Thursday, March 1, 2007

M' Balax

March 1, 7:30 pm here. Listening to minidisc from my third sabar lesson this afternoon. 4th one tomorrow later (6pm-7:30) than usual (4:30-6) because Friday is the heavy prayer day here so things are pushed back later or postponed to Saturday. Hopefully my teacher and his family are playing a "program" (concert) in one of the streets of Dakar Saturday. If so, I'll be there! Then Sunday is the first workshop for our Meet the Composer Global Connections grant at the popular Dakar club Just 4 You. Co-composer Willow Williamson and I met with our Dakar contact Modibo Diawara and the man who programs Just 4 You, Souleyman Ly, this afternoon. With both of their help (and, no doubt, the help of many others) I'm excited to see how this project unfolds! Then to Gambia Monday I think. I'm superpsyched to visit my friend kora player Foday Musa Suso there, i and re-connect with my Mandinka drum teachers and other friends there who I met December-January 2002-03. Then I'll return to Dakar March15 to resume our Meet the Composer project, my sabar lessons, and checking out m'balax bands, which brings me to the title of this post.

Last night I went to a club called Sahel with my friends Abdoulaye, Khady Guey, and Jacob. Mbaye Dieuy Faye was playing m'balax with his band. There's a good short synopsis of M'balax by Benning Eyre here. What an incredibly rich tradition this music has... Its just thirty-or-so years since Les Etoiles de Dakar, the band that gave a teenage Youssou N'Dour his start in the mid-late 70s, combined the influences of sabar rhythms, salsa, ska, folk, funk, and jazz, and the music is vastly popular throughout Senegal and beyond!

I took some short videos and pictures last night at the club. Got to get it together to post them here. Hard to find words to describe the feeling in that club, with the Wembley-sized speakers in that nightclub-sized room. We arrived at midnight and nobody was there. The concert was supposed to start 1am-ish. By the time they began at 3am, the parking lot was packed and the dance floor was empty, with a ring of people politely allowing the band to work through the first and second tunes. By the time the third and fourth tunes started, Mbaye Dieye Faye had taken the mic from his warmup lead vocalist (wonder what the history is on this tradition? James Brown rocked it of course and countless others - where did it begin?) and the place was going off!! Almost no one drinks there so it was just dancing energy - and of course the high octane gunpowder green tea everyone drinks and soft drinks. Everyone got their major swerve on... doing the m'balax as it were, the jumping dance. Every single person (except the few tubabs- read white folks/westerners) in the club was an incredible dancer! Beyond comprehension the way people's bodies move here...

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