|Trip to Senegal|
In high school (20 years ago!) a good friend gave me a tape of Senegalese Sabar drumming that sparked my initial interest in Doudou N'diaye Rose's frenetic drumming style. The Sabar is played alternating strokes between a stick and the left hand. Initially used for communication, the drum's rhythms are fast-paced and seem to avoid downbeats. The resulting mood is excited and almost alarming in its intensity.
One day, seven years ago, while studying Korean Poongmul drumming in Japan, I received one of the greatest gifts of my life. Doudou's son Wagane N'diaye Rose attended our class one day and played his Sabar along with our Chyango rhythms. Subsequently I had a chance to study with Wagane for several months. It was incredibly challenging to get my head to grasp the odd shapes of the rhythm.
Freshly back from Senegal, the land of many drums, I am inspired, humbled and rich in memories and visions, which I will share with you here.
Firstly, I had the great honor to meet the legendary master drummer Doudou N'diaye Rose, pictured above, and to dine with his family. Doudou's music inspired me over 20 years ago to pursue and discover world percussion. (Special thanks to Karen of Sabar Paradise for providing the contact info!) Doudou has performed around the world bringing awareness of Sabar to all of us with his family of rising stars who continue to spread the tradition in foreign lands.
In addition to exploring the picturesque cities of Dakar, St. Louis, and Ziguinchor, I had the fortuitous opportunity to attend two festivals of percussion that were held in the rural towns of Louba and Abene. While it's tempting to run all over Africa in search of drums, sometimes it's more fruitful to let the drummers, who are all well networked in the region, bring the different groups to you.
Louga's festival, organized by FESFOP, brings folk artists from Europe and West African countries of Togo, Guinea, Burkina Faso and different regions of Senegal onto one stage. Louga is located close to St. Louis, the old French colonial capitol of West Africa. Abene is situated on the coast of the Casamance region of Senegal (south of Gambia), with its festival starting on New Year's eve and continuing for several days. The Abene Festivalo features a broad range of Senegalese drumming and dancing troupes with a few appearances by drummers from neighboring countries. The guest houses of Abene are also very well networked with the local drumming scene and year-round are able to arrange drumming instruction trips of any duration. (While there, try to see the local djembe, sabar wolof, tama and bougarabou drummers. Some videos of these artists are featured in the Jumpcut and Flickr links below.)
If you are planning a visit to Senegal I recommend planning your trip around the New Year celebrations to see the broad array of drumming that is showcased in these festivals.
I highly recommend you bone up on your French before you travel in West Africa. For me it made the visit effortless and enabled me to discover more about the drummers (and indeed find out about the festivals in the first place.) West African nationals speak very clearly enunciated French that is easy for students to understand. And they're very patient with students of the language and forgiving of mistaken definite articles and conjugations. So even with my fumbling Cajun style French I could get by just fine.
During the trip I also had an opportunity to see the excellent drum museum in neighboring Burkina Faso which I've uploaded to Jumpcut below. Some of the Casamance drum performances shown below were in very low-light bonfire settings. So the Abene films may appear more as sound files than video files as you play them. But that's how it looked while I was there...
Senegal Photos (Yahoo! Flickr)
Louga Percussion Festival Movie (Yahoo! Jumpcut)
Drums of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou (Yahoo! Jumpcut)
Abene Festivalo drum performances, Abene, Senegal (Yahoo! Jumpcut)
Snippet: Drumming from Togo (Yahoo! Jumpcut)
Snippet: Drumming from Guinea (Yahoo! Jumpcut)
Snippet: Baboucar demonstrates how to play my new sabar (Yahoo! Jumpcut)
Snippet: Bougarabou drumming by bonfire (Yahoo! Jumpcut)
Snippet: Mandinka drumming (Yahoo! Jumpcut)
Snippet: Sabar drumming (Yahoo! Jumpcut)
Snippet: Djembe drumming (Yahoo! Jumpcut)
Visit the following links for samples of Senegalese drumming. (Courtesy of Village Pulse Records)
KEEPERS OF THE TALKING DRUM 1
KEEPERS OF THE TALKING DRUM 2
Sabar Wolof 1
Sabar Wolof 2
MANDINKA DRUM MASTER 1
MANDINKA DRUM MASTER 2
TABALA WOLOF: SUFI DRUMMING OF SENEGAL 1
TABALA WOLOF: SUFI DRUMMING OF SENEGAL 2
BOUGARABOU: SOLO DRUMMING OF CASAMANCE 1
BOUGARABOU: SOLO DRUMMING OF CASAMANCE 2
BALANTA BALO: TALKING WOOD OF CASAMANCE 1
BALANTA BALO: TALKING WOOD OF CASAMANCE 2
DRUMS OF THE FIRDU FULA (Gambia) 1
DRUMS OF THE FIRDU FULA (Gambia) 2