Senegal's music is best known abroad due to the popularity of mbalax,
a development of Serer sabar drumming popularized by Youssou N'Dour.
1 National music
2 Traditional music
3 Popular music after independence
3.1 1950s and 1960s
3.2 1970s and 1980s
3.3 1990s to the present
6 External links
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
Léopold Sédar Senghor (also a poet) was one of
the primary exponents of this.
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.
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.
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
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.
Popular music after independence
1950s and 1960s
Senegalese popular music can be traced back to the 1960s, when
nightclubs hosted dance bands (orchestres) that played Western music.
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 Orchestre Baobab.
The south of Senegal, called Casamance, has a strong Mandinka
minority, and began producing masters of the kora in the late 1950s.
Touré Kunda was the most popular group to arise from this
scene, and they soon began playing large concerts across the world.
1970s and 1980s
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
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:
1990s to the present
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
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
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
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
Positive Black Soul is the best-known group
in the country, Daara j, Gokh-Bi System and
MC Solaar is a very well known musician.
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
^ https://USA Archived 2013-07-18 at the Wayback Machine. CIA World
^ Patricia Tang. Masters of the Sabar: Wolof griot percussionists of
Senegal, p-p32, 34. Temple University Press, 2007.
^ (in French) Ferloo[permanent dead link]
^ Mangin, Timothy R. "Notes on
Jazz in Senegal." Uptown Conversation:
Jazz Studies. Eds. O'Meally, Robert G., Brent Hayes Edwards
and Farah Jasmine Griffin. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.
^ For the
Njuup tradition, see: The Culture Trip
^ a b Ali Colleen Neff. Tassou: the Ancient Spoken Word of African
Hudson, Mark, Jenny Cathcart and Lucy Duran. "Senegambian Stars Are
Here to Stay". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with
McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa,
Europe and the Middle East, pp 617–633. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin
Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0
(in French) Audio clips: Traditional music of Senegal. Musée
d'ethnographie de Genève. Accessed November 25, 2010.
Music Documentary about a griot musician Ablaye Cissoko
nationalgeographic.com - NGC's
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