My name is Benjamin Roberts and in just a few days’ time, I’ll be setting off for what will no doubt be the adventure of a lifetime from my home in Wales. That gets me onto something that I think is important to know about me: I’m very proud to be Welsh. I’ve included a picture of me competing at the School Eisteddfod, an annual celebration of Welsh culture and a fierce contest within the school, which is split up into four house teams (the P on my face stands for St Paul House, which I led). The rich heritage to be found in the Welsh language, landscape and most importantly its people has given me a hunger to explore the more traditional culture of Senegal, which can be masked by its time as a French colony. Useful though French may be, it’s Wolof that I’m most excited to start learning; learning Welsh has taught me to appreciate languages not just for their practicality, but for the connection to a folk tradition and oral history that they provide.
Another of the reasons that Senegal attracted me is the music. I’ve played bass guitar in a number of ensembles, but more than anything, I just enjoy listening to talented musicians doing what they do best. It was not long after seeing Femi Kuti, a Nigerian musical icon, in concert that I learned of the Bridge Year Program in Senegal, and it was then not long before I was delving into Youssou N’Dour’s back catalogue (his 1989 album ‘The Lion’ is my personal favourite, if you were wondering). How exciting that we will be in the heart of such a musical country, and although I have no doubt that my greatest musical experiences lie ahead of me, I have really enjoyed playing gigs with the Cardiff Youth Jazz Orchestra and playing in the pit band for Little Shop of Horrors.
Some other interesting things about me:
I look forward to sharing the stories of the year ahead, meeting the team, and a time of immense personal growth.