Memories of a Cabaret Singer’s Life

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

“Let’s store this in our minds so that we can remember this 30 years from now as a memory of our life in Cameroon.”
–Brad Melius, PCV
I lived in Yaounde this week. Officially I was getting medically checked after one year of service in country. I’m pleased to report that I have no cavities, probably because I’ve more recently become obsessed with flossing. And my lab work samples reveal no diseases or maladies, which is another sort of conquest.

But unofficially, I was living the life of a cabaret singer. I was performing live with a reggae band, happily using and improving my talents as a singer. Jackson introduced me to some of his connections at a cabaret restaurant-bar in Yaounde where the same band plays every weekend. Jackson and I met up with them and practiced 2 songs with the band: “In The Morning”, a song that Jackson wrote himself, and “In My Father’s House”, a gospel song that Isiak taught me long ago. But I insisted that the band, too, share something of theirs with me… and so I acquired a 3 song set. Mireille, a hip little woman that runs the show with zest and life, taught me a song in one of the local languages of the Southern province. To accompany her powerful voice was the cherry on top of the fudge covered sundae! What a treat! Just to hold a microphone on the first day of practice was in itself a rush of excitement that I had not experienced in such a long time. To see the songs come to life with every style of music that was brought to the table was inspiring. To see the looks and nods of approval on the faces of band members when we hit the right keys and followed every queue was re-assuring. J’étais en haut (I was high).
We were originally to perform Saturday only, but after the second rehearsal, we were invited to the stage on Thursday and Friday as well.

And by Thursday night, Jackson and I were nervous but ready. The cabaret was plentiful and alive with spectators. Jackson pulled me outside before we were called onto the stage. He grabbed my hands and told me that we were about to show everyone that we know how to do something… And we did! Everything came together to create a joyous presence and an energy that only my heart can describe as prayer. Friends of mine including Sarah and Norm, came to support me- but I figure that they probably had a pretty enjoyable time since they came back the next two nights!

Friday night was just as memorable, but I was a little more comfortable on stage, and on this night I was encouraged to call people up to dance as Mireille normally does. I danced and sang, earning 7,000 francs by the end of my time in the spotlight! In Cameroon, spectators motivate performers by putting money on the foreheads of the performers. The audience motivated me, but it was their proud smiles that I cherished the most.

By Saturday, we had a routine: Coffee and water at about 9:00, head out at 10:15, arrive by 10:30, greet everyone, and have a beer while we wait to be called up to the stage. Mireille would call me up to dance with her, and we would groove together, side by side, to the African beat. In this snazzy little restaurant cabaret filled with gourmet dishes and people dressed up so well, I almost forgot that I was in Africa… until the lights cut out! But the drums kept the beat and Mireille and I just kept on dancing until it returned. The electricity could leave us, but the energy wasn’t going anywhere.

As we were leaving, the owner asked us if I would be back next weekend. I laughed and explained that I don’t live in Yaounde, disappointed to say that I would have to leave and return to post. He told me that this cabaret was my house, and I told him that I would be back.
On Friday night, I found myself sitting at a table surrounded by friends that appreciated my love for performing music, and I was feeling the rush of excitement from having just performed. It seemed perfect timing when Brad suggested that we look around and store this as a memory of Cameroon- one that we would remember in 30 years. I agreed, and with my eyes and emotions at present, I scanned the room and registered and relished everything that I would never forget. I will always look back with fond memories of this life as a cabaret singer in the capital of Cameroon.

About Tara

Tara received her degree in French and Communications before jetting off to serve Cameroon for 2 years with the Peace Corps. She has forever since been inspired to serve in humanitarian projects around the world. She's a writer, tour guide, business owner, property manager, wifey, dog mom, and traveler. Tara lives in Dallas, Texas, where she's happily married to the tech genius who keeps her website pretty.

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