Voluntary work in Guinea West Africa. Drum and dance tuition also available. African Holidays Dance and Performance
     
   
 
   
Batafon Arts run trips each year to Guinea and the Gambia, West Africa. Visits can be arranged for two, three or four weeks, or longer if you would like.
 

drum classWorkshops in djembe, balafon and African dance are available daily. If you already drum or are a dancer, this is an excellent opportunity to improve your skills and experience the wonderful culture of these West African countries.

Expert tuition is by local musicians who can be seen performing at local village events. If you are interested in other instruments, let us know.

These cultural visits will allow you to experience an Africa not found on the tourist trail. You will stay on the Batafon Arts compound, which is just 5 minutes from the river, a 10 minute walk from the local village and a 10 minute local taxi ride from the main town of Boké. The compound has water and shower facilities, music and dance areas as well as a communal eating area.

 
 
Batafon  CompoundBecause of its cultural blend, Guinea's dance and music are among the most vibrant in Africa. You can learn traditional West African percussion, dance, cooking, language, culture - any or all of this! And the people there like to learn about your culture and traditions too. The trip is suitable for all levels of musician - beginners, those who have some experience and professionals. Everyone can learn something and being immersed in the African vibe is a good way to begin.
 
The climate varies across West Africa. Overall, the best time to go is November-April when day temperatures are warm/hot and nights are a few degrees cooler. Where we are based in Boké and Batafon, the days are hot and dry. July-August is the height of the rainy season and many roads are closed. (Conakry alone gets more than 160 in/406 cm of rain a year.) May-June and September-October are marginal (only go then if you can't travel during the preferred season). Mountain temperatures can dip to 40 F/5 C. Take a sweater if you're going into the mountains.
 
   
 
Group SessionGuinea is not particularly known for shopping, but among the items available are musical instruments such as Djembe, Balafon and Kora. Also, tie-dyed, indigo or batik cloth, pottery, braided leather goods and wood carvings. Guinea has a very active pop music industry and favorites include Les Amazones, Mory Kante and TeleJazz de Telimele. (Les Amazones, a pop music group with 15-20 members, is entirely made up of policewomen!)
 

Ghosts of French bwanas sip absinthe in the cool Fouta Djalon highlands, and catch steam locomotives that have long since ceased running. Most of the teeming wildlife of the jungles and plains is a faint glimmer of what it once was. Phantom Islamic armies swoop down from the north and turn the gorgeous Fouta Djalon into a slaughterhouse in the 17th century, then are drowned out by the insistent clamour of European slavers in the 18th and fiercely nationalistic rebels in the 19th. Maoist cadres from the 20th century despair at forced collectivisation's abject failure, and thousands of citizens flee across the borders to escape the el supremo delusions of a despot drunk on his own juice.

 
In Guinea you'll rub shoulders with a cross section of West African peoples and discover one of the largest markets in West Africa. You can trek through beautiful highland scenery and travel along new roads into the jungles of the south-east. But Guinea's hell-fire history has scorched its earth and left it the second poorest nation in the world. It still reels from a regime that turned its back on liberté, égalité and fraternité and embraced Maoist ideology in the 1950s. It is the poor man turning out its pockets at the UN, burdened with one failed IMF program after another. And rain and creeping jungles are reclaiming the ruined railway tracks and the last vestiges of colonial rule.
 

Guinea has always had an independent streak. While other former French colonies maintained strong ties with France, Guinea did not. Having gained independence from the French in 1958, sore losers, the departing French yanked out lightbulbs and burned medicines when Guinea refused to join the French African Community. Overnight, Guinea was left without administrators, archives, development plans - and lightbulbs.

Led by strongman Sekou Touré, Guinea struck out on its own. "We prefer poverty in freedom to riches in slavery," Touré declared, and, following his own peculiar brand of socialism, he led Guinea from being one of the most prosperous African colonies to being one of the poorest countries in the world. Sekou Touré's economic policies were so disastrous that Guinea, one of the premier producers of bananas in the world in 1960 (100,000 tons), was able to harvest only 162 tons by 1982. What's more, Touré seemed to equate independence with detachment, and the nation became increasingly isolated.

Since his death in 1984, however, the country has slowly opened, revealing to travellers a land that has an almost innocent quality about it. (One positive result of Guinea's independent streak is that it has evolved very differently from its regional neighbours.) Guinea's terrain seems to have a mind of its own as well, shifting dramatically the farther inland that you go: steaming mangrove swamps on the coast give way to an area of muggy jungle, while the forested uplands, laced by rivers and gushing waterfalls, lead to a cool mountainous interior. To the east are undulating savannahs.

 

In Guinea, as in much of Africa, the rather arbitrary drawing of colonial borders has made for a culturally and ethnically diverse population. Originally known as Jalonkadougou, the highlands of modern-day Guinea were once part of the Mali Empire. Later, Fulani immigrants arrived, bringing the teachings of Islam with them, and by the 18th century, Muslims had consolidated their power, forming the Kingdom of Fouta Djallon. They engaged in the slave trade with Arabs in the north and with Europeans on the coast. The French arrived in Guinea in 1849 and, taking advantage of factional strife, gained control and administered the area until independence in 1958.

Sekou Touré was known as the Supreme Guide of the Revolution. He drove some 20% of Guineans into exile and imprisoned, tortured and starved thousands of others. During his reign, Conakry became notorious as a KGB base in Africa.

Touré ruled from independence until his death in 1984. The military regime that took over from him made slow but steady progress in rebuilding the nation, and the country held its first multiparty elections in June 1995. Guinea is now one of the few African nations where the standard of living is on the rise, thanks to its rich mineral deposits and other natural resources. Guinea has significant deposits of bauxite (Guinea has about one-third of the world's bauxite (aluminum) deposits), diamonds, uranium, gold and manganese. Its soil is fertile - rice, bananas and coffee are grown - and abundant waterways and hydroelectric dams have given its economy a boost.

 
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