Saturday, March 3, 2007

Sing Sing Juniors

Its 1am yet again and I've just returned to my place to make a bathroom pit stop (if you know what I mean... sorry, TMI perhaps?) and back out to Josan (sp?), Youssou N'Dour's club, or maybe Just 4 You, where Orchestra baobb may be playing. Options... I'm telling you!

Have just returned from an 11pm-1am concert of sabar drum and dance on Rue 41 (41st street, as it were) in Medina, the neighborhood where I take my sabar lessons. My teacher's group, Sing Sing Juniors, was playing. He is part of the Faye family, one of the two most famous sabar families in Senegal (the other being Doudou N'Diaye Rose). What an incredible concert! Ostensibly a celebration of President Abdoulaye Wade's recent re-election, it seemed like a good excuse for the good residents of Medina to get there groove on on a Saturday night. I had a great lesson with Malik earlier this afternoon - my 5th, and once again as with my experiences studing Mandinka drums in Gambia, the rhythm skeletons that we work on in each lesson come to improvisatory life when played by a howl ensemble for a ring of 300 or 400 dancers. We added a fourh skeletal rhythm to my humble arsenal: Cheboud'jen. Cheboud'jen, incidentally, is also the name of one of the region's stbale dishes. In Wolof, cheb means rice, 'jen means fish. These women were jumping around all over the place.... Incredible! I got some video on my digital camera so once again I hope to figure out how the heck to post some of this stuff. The world should see these things! Well, I suppose Dakar is just a flight away.

Went over to one of Doudou N"Diaye Rose's homes this afternoon to meet the great man. He has made sabar druming internationally famous with the help of his 100-strong family of wives, sons, grandsons, greatgrandsons, etc. I found his number on the internet, called him up, and went over to one of his four wives' homes today to meet with him. I wanted to see how much it would cost to study with a member of his family, guessing that he wasn't interested in teaching a tubab (whitie). My assumption was correct. One of his sons, Tapha - about 45 years old I think - would teach me if I would like. The thing is, I already have a great teacher with the Sing Sing Rhythm family. Malick Faye has endless amounts of strength and a young lifetime of knowledge. I guess I could take a lesson with Doudou's son as well, if nothing else than for the sake of comparison. Sabar is an oral tradition of course, and so each family lineage has its own interpretations of the classics, the standards. So who knows, it'd probably do me well to hang with Doudou's son a little as well. If I do it will be after Gambia. Originally he asked for 10,000 Senegalese francs/hour, about $20. I've been paying Malick 5,000 CFA for 1 1/2. Am I going to get that much more info, that much better a lesson with Doudou's son. No, but nonetheless, just for the perspective I might try a lesson with him.

For now, I'm waiting for my friend Khady Guey to get ready and we're going to hear some M'balax (if Youssou N'Dour's club) or some Senegalese 1960s-style salsa (Orchestra Baobab). As with everything here, and as I keep saying... we shall see.

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