Senegal: Life in the Mbalax…

Senegal is one of the brighter spots of West Africa, successor of previous local Wolof  and Serer regimes and the regional nomadic Sahel-based Islamic Fulani/Toucouleur who occupy and define much of West Africa, what with their cows, language and religion…

All that changed when the French moved in, of course, and the slave-traders who profited most from the misery of the common-folk, who, if once the side-effects of war, soon became the cause of war, and the taking of prisoners, hard to believe that countries once wanted immigrants, but if bound and gagged, then better, in that frame of mind…

Senegalaise music begins and ends with ‘you’ and ‘our’ and that means Youssou N’dour, of course, the country’s official music ambassador to the world, who has played with such foreign musical luminaries as Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Neneh Cherry and Peter Gabriel…

And then there’s Orchestra Baobab and Baba Maal, and dozens of others popularizing mbalax and other genres, including but not limited to African versions of Cuban rhythms, who ultimately got it from them in the first place, so grand-child now grand-father to the man, teaching him dance-steps he almost forgot to remember…

Me, I got off my 60-hour train ride from Bamako to Dakar plenty the worse for wear, and 35 hours late, dumped unceremoniously by the side of the tracks on the outskirts of town and shuttled to the nearest night-club with a side-room for you-know-what, so that I could sleep it all off with the world’s best music all for free on the other side of my wall, aahhh…

 

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