Tag Archives: senegal

the loss of traditional folk transmission of cyber cafe mp3s and photoshop montages.

The cyber cafe is a fixture in the past years as the internet boom has sounded across W. Africa. Memory cards, USB sticks, and cellphones — the portable data kits to carry the digital identity — demand spurious tweaking. The cyber is not just a port for internet connectivity, but a space to manage and exchange data. All that maintenance and swapping collects digital ephemera like orbiting space junk, spread across the Windows XP desktop in folders more than not labeled “Noveau dossier.” The cyber computers become nodes on the W. African digital data network, a local chain of hard drives and memory sticks where traffic is not metaphoric, but represents real physical movement (on the day a boat of tourists docks into town, is it any surprise that snapshots of the town are added to the desktop clutter?). I imagine the impossible, data mining “dates of creation” and id3 tags to analyze alluring mysteries like the proliferation of Akon across the Senegal-Mauritania border, the effect of Saint Louis fishing trade on Marabout chanting mp3 transmission, and why everyone loves Zouk.

Informed minds tell me the cyber cafe business has reached its peak. In the past year, the cafes have begun to decrease in number, a mass migration to home internet provided by the blinking light of the USB internet key — and in a few years, the secreted archives of the cyber cafes and their disconnected network of transmission will be absorbed into the greater internet. But enough speculation:

Podor, Senegal’s cyber cafe, selections from computer number 6:

bideew bou bess – xam xam
patche de rima – sa-ira.mp3
daddy bibson – Never Give up
net doff @ mbedd mi.mp3

Sahelsounds, the promo cd

A little compilation of recordings from the site, for downloadable and listening pleasure. Bismillah.

01 – teyti announces issawat
02 – abba – ishumar guitar
03 – girl and mother – na hawa doumbia
04 – alkibar gignor – ali farka homage
05 – tidiane – fanta
06 – sahl la guido – ndarka
07 – alkibar gignor – rehearsal
08 – kidal forgerons – abacabok
09 – halima – issawat
10 – djounhan children – beelibal
11 – bebe – ishilan an tenere
12 – ali ag mouma – takamba
13 – niafounke kids – children song
14 – m. ould mohamed – medh
15 – lala – tende
16 – nouakchott market – cassette
17 – amanar – concert
18 – soninke griot – cinquieme wedding
19 – maur griot – nouakchott wedding
20 – field recording – chinguetti
21 – habib – flute


The Isle of Morfil

Along the border of Senegal and Mauritanian, one finds the ancient kingdom of Fouta Toro – meandering rivers and wide floodplains, covered in scrubby forest and dust, and occasional green patches of irrigated rice and millet. The Isle of Morfil, named for the elephants which have long since vanished, lies in the plane; technically Senegal; but identified as Fouta.

Fouta Toro is old and complex in character. Myths and magic abound, castes and tradition stand strong against the onslaught of outward influence, predating the French colonialism, the Wolof language, even the Islamic invasion. In fact, it was from the Isle of Morfil that the Tekrur empire, joined with the Almoravids, marched upwards and onwards conquering the Iberian Peninsula.

The traditional music of Fouta is based on the Hoddu; but many traditional ‘universal’ songs have been adapted to the guitar.

Tidiane playing Douga

Tidiane playing Fanta

Group Lewlewal de Podor (Baye Aly N’Diongue, Tidiane Thiam, Demba Doka Barry) rehearses daily next to the barber shop in Podor. They play traditional folk music, but incorporate modern elements; the songs are in Wolof and Pulaar.

Group Lewlewal with Touba

Group Lewlewal with Tara (traditional)

Traditional Pulaar literature is oral – stories often being sung. One of the more interesting forms of literature is that of Pekane. The Pekane is performed solely by the cubaalo or fisherman caste, and in its variety of forms can be used to tell a story, poetry, genealogy, or the more mysterious incantation, to speak and call forth fish. The little village of NgoulĂ© is a few kilometers from Podor – but it’s here that one of the most famous legends of Fouta is based, Seeku Balli and his battle with the Crocodile Ngari NgoulĂ©.

The story of Seeku Bali, as performed by Ngari Ngaoule and Souleyman Sarr

Ngaoule is a beautiful mystic place. Like the combination of Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel and a Japanese Ronin folk tale. When I arrive on donkey cart, I make directly for the river. The bank is lined with green mango trees, and a few people in the distance are bathing or washing or pushing out on their pirogues. If you listen closely you can hear a bird in the tree. And a mango drop.


live from nouakchott

A recording from a practice session of an upcoming concert here in Nouakchott. I’m playing some sparse guitar accompaniment with two musicians from Senegal, Sidi Baba and Khadim, who sing and play the Djembe respectively.


Omar’s shop in Cinquieme, the kids are playing some game, singing a song.


Salif plays a production he’s made on his computer, a fusion of hip hop and traditional Pulaar folk guitar.


Outside Sekou’s studio, a Baye Fall group, followers of one of the Senegal brotherhoods pass by, drumming, collecting alms.