watch set up. Sleeping on a layer of hay…
A loan was organised where you could borrow battery-powered screw-drivers (25 of them!), saw tables, circular saws, big drills and the necessary hand tools (if you had not brought your own). To borrow, you had to have a Polaroid photo taken and hand it in. This was hung on the spot of the borrowed tool. When you returned it, you got your photo back and could hang it on a big column, waiting for your new borrowing need.
Some people had come up with a project of their own that they wanted to implement. This included the opportunity for others (without their own project) to join in and help. During the day, around the former factory hall where the Eco-village was started, it was a bustle of handymen with all kinds of wood projects. Big projects included a terrace on the dyke between the factory and the sea, a floating sauna, a pizza oven for the Eco-village, floating stage parts. People also worked on a figurehead made of reeds for a boat and a huge lampoon fish skeleton (one of those fish that has a lure hanging in front of its own mouth!). But there were also many smaller projects like a chicken-leg coop, a guitar, upholster a bench seat, an oar, a cutlery drawer, anything!
Other on-site activities during the Grobund ‘Byggefest’ Building Festival
Activities in my Balafon corner
So among the small projects was my balafon frame. I had set up a nice corner where I could work with people who were interested. The first day, some youngsters from the volunteer group were curious and so they helped me with the initial measuring, sawing and sanding work. Later, I got a few people who came to work regularly. I had good help from Teis, Benjamin, David and Severin, among others. In the end, I was able to make almost two balafon frames with this group. I had brought along gourds and sound bars so we could actually finish them and deliver them as instruments. One balafon was left behind to be used at the Eco-village music centre.
Zojuist gemaakte Balafoon gepresenteerd bij het Byggefest 2019
So while Karin went to volunteer in the kitchen and the bar, I supervised the frame-building and in the meantime did mini-workshops playing balafons with (other) interested people. I had brought my own large, and two small balafons. The Danish culture is actively encouraged to stay alive, much more so than in the Netherlands (where we think highly of our culture but do little active with it). Every morning some came with keyboard, accordion and violin to sing folk songs together, to accompany. The Danish ‘Blue Book’ was leading in this (also on website of course). When the first balafon was ready, I also christened it once in the morning and had Awa Dabolé played by a group of young people I had taught.
The bands that performed at Byggefest 2019 were all involved in one way or another with the Eco-village or the organising duo Tore and Noa. The bands performed for free and naturally had their own fans among the audience. A load of beach sand had been poured out in front of the stage where you could enjoy watching and listening to the bands. Or where you could dance in it with bare feet! We’re going again next year; Byggefest 2020 falls from 13 – 18 July. But I also found the lovely ‘Utamaduni Africa Summer Camp‘ where I offered myself for a balafon workshop; www.utamaduni.dk/camp falls from 18 – 25 July.
During the holidays, I had one more balafon adventure; I met and watched Kassim Keita, one of my teachers from Mali, play with the Danish-Malinese group Faratuben. Through the internet, I had found some of their playing days and there was one nearby during our stay; ‘Langå meets Africa’. We drove to Langå; turned out to be a small village, where they were setting up a tent with a few people for the Africa event. Two music groups with ties to this village turned up for a performance. Very small-scale, then; there were 40 visitors at most!
But Faratuben was there and Kassim played his balafon. We had a lot of fun there and Kassim and I chatted for a while…. Next year he will be in Denmark again with Faratuben; I hope to see him again at a somewhat bigger concert then. Maybe next year during the Grobund Byggefest?