Senegal's music is best known abroad due to the popularity of mbalax, a development of Serer sabar drumming popularized by Youssou N'Dour.
Senegal, officially the Republic of Senegal, is a country in West Africa. Senegal is bordered by Mauritania in the north, Mali to the east, Guinea to the southeast, and Guinea-Bissau to the southwest. Senegal also borders The Gambia, a country occupying a narrow sliver of land along the banks of the Gambia River, which separates Senegal's southern region of Casamance from the rest of the country. Senegal also shares a maritime border with Cape Verde. Senegal's economic and political capital is Dakar.
Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound organized in time. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping; there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική . See glossary of musical terminology.
Mbalax is the national popular dance music of Senegal and the Gambia. Mbalax is a fusion of popular music from the diaspora, the West, and afropop such as jazz, soul, Latin, Congolese rumba, and rock blended with sabar, the traditional drumming and dance music of the Wolof of Senegal. The genre's name derived from accompanying rhythms used in sabar called mbalax.
During the colonial ages Senegal was colonized by France and many, though not all, Senegalese identified as French instead of any African ethnicity. Post-independence, the philosophy of negritude arose, which espoused the idea that the griot traditions of Senegal were as valid, classical and meaningful as French classical music. The first President of Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor (also a poet) was one of the primary exponents of this.
France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.
A griot, jali, or jeli is a West African historian, storyteller, praise singer, poet, or musician. The griot is a repository of oral tradition and is often seen as a leader due to his or her position as an advisor to royal personages. As a result of the former of these two functions, they are sometimes called a bard.
The President of Senegal is the head of state of Senegal. According to the 2001 Constitution, the president is elected for a 5-year term.
The national anthem of Senegal, "Pincez tous vos koras, frappez les balafons" ("Pluck all your koras, strike the balafons"), was adopted in 1960. Its lyrics, by president Senghor, refer to the Malian music tradition, while its music was composed by Herbert Pepper.
The kora is a 21-string lute-bridge-harp used extensively in West Africa.
The balafon is a kind of xylophone or percussion idiophone which plays melodic tunes, and usually has between 16 and 27 keys. It has been played in Africa since the 12th century according to oral stories; it originated in Mali, according to the Manding history narrated by the griots.
Ethnically the population of Senegal is 43.3% Wolof, 23.8% Fula, 14.7% Serer, 14.7% Jola, 3% Mandinka and 1.1% Soninka, with 1% European and Lebanese and 9.4% classed as "other"Senegalese music has been influenced by that of the Malian Empire though it tends to be fast and lively whereas the sounds of Malian griots are sedate, classical.
The Wolof people are a West African ethnic group found in northwestern Senegal, The Gambia and southwestern coastal Mauritania. In Senegal, the Wolof are the largest ethnic group (~39%), while elsewhere they are a minority. They refer to themselves as Wolof and speak the Wolof language – a West Atlantic branch of the Niger–Congo family of languages.
The Fula people or Fulani or Fulɓe, numbering between 38 and 40 million people in total, are one of the largest ethnic groups in the Sahel and West Africa, widely dispersed across the region. Inhabiting many countries, they live mainly in West Africa and northern parts of Central Africa but also in, South Sudan, Sudan and regions near the Red Sea coast.
The Serer people are a West African ethnic group. They are the third largest ethnic group in Senegal making up 15% of the Senegalese population. They are also found in northern Gambia and southern Mauritania.
Mbalax (meaning "rhythm" in Wolof),derives its from accompanying rhythms used in sabar music of the Serer people of the Kingdom of Sine and spread to the Kingdom of Saloum whence Wolof migrants brought it to the Wolof kingdoms.The Nder (lead drum), Sabar (rhythm drum), and Tama (talking drum) percussion section traces some of its technique to the ritual music of Njuup . The Serer people infuse their everyday language with complex overlapping cadences and their ritual with intense collaborative layerings of voice and rhythm."
The sabar, which originated from the Serer people, is a traditional drum from Senegal that is also played in the Gambia. It is generally played with one hand and one stick. Among its most renowned exponents was the Senegalese musician Doudou N'Diaye Rose. The sabar was used to communicate with other villages. The different rhythms correspond to phrases and could be heard for over 15 kilometers.
The Kingdom of Sine was a pre-colonial Serer kingdom along the north bank of the Saloum River delta in modern Senegal. The inhabitants are called Siin-Siin or Sine-Sine.
The Njuup tradition is a conservative Serer style of music rooted in the Ndut initiation rite.
The Njuup was also the progenitor of Tassu, used when chanting ancient religious verses. The griots of Senegambia still use it at marriages, naming ceremonies or when singing the praises of patrons. Most Senegalese and Gambian artists use it in their songs.Each motif has a purpose and is used for different occasions. Individual motifs may represent the history and genealogy of a particular family and are used during weddings, naming ceremonies, funerals etc.
Genealogy, also known as family history, is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history. Genealogists use oral interviews, historical records, genetic analysis, and other records to obtain information about a family and to demonstrate kinship and pedigrees of its members. The results are often displayed in charts or written as narratives.
Senegalese popular music can be traced back to the 1960s, when nightclubs hosted dance bands ( orchestres ) that played Western music. Ibra Kasse's Star Band was the most famous orchestre. After beginning by playing American, Cuban and French songs, Star Band gradually added more indigenous elements, including the talking tama drum and Wolof- or Mandinka-language lyrics. Star Band disintegrated into numerous groups, with Pape Seck's Number One du Senegal being the best known of the next wave of bands, followed by Orchestra Baobab.
The south of Senegal, called Casamance, has a strong Mandinka minority, and began producing masters of the kora in the late 1950s. The band Touré Kunda was the most popular group to arise from this scene, and they soon began playing large concerts across the world.
In 1977, the entire rhythm section and many other performers in the Star Band left to form Étoile de Dakar, who quickly eclipsed their compatriots, and launched the careers of El Hadji Faye and Youssou N'Dour. Faye and N'Dour were Senegal's first pop stars, but the stress of fame soon drove the band apart. Faye and guitarist Badou N'diaye formed Étoile 2000, releasing a hit with "Boubou N'Gary", but soon disappearing from the pop scene.
N'Dour, however, went on to form Super Étoile de Dakar, and his career continued. He was soon by far the most popular performer in the country, and perhaps in all of West Africa. He introduced more traditional elements to his Senegalized Cuban music, including traditional rapping (tassou), njuup, bakou music (a kind of trilling that accompanies Serer wrestling) and instruments like the sabar.
While N'Dour Africanized Cuban music, another influential band, Xalam, was doing the same with American funk and jazz. They formed in 1970, led then by drummer Prosper Niang, but their controversial lyrics and unfamiliar jazz sound led to a lack of popularity, and the group moved to Paris in 1973. There, they added Jean-Philippe Rykiel on keyboards. Xalam toured with groups such as Rolling Stones and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, finally achieving success in Senegal with 1988's Xarit .
In the latter part of the 1970s, the band Super Diamono formed, fusing mbalax rhythms and militant populism with jazz and reggae influences. Their 1982 Jigenu Ndakaru was especially popular. By the middle of the 1980s, Super Diamono was one of the top bands in Senegal, in close and fierce competition with Super Étoile de Dakar. The band's popularity declined, however, slowed somewhat by Omar Pene's reformation in 1991.
This mix is an example of mostly Senegalese music from the 1970s and 1980s but some other African countries are represented as well: https://soundcloud.com/trushmix/trushmix-85-kokk-n-roll
Into the 1990s, Thione Seck, a griot descended from those of Lat Dior, the king of Kayor, arose to solo stardome from Orchestra Baobab, eventually forming his own band called Raam Daan (crawl slowly towards your goal). He used electric instruments on many popular releases, especially Diongoma and Demb . The same period saw the rise of Ismael Lô, a member of Super Diamono, who had major hits, including "Attaya", "Ceddo" and "Jele bi".
Baaba Maal is another popular Senegalese singer. He is from Podor and won a scholarship to study music in Paris. After returning, he studied traditional music with his blind guitarist and family griot, Mansour Seck, and began performing with the band Daande Lenol. His Djam Leelii , recorded in 1984, became a critical sensation in the United Kingdom after it was released there in 1989. Maal's fusions continued into the next decade, with his Firin' in Fouta (1994) album, which used ragga, salsa and Breton harp music to create a popular sound that launched the careers of Positive Black Soul, a group of rappers, and also led to the formation of the Afro-Celt Sound System. His fusion tendencies continued on 1998's Nomad Soul , which featured Brian Eno as one of seven producers.
Though female performers were achieving popular breakthroughs elsewhere in West Africa, especially Mali, Senegalese women had few opportunities before the 1990s. The first international release by a woman was "Cheikh Anta Mbacke" (1989) by Kiné Lam. The song's success led to a string of female performers, including Fatou Guewel, Madiodio Gning, Daro Mbaye and Khar Mbaye Madiaga. Lam, however, remained perhaps the most influential female musician of the 1990s, creating a modernized version of sabar ak xalam ensembles by adding bass guitar and synthesizer with 1993's Sunu Thiossane. The release of Fatou Guewel's CD entitled 'Fatou' in 1998 was significantly influential for Mbalax; this is also the case with her band 'Groupe Sope Noreyni'.
The new century has seen the rise of Viviane Ndour, who got her first break as a backing vocalist to Youssou Ndour with Super Etoile. She is well known in Senegal and the diaspora, collaborating with French rap star Mokobe and Zouk artist Philip Montiero and incorporating RnB, Hip-Hop and other elements into her own style of Mbalax.
Acoustic folk music has also left its mark on Senegal's music culture. Artists that have contributed to this genre include TAMA from Rufisque, Pape Armand Boye, les Freres Guisse, Pape et Cheikh, and Cheikh Lo.
The biggest trend in 1990s Senegal, however, was hip hop. Traditional culture includes rapping traditions, such as the formal tassou, performed by women of the Laobe woodworking class the morning after marriages. Modern Senegalese hip hop is mostly in Wolof, alongside some English and French. Positive Black Soul is the best-known group in the country, Daara j, Gokh-Bi System and Wageble too. Senegalese-French rapper MC Solaar is a very well known musician. Senegalese born Akon has risen to world fame.
In 2008 English musician Ramon Goose travelled to Dakar and collaborated with Senegalese griot Diabel Cissokho to record the album Mansana Blues which explores African blues & traditional West African styles, this led on to the formation of The West African Blues Project.
Youssou N'Dour is a Senegalese singer, songwriter, composer, occasional actor, businessman, and politician. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine described him as, "perhaps the most famous singer alive" in Senegal and much of Africa. From April 2012 to September 2013, he was Senegal's Minister of Tourism.
The Senegambia is, in the narrower sense, a historical name for a geographical region in West Africa, which lies between the Senegal River in the north and the Gambia River in the south. However, there are also text sources which state that Senegambia is understood in a broader sense and equated with the term the Western region. This refers to the coastal areas between Senegal and Sierra Leone, where the inland border in the east were not further defined.
The music of the Gambia is closely linked musically with that of its neighbor, Senegal, which surrounds its inland frontiers completely. Among its prominent musicians is Foday Musa Suso. Mbalax is a widely known popular dance music of the Gambia and neighbouring Senegal. It fuses popular Western music and dance, with sabar, the traditional drumming and dance music of the Wolof and Serer people.
Mamadou "Jimi" Mbaye is a Senegalese guitarist best known for his work with Youssou N'dour. Mbaye has developed a unique Senegalese guitar style in which he makes his Fender Stratocaster sound like local instruments such as the kora or xalam.
Orchestra Baobab is a Senegalese band established in 1970 as the house band of the Baobab Club in Dakar. Many of the band's original members had previously played with Star Band de Dakar in the 1960s. Directed by timbalero and vocalist Balla Sidibe, the group features saxophonists Issa Cissoko and Thierno Koité, two singers, two guitarists and a rhythm section with drums, congas and bass guitar. Since their formation, the band has predominantly played a mix of son cubano, Wolof music, and to a lesser extent Mande musical traditions.
The Wolof, the largest ethnic group in Senegal, have a distinctive musical tradition that, along with the influence of neighboring Fulani, Tukulor, Serer, Jola, and Malinke cultures, has contributed greatly to popular Senegalese music, and to West African music in general. Wolof music takes its roots from the Serer musical tradition, particularly from the Serer pre-colonial Kingdom of Saloum. Virtually all Wolof musical terminology including musical instruments comes from the Serer language.
Thione Ballago Seck is a Senegalese singer and musician in the mbalakh genre. Seck comes from a family of "griot" singers from the Wolof people of Senegal. His first job was with Orchestre Baobab, but he later formed his own band, Raam Daan, which he still heads.
Ashley Maher is a Canadian singer and songwriter who has meshed the rhythmic impulses of West Africa and Latin America with Western song structures.
Julia Sarr is a Mezzo-soprano born in Dakar (Senegal) from the Serer ethnic group. As one of the most sought after backing vocalists, she has worked with several prominent artists over the years including Youssou N'Dour, Lokua Kanza and Patrice Larose.
Mbaye Dieye Faye is a singer and percussionist from Senegal.
Alioune Mbaye Nder is a Senegalese singer. Nder takes his name from the n'der, the drum favoured by his griot father.
Habib Faye was a bassist, keyboardist, guitar soloist, arranger, composer and Grammy-nominated producer from Senegal. He was mostly known as the musical director for Youssou N'dour's Super Étoile de Dakar. He was one of the most talented African bassists of the last quarter-century.
Raam Daan is a mbalax band from Senegal. Founded in 1974 by Thione Seck, Raam Daan has risen to become one of the most popular mbalax bands in Senegal.
Omar Pene is a Senegalese vocalist and composer, who was the lead singer of Super Diamano, and is now a solo artist.
Senegalese wrestling is a type of folk wrestling traditionally performed by the Serer people and now a national sport in Senegal and parts of The Gambia, and is part of a larger West African form of traditional wrestling. The Senegalese form traditionally allows blows with the hands (frappe), the only one of the West African traditions to do so. As a larger confederation and championship around Lutte Traditionnelle has developed since the 1990s, Senegalese fighters now practice both forms, called officially Lutte Traditionnelle sans frappe and Lutte Traditionnelle avec frappe for the striking version.
Pape Cheikh Diouf, known by his stage name Pape Diouf, is a musical artist from Dakar, Senegal.