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This article examines how jazz in a critical feature of Senegalese popular culture. I examine the historical and contemporary practices of jazz in Senegal and how it is a vital element in mbalax, the popular urban dance music of Senegal.
Notes on Jazz in Senegal
The study of jazz in the African diaspora has tended to focus on the retention of
Africanisms in African American music
and the versioning of Africa in jazz.
reverse influence of how U.S. jazz affects music and culture in West Africa
been less well documented. Since World War II Senegalese musicians and fans
have borrowed, internalized, and incorporated jazz into their popular music and
culture as a way of figuring Senegalese modern identities. As former French colo-
nial subjects, Senegalese modern identities are intertwined in complex historical
and contemporary situations exacerbated by globalization processes that increas-
ingly link Senegalese to new and different cultural, social, and political ideas from
distant places. These identities are bound with Senegal’s postcolonial situation,
which involves the mediation of precolonial, colonial, and national histories and
current relationships to the West, Middle East, and other African countries (Diouf
2002). Achille Mbembe further characterizes the postcolony as containing multi-
ple public spaces, each with its own internal logics that engage with other logics,
requiring the postcolonial subject to “bargain in this conceptual market place . . .
[and] to have marked ability to manage not just a single identity, but several—flex-
ible enough to negotiate as and when necessary” (Mbembe 2001:104). I examine
how these multiple identities are mediated in the cities of Dakar and Saint-Louis,
Senegal, through the appropriation of New World musics into Senegalese musics.
This article is concerned with how the appropriation of U.S. jazz has been and
continues to be a vital element in the representation, practice, and living of Sene-
galese modern identities through the mimetic performance of U.S. jazz and its in-
ternalization into Senegalese popular musics. My aim is to illuminate the ways in
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which local cosmopolitans learn and interpret jazz in Senegal. I shall argue that
jazz is a living and vital force in Senegalese music and culture because of sustained
Senegalese appropriations from French and U.S. sources since the mid-twentieth
century and from local versionings of jazz in the Senegalese popular music scene. I
analyze jazz events in Saint-Louis and Dakar in an attempt to illustrate how Sene-
galese negotiate and portray their modern identities. Further, my goal is to describe
concrete processes of globalization that occur in Senegal through the lens of cos-
mopolitanism based on ethnographic research I conducted in Senegal (1999
Features of cosmopolitanism refers to “objects, ideas, and cultural positions
that are widely diffused throughout the world and yet are specific only to certain
portions of the populations within given countries” (Turino 2000:7). This disper-
sion of cultural products and knowledge is achieved, in part, through the spread of
new technologies, media, and individuals. Travelers who have immersed them-
selves in different cultures share their experiences and ideas with people when they
return home—and with those whom they encounter abroad (Hannerz 1996:267
41). Cosmopolitans who have not traveled outside their country are able to broad-
en their cultural and worldview knowledge through encounters with traveling cos-
mopolitans, experience with media, and use of new technologies. These interac-
tions enable locals to imagine, contemplate, and make associations with localities
beyond their immediate environment (Tomlinson 1999:194). This paper concen-
trates on Senegalese cosmopolitans recognition and meditation of similarities and
differences of interests with people from the African diaspora.
The term African diaspora is distinguished from the wider debate on diaspora
(which addresses issues such as migration, dispersion, exile, and postcolonialism)
by emphasizing discussions on race and racial oppression such as pan-Africanism,
black nationalism, and essentialism (Monson 2000a:1). African diaspora also in-
vokes the notion of African heritage and the desire and political need for blacks
outside of Africa to discover their African cultural roots as a response to racism
that denied the historical and cultural value of the black experience (Gilroy
1993:112). In this essay my use of African diaspora concentrates on black cultures of
the Caribbean, U.S., and France.
By examining how Senegalese cosmopolitans interpret and integrate U.S.
black music and cultural forms we can better understand globalization processes in
Africa where there is a strong ideological allegiance to U.S. blacks. The following
description of a play that took place within a larger international jazz festival in
Senegal will illuminate aspects of Senegalese self-perceptions within a pan-African
imaginary sustained through cosmopolitan networks.
The Billy Jones Odyssey
I am in West Africa and the setting is Saint-Louis, Senegal; the date June 3,
2000. The occasion is the Saint-Louis Jazz Festival, an event spanning five days
that celebrates Saint-Louis’s long association with jazz in West Africa. An open-air
drama called LOdyssée des origines was performed by a local youth troupe from the
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primary and secondary schools and colleges in Saint-Louis. The play was authored
and conceived by Madame d’Aquino, who collaborated with the students. Profes-
sional musicians, actors, and theater professionals accompanied these youth. The
story’s main character is Billy Jones, an African American jazz musician invited to
perform at the festival. Jones’s journey becomes a transformative experience for
him in which he discovers his musical and cultural roots by immersing himself in
Senegalese music, art, and culture. Scenes enacted to music, drama, and dance
take place in different locations in Saint-Louis. Between scenes a sabar ensemble
(an indigenous drum group) and tama drummer (an hourglass-shaped tonal drum
that can mimic speech) lead a procession of Senegalese, European, and West Afri-
can spectators to the different places where an act will be performed. Actors, a
forty-foot-long cloth and mask serpent; performers in costumes of moderne and tra-
instruments also attend the procession, thus dissolving the space between
spectacle and reality (performer and audience). Jones carries a clarinet and is
dressed in a Western suit. During one of these processional interludes between
scenes I am walking beside a tama player who praises and welcomes me, an African
American, to Saint-Louis. I reciprocate his praise by giving him a crisp bill, in ac-
cordance with Senegalese cultural practice.
The story begins with Jones’s arrival by train when peddlers sell him a drum
and take him on a tour of the city. They encounter a festival of masks led by the
costumed serpent and followed by a round dance, which is accompanied by sabar
drumming. Jones enters a cave described in the program as a “rhythmical space”
where he hears a ballad in the “universe of Saint-Louisian jazz” that suggests an
“attractive and magnificent unknown.” Jones is drawn further into the culture and
history of Saint-Louis when a procession of signares
performs a dance honoring
Mame Coumba Bak, a princess who lived near the water and yearned to know its
mysteries. One day she was swallowed by an enormous shell and joined “a nothing
which allows her to reach the imperceptible. Since this time, she sometimes comes
out of the waters under various forms and brings protection and support to Saints-
The dance has a mesmerizing affect on Jones, and he is pushed by the perform-
ers toward the house of a signare where he sees in the “cracked walls a secret im-
material atmosphere which intoxicates this musician to look for his origins.” The
past and present are conflated, and Jones meets a signare from the past and an old
man who was a friend of his grandfather, who relate the history of Saint-Louis. Be-
dazzled by the encounters, Jones goes to the river to seek solace. At this juncture
the actors, dancers, and musicians perform sabar, folk (a Senegalese term for in-
digenous music), salsa, jazz, and fusion songs. In the finale Jones calls forth the wa-
ter spirit, Mame Coumba Bak, by playing his clarinet. Upon her arrival they are
joined in the acknowledgment that Jones has discovered his past and can move
confidently into the future.
Inside the Odyssey
The blending of indigenous and modern cultural signs, time, and music in the
play illuminates the Senegaleses perception of themselves and African Ameri-
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cans within the pan-African imaginary that includes the African diaspora and
Africa. Characters are costumed in Senegalese mbubb (a dress or robe), Western
suits, and as musical instruments (e.g., kora, bass, electric guitar, djembe, and sabar
drums). Mythical figures such as Mame Coumba Bak, signares, and the giant ser-
pent interact with the contemporary Jones character. Time and place are conflat-
ed to express connections across the Atlantic and continuity between the past
and present in several ways. For example, Jones tours the city’s historically colo-
nial places (the governor’s mansion, the signare’s house, and the train station) and
spiritual sites (the waterfront and the cave) where he interacts with figures and
myths in the present, precolonial, and colonial past. Indigenous and Western-de-
rived musics are combined to reveal contemporary Senegalese identities. For ex-
ample, the sabar played at the round dance signifies the present and past in that it
is a historical genre still vital in contemporary Senegalese culture. When sabar is
combined with the rhythm section of electric bass, piano, and guitar to perform
songs in salsa, jazz, and fusion styles, a major characteristic of Senegalese cos-
mopolitanism and modernity is invokedthe appropriation of New World styles
into Senegalese music.
Jones’s odyssey demonstrates the long interest Senegalese have had in jazz.
Senegalese recognize the American origin of jazz but also assert their own ver-
sion and ability to contribute to a pan-African jazz consciousness. For example,
the program notes refer to jazz as “Afro-American,” and the production itself
is based on an American jazz musician discovering his African roots. When
Jones enters the cave and hears a ballad from the “universe of Saint-Louisian
jazz,” it is an affirmation of a distinctive Senegalese jazz voice. This claim of
a Senegalese jazz consciousness is based on acknowledging the African contribu-
tion to jazz and the ongoing practice of borrowing and internalizing African
American music into Senegalese popular music and culture. The figure of Jones
is cast as a world savvy jazz musician. He is a fictitious character based on Sene-
galese experiences with U.S. jazz musicians involved in the Saint-Louis Jazz Festi-
val. The festival is an annual event in Senegal that invokes the memory of Saint-
Louis as a major jazz center in West Africa from 19451957. There are actually
two main characters here, Jones and Saint-Louis. Jones is that traveling cosmo-
politan who attains awareness of his place in the world through the tutelage of
Saint-Louisians; Saint-Louis is portrayed as a postcolonial city whose nexus is jazz.
Complex transatlantic histories and contemporary relationships between the
U.S., France, and Senegal are illuminated in the narrative, music, and dance.
Saint-Louisians assert their agency as citizens of the world and decenter jazz from
its U.S. base.
I now turn to a historical overview of jazz in Senegal in order to untangle com-
plex cultural, social, and global processes that are embedded in the Billy Jones
Odyssey. The following survey will examine the role of cosmopolitans in spreading,
performing, and producing jazz in Senegal. I review how festivals contribute to es-
tablishing jazz as part of Senegal’s urban and national character. I then analyze jazz
performances in Dakar to reveal the way in which cosmopolitan interactions help
to fashion a jazz voice.
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Historical Overview
Early Influences (World War I–1950s)
Senegalese living in France during World War I and the interwar years were
the first cosmopolitans to encounter jazz. It is likely that during World War I the
music of the forty-four-piece 369th Infantry Regiment (known as the Harlem Hell-
fighters) jazz band, led by bandmaster James Reese Europe and drum major Noble
Sissle, was heard by French and Senegalese soldiers stationed in France who re-
turned to Senegal with jazz recordings and experiences of Reese’s performances.
Further, France provided an opportunity for cultural and social interactions be-
tween the French, American, and Senegalese since there were over 135,000 sol-
diers from French West Africa and nearly 200,000 U.S. black soldiers (Stovall
1996:124). During the interwar years Paris
became a center for jazz and meeting
ground for African Americans, African Caribbeans, and French West Africans. In
the 1920s jazz was extremely popular and expatriate black Americans began to
make the Montmartre section of Paris home. Parisians patronized dozens of jazz
clubs in Montmartre where they danced the Charleston and Black Bottom.
By the 1930s an expatriate U.S. black community was established, and many
artists, writers, painters and musicians involved in the Harlem renaissance visited
this community. French musicians, who were experimenting with jazz in the 1920s
and sitting in with African American musicians, began to form their own groups in
the 1930s. For example, in 1935 Stéphane Grappelli, Django Reinhardt, Coleman
Hawkins, and Benny Carter recorded an album, Coleman Hawkins and Benny
Carter (Stovall 1996:96). Additionally, in the1930s black students and intellectu-
als from French West Africa, the French West Indies, and the U.S. were meeting
and exchanging ideas about art, culture, and politics in Africa, Europe, the
Caribbean, and Americas. For example, Léopold Senghor wrote of the “literary sa-
lon” (19291934) of Jane and Andrée Nardal where he met “African negroes,
West Indians, and American Negroes” (Stovall 1996:107). At these gatherings the
Nardal sisters would play U.S. jazz, dance, and discuss the writings of the Harlem
Renaissance (e.g., Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Claude McKay),
racism, and other topics. The exchange of ideas at events such as these inspired
young black writers like Senghor and Aimé Césaire to found their own literary and
cultural journal, LEtudiant Noir (March 1935). This publication signaled the be-
ginning of negritude (blackness), a philosophical black humanist movement whose
driving force was to spread the knowledge of black culture and history in the world
and in so doing better humankind. As Tyler Stovall (1996) notes, negritude “was a
creation of French-speaking black intellectuals”(105) in a Parisian cosmopolitan
community where African Americans and blacks from the French colonies inter-
acted in jazz clubs (e.g., Bricktop’s), nightclubs that featured music from the
French Caribbean (e.g., Bal Négre in Montparnasse), and parlors (Stovall 1996:
82118). Thus, in Paris, Senegalese cosmopolitans such as Senghor were broaden-
ing their cultural horizons and began to identify with an African diaspora (i.e.,
blacks from the U.S. and French West Indies) and develop strategies for asserting
agency against racism and colonialism. Jazz was part of Senegalese students social
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and cultural life in Paris. This music and their political activities would play promi-
nent roles in affecting the urban character of Senegal upon their return. For the
1940s I turn to Senegal, where Saint-Louisians and Dakaroise appropriated jazz.
In 1942 the U.S. military occupied the port city of Dakar with detachments
quartered in Thiés and Saint-Louis. Sailors stationed in Dakar brought with them
instruments, records, and dance styles from the U.S.. Percussionist Gana M’Bow
I was not yet 20 years old and at that time lived in Dakar. My best friend
was the chauffeur of a grand marabout.
When he was free my friend
would come pick me up in the marabout’s gigantic black Cadillac and we
ploughed through the city, in every sense, to listen to this insane music
which leaked out of the dashboard’s radio and which “Voice of America”
used to broadcast. This is how I came to know jazz. A little time after in
1943, the first contingents of the American army arrived and I constantly
approached these orchestras of black American musicians to see at last
who was making this crazy peoples’ music and to be able to touch them
and to speak with them.
(lenormand 1996:36)
M’Bow’s experience with the soldiers, musicians, and U.S. radio programs led
him to pursue a career as a percussionist with jazz musicians. In 1948 he moved to
France and performed in Paris with French and Americans such as Pierre Miche-
lot, René Urtreger, Percy Heath, and Kenny Clarke. M’Bow would later work in
the U.S. with artists such as Max Roach and Sonny Stitt. Through the radio and
interaction with soldiers, M’Bow interpreted, learned, and performed jazz. His
quest led him through Paris, New York City, and Boston where he acquired new
experiences and knowledge from master musicians that would change his world-
Saint-Louis, like Dakar, was a key center for jazz. Between 1945 and 1957 the
capital of Senegal, Saint-Louis, became a major jazz hub of West Africa. It was the
economic, political, and artistic center, where intellectuals, artists, businessmen,
colonial administrators, soldiers, journalists, Mauritanians, Senegalese, Arabs,
sabar ensembles, and griots filled the streets and clubs listening and dancing to jazz
bands and orchestras. Saint-Louisian musician and local historian Marious
Gouané (2002), recalls that in 1945 U.S. troops in Saint-Louis played marches
and fanfares in the town square. After these pieces the band would play jazz. Ac-
cording to Gouané the first Saint-Louisians to begin performing jazz were the gri-
ots, who were particularly attracted to the blues and up-tempo dance pieces.
Photographs and register records from the 1940s indicate that bands such as
Amicale Jazz, Saint-Louisien, and Sor Jazz (whose typical instrumentation includ-
ed banjos, accordion, snare and bass drum, alto saxophones, guitar, and trumpets)
imitated the performance style of New Orleans music (Lenormand 1996). Saxo-
phonist Abdoulaye N’Diaye (son of Saint-Louisian saxophonist Barud N’Diaye)
recalls “they dressed exactly like the New Orleans style. They were serious in mu-
sic with the dress, ensemble, cravat and they have the same drums you see. One
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sock cymbal you know, that was the same you see in New Orleans” (N’Diaye
This early borrowing of music, dress, and instrumentation of New Orleans jazz
style indicates three key aspects in this Senegalese appropriation. Jazz was an urban
music that resonated with Saint-Louisian pride in their cosmopolitan status. Sec-
ond, jazz was a music created by U.S. blacks and not French colonials. Thioub and
Benga (1999:218221) argue that the appropriation of jazz was a rupture from
French hegemony and not an overt political act of resistance. These authors also
claim that the colonials favored the tango, paso doble, French song, and waltz in
their segregated clubs. However, I have shown that there are other French connec-
tions through Senegalese Parisian experiences. Finally, jazz was an urban dance
music that appealed to Senegalese in the cities. In rural Senegal dance music re-
volves around the sabar, a drumming ensemble that features the layering of repeat-
ed interlocked rhythms. A lead drummer who will play distinct lead patterns on
top of the groove directs the overall rhythmic drive. The lead drummer often solos
and communicates with dancers who enter the circle, establishing a dialogue based
on traditional dances and new gestures created by participants. Improvisation by
the lead drummer (and dancers) consists of drawing upon an established vocabu-
lary of patterns, which are varied and modified with new elements. New Orleans
jazz and sabar are entirely different genres. However, I wish to emphasize that
dance is an important part of life in Senegal and opens a space for discovering and
experiencing different cultures. For example, sabar is primarily a Wolof dance,
though it may incorporate rhythms of the Fulani and Serer of Senegal.
By the 1950s Senegalese were playing their version of bebop. Groups such as
Star Jazz and the All Stars emerged, with talented soloists including saxophonists
Baraud N’Diaye, Papa Samba Diop, and Abou Sy, trumpeter Mustapha Diop, gui-
tarist Cheik Tidiane Tall, vocalist Aminata Fall, and bassist Ady Seck. Pho-
tographs of Senegalese bop and swing groups show ensembles of men dressed in
sharp Western attire, in contrast to the New Orleans groups with their identical
uniforms. The audience dressed in the same manner as the bop band members,
with women in both indigenous African and Western styles. Images of African
American musicians in Paris and the U.S. were shown in periodicals such as the
West African magazine Bingo, which ran features and photographs on Lionel
Hampton, Lil Armstrong, Louis Armstrong, Don Byas, Duke Ellington, Sidney
Bechet, Charlie Parker, and Mary Lou Williams. The awareness by Senegalese of
Western clothing style demonstrates an additional layer of monitoring of Ameri-
can cultural products and style as the reality of independence came closer.
In 1958, after Charles de Gaulle had come to power in France, Senegal be-
came an autonomous republic within the French Community (the French Repub-
lic, overseas territories, overseas departments, and six independent African re-
publics). Under the leadership of the soon to be president Léopold Sédar Senghor,
Senegalese political leaders transferred all administrative and governmental busi-
ness to Dakar. Due to the withdrawal of patronage by elites and government work-
ers from Saint-Louis, the economy and jazz scene deteriorated. Between
19581960 Senegal was becoming an independent nation while maintaining close
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ties to France. Senegalese national identities were being negotiated within the
dual constructs of a French allegiance and pan-Africanism. Inspired by the writings
and activities of W. E. B. Du Bois and Aimé Césaire, Senghor promoted the ide-
ologies of pan-Africanism and his concept of negritude, which emphasized African
values and culture as a positive ideology that could benefit humanity as opposed to
the negative paternal constructions of a “primitive Africa” espoused in colonialist
discourse. He realized his views through his art and political career. For example,
the instructions in some of Senghor’s poems called for the use of traditional and
modern instruments such as clarinet and balafon, or “jazz orchestra” (Bender
1991:32). Senegalese who had lived in Paris such as politicians Blaise Diagne and
Tiémoko Garan Kouyaté (who had collaborated with pan-Africanist George Pad-
more) were simultaneously exposed to jazz and other black intellectuals involved
in pan-African and nationalist movements. These Senegalese and soldiers re-
turned to Senegal with burgeoning black Atlantic ideologies and experiences with
jazz that they shared with family and friends.
Jazz, Salsa, Variété (1940s–1970s)
As Senegal began to form as a nation, African diasporic popular musics were
more widely incorporated into Senegalese popular culture. Since the 1940s not jazz
but salsa or more precisely the cha-cha-chá, pachanga, rumba, paso doble, charanga,
bolero, mambo, and other Latin styles were popular with Senegalese. These styles
were found throughout French West Africa and diffused by the record company
Electrical and Musical Industries (EMI),
which had absorbed England’s Gramo-
phone Company Ltd. and the American company Victor. After World War II the
“GV” or “Spanish” records from Havana in the 1940s and 1950s contained over
two hundred titles, most of which were recorded before the war and later reissued
as a bid to boost sales. It was the tune “El Manicero ‘The Peanut Vendor,’” com-
posed by Moises Simon, who combined son and pregón rhythms, that captured the
imagination of Senegalese and many West African bands (Mukunda 2000:109).
Additional sons released included “Sacudiendo mis Maracas” by Sexteto Habanero
as well as other styles such as the bolero “Elixir de la Vida” by guitarist Miguel
Matamoros and his Trio Matamoros and the samba “Madalena” from Banda Rico
Creole. A wider range of styles were later released, such as calypsos and African
popular musics from artists such as Shake Keane and the West African Swing
Stars, which covered E. T. Mensah songs (Stapleton and May 1987:21).
Senegalese bands in the 1940s and 1950s such as Sor Jazz, St. Louisien Jazz,
and Orchestre du Grand Diop at the Moulin Rouge nightclub in Dakar played jazz
rumbas, marches, and waltzes for elites with strong cultural ties to France. By the
1950s and through the 1960s Cuban and jazz music dominated most nightclubs in
Senegal’s urban centers, solidifying these genres in the tastes of the general popula-
tion. By the late sixties the style and repertoire of the group Khalam signaled the
way in which jazz would be used in Senegalese music. Young musicians who had
grown up hearing jazz and salsa now blended traditionnel melodies and rhythms into
their songs. Eventually the practice of playing sets that combined traditionnel, soul,
rock, salsa, African pop, and Senegalese popular music became known as variété.
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Jazz in Senegal became associated with a wider range of genres outside of what
Americans would term jazz.
As the sixties progressed, 45-rpm records of popular music were brought into
the country by elites who had been living in Europe. On the back of these discs
were illustrations of dance steps corresponding to that record’s popular music style.
Thus, with the help of the traveling cosmopolitan, new dances were appropriated
by Senegalese youth who turned to three styles of music. For example, Saint-
Louisian Khalil Gueye recalls that parties in his youth featured three genres. First,
the “long hair” kids listened to pop and rock ‘n’ roll played by the Doors, Rick Nel-
son, Johnny Hallyday, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Second, the “slick
hairs” enjoyed soul music played by such artists as Etta James and Otis Redding.
Third, youth dressed in Latin American styles favored Cuban music by groups such
as Orchestra Aragon, Bravo, and Ray Baretto.
Of these three genres salsa had
proved the most resilient in sustaining a prominent space in Senegalese popular
music and culture.
However, Senegals independence in 1960 inspired Senegalese to create their
own national popular music. In the late 1960s, during nightclubs variété sets,
Senegalese instruments were added to the prevailing instrumentation of guitar,
keyboards, electric bass, horns, drums, and timbales. Sabar drums were foreground-
ed and their rhythms played on the keyboards and guitars, which transformed these
harmonic instruments into tonal percussion. Senegalese from all social classes were
drawn to the new sound. This was the birth of mbalax, which was the creolized ex-
pression of these genres featuring sabar rhythms. Mbalax represents a national
identity based on the internalization of foreign genres (jazz, Latin music, soul,
highlife, and Afro-Beat)
blended with indigenous music and performance prac-
tice styles to mark a cosmopolitan formation of Senegalese identity. The integra-
tion of jazz within mbalax reflects the intersection of French and African diasporic
circuits maintained through musicians, elites, and cosmopolitans inflecting their
experiences onto local scenes that operate on Senegalese cultural principles. As
the popularity of mbalax rose as a national dance music, U.S. jazz became associat-
ed with foreign musics and was seen as a listening music.
Institutionalizing Jazz (1960s–1990s)
In 1966 the Senegalese government, led by Léopold Senghor, hosted the Fes-
tival of Negro Arts, which featured Duke Ellington,
Josephine Baker, Marian
Anderson, Louis Armstrong (the first major U.S. jazz artist to visit Senegal in ear-
ly 1960s), Ella Fitzgerald, and Catherine Dunham. The aim of the festival was to
celebrate the diversity and unity of Africans and people of African descent, pro-
mote negritude, commemorate Senegal’s peaceful transition to independence, and
encourage a pan-African unity agenda among the newly independent African na-
tions. The festival was a success and has continued under various names in differ-
ent countries. Under Senghor’s direction the government participated in sponsor-
ing jazz musicians such as Phil Woods, Frank Foster, Irene Reid, and the All-Star
Big Band directed by Billy Taylor that featured Frank Foster, Jimmy Owens, Kenny
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Rodgers, and Slide Hampton playing music by Ellington and Basie. Additional
sponsorship by African American organizations such as the Jackie Robinson Foun-
dation reflected the economic and political link between African American and
African institutions.
The U.S. State Department likewise sponsored jazz events, to promote Amer-
ican culture, with artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong,
and Pharaoh Sanders. The U.S. government continues to promote jazz in Senegal
through lectures, concerts, mass media events, and the Jazz Ambassador Program of
International Cultural Exchange. Begun in 1998, this program is a collaboration
between the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the United
States Information Agency (USIA). The program blends the Kennedy Center’s
mission, “the provision of opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to
learn about and to experience the performing arts” though “its commitment to the
recognition and celebration of the rich heritage of the American people,” and
USIAs goal to promote “mutual understanding between the United States and
other countries through a series of educational and cultural exchange activities”
(Kennedy Center 1999). In 19992000 the group chosen for the West African leg
of the Jazz Ambassadors program was a trio from Mississippi whose repertoire (e.g.,
Ellington, Paul Webster, John Lewis, and originals) reflected that year’s theme
honoring Duke Ellington’s one hundredth birthday. Concerts were held at the U.S.
ambassador’s home and at the French Cultural Center. The group conducted a
master class at the American Cultural Center and an arranged television appear-
ance was canceled because of the station’s inability to provide the necessary tech-
nical support for broadcast. Their official itinerary was restricted to venues accessi-
ble to the middle class and elite of Dakar.
Likewise, France promotes jazz in
Senegal through its Centres Culturels Français (CCF). This program hosts many
jazz, salsa, and blues concerts, providing access to literature, films, and lectures, but
reaches a restricted audience.
Shortly after the Jazz Ambassadors’ performance, the British and Italian em-
bassies sponsored jazz concerts showcasing their nation’s performers. The goal of
these events was to promote cultural and business ties. Recognizing Senegal’s his-
tory with jazz, the British and Italian embassies sought to expand Senegalese iden-
tification of the genre with a wider international arena. This was achieved by spon-
soring jazz concerts in public venues with low entrance fees and programming that
included collaboration between Senegalese and European musicians based on jazz-
fusion styles more accessible to Senegalese. Additionally, British officials related to
me that jazz was chosen to dispel Senegalese notions of Great Britain as a country
without a black presence.
These instances of musical exchanges through workshops and collaborations
enhance Senegalese knowledge of jazz performance practice from the West and
demonstrate another example of jazz infusion. However, an ironic tension exists in
that the European nations’ goal of promoting their distinctive character relies on
jazz’s ability to articulate a pan-African black consciousness. For example, the
British use jazz as a means to advertise Great Britain’s racial diversity and inclusiv-
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ity. However, in the group that performed in Senegal there was only one black
member. Therefore, it was the musical elements grounded in transnational ex-
changes and the racialized overtone of jazz that overrode the actual enactment.
Saint-Louis International Jazz Festival (1990–2000)
In 1990 Xaaban Thiam, Badou Sarr, Pape Laye Sarr, Abdu Aziz Seck, and
Abdu Diallo founded the Saint-Louis Jazz Festival as a way to resuscitate the city’s
cosmopolitan status and in the hopes of promoting tourism and the city’s interna-
tional reputation through the development of cultural and artistic life in Saint-
Louis. The first concert was in a garage and was followed by official Senegalese
recognition and financial help from the Saint-Louis Centre Culturel Français
(CCF) in 1991. In 1992 the CCF took over the festival, which created discontent
among Senegalese because ticket prices rose beyond the general population’s abili-
ty to pay and the five founders’ input was reduced. In response to popular pressure
and press criticism, an alliance was formed in 1993 between the Senegalese orga-
nizers and the CCF. In 1999 complete control was given to a newly formed Sene-
galese association. The founders’ goal of creating an internationally recognized in-
stitution that would revitalize the economic and cultural life of Saint-Louis was
partially realized, but because of the CCF financial and administrative pull-out the
festival suffered from the lack of technical support, sponsorship, and organization-
al experience.
During the festival hotels are filled to capacity, and families rent out space to
visitors at elevated prices, thus boosting the local economy. Attendees are largely
Europeans, nongovernmental organization employees working in West Africa,
Senegalese and returned Senegalese immigrants, students, bureaucrats, profession-
als, and academics. Nightclubs and restaurants with names such as the Blue Note
and Marco Jazz provide venues for off-duty musicians to collaborate.
The festival lasts three days between late May and early June in order to coin-
cide with school and European vacations. Performances are spread throughout the
island Ndar (Saint-Louis), with headlining acts confined to the “in,” or main stage,
where tickets are required, and all other performances to the “off ” stages, which
are free to the public. For Senegalese it is crucial to have an American artist pres-
ent. American guests in the past have included Jack DeJohnette, Herbie Hancock,
Archie Schepp, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Johnson, Hal Singer, Joe Zawinul, Steve
Coleman, Johnny Griffin, Liz McComb, Elvin Jones, and David Murray. Other na-
tions, primarily from the francophone countries, supply the bulk of performers,
such as groups led by Lorraine Desmarais (Quebec, Canada), Nathalie Loriers
(Belgium), Hervé Meshinet (France), Olivier Temime (France), Robert Jeanne
(Belgium), Manu Dibango (Cameroon/Paris), Xabaan Thiam (Senegal), Ray
Lema (Zaire), and Moncef Genoud (Switzerland). The use of many European and
white performers instead of black artists indicates a paradox to my argument. This
situation reflects a wider imagining that “authentic” jazz is best performed by Afri-
can Americans. However, contemporary jazz is a global phenomenon performed by
many people, as is evidenced by the presence of numerous European artists in the
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festival. Further, I suggest that it is the image of jazz as a sign of African American
allegiance with Africa and these musical links that are relevant in this context.
Main stage concerts begin at 9:00 p.m., while off stage performances (free to
the public) are held throughout the day and feature local mbalax, fusion, jazz, and
Afro-Beat groups. Programming foreign performers on the main stage and Sene-
galese on the off stage caused tension among Senegalese musicians and patrons.
Organizers respond that the création, collaboration between African, American,
and European artists, sometimes based on a few days of rehearsals, is a sufficient an-
swer to this criticism. Créations have included collaborations of African musicians
with the African Project in 2000; Olivier Temime Quartet (France), Kayou Band
(Cameroon), and Yande Codou (Senegal) in 1999; Harmattan (Senegal) in 1998;
and Steve Coleman and the Five Elements with members of Afro-Cuba de Matan-
zas and conguero, Miguel “Anga” Diaz in 1997.
Collaboration also occurs in
workshops and jam sessions in Dakar and Saint-Louis between festival musicians
and Senegalese. These informal settings provide an opportunity for the exchange
of knowledge about African and international styles, rhythmic concepts, as well as
Western jazz performance practice. Jazz for Senegalese becomes an international
music that can be appropriated, commodified, and used to express their modern
voice among francophone countries as well as a pan-African imaginary that in-
cludes French West Africa, America, and Europe. For Senegalese, then, jazz is
“world music, “an international phenomenon that provides a nexus in which to
participate in the global sphere.
Additionally, these collaborations illustrate how cosmopolitans from afar
broaden the cultural and musical horizons of local cosmopolitans. As John Tom-
linson states “the first characteristic of cosmopolitanism, then is a keen grasp of a
globalized world as one in which ‘there are no others’”(Tomlinson 1999:194). Dis-
tance between different cultural and musical positions is diminished by the use of
jazz as a musical medium. The performers rely on musical elements such as synco-
pation, polyrhythms and rhythmic complexity, collective improvisation, repeti-
tion, and a vocal and melodic quality associated with the blues.
Wedded to these
musical elements are similar performance practice dynamics that vary according to
locale yet retain core features important to musicians and audiences such as the
layering of grooves to maintain improvisatory and musical space for communica-
tion between instrumentalists and audience.
The inclusion of francophone circuits in understanding the formation of Sene-
galese modern identities (e.g., colonial policies, an elite with close ties to France
that disseminates jazz and pan-African ideology, and the inclusion of francophone
musicians and concomitant political clashes in the Saint-Louis Jazz Festival)
broadens Paul Gilroy’s conceptualization of the black Atlantic (1993), which fo-
cuses on the construction of black, modern, transnational identities of Britain,
North America, and the Caribbean. For Gilroy one aspect of black modern identi-
ty elaborates the way in which the residual horrors of slavery and imperialism ex-
pressed in black music “contribute to historical memories inscribed and incorpo-
rated into the volatile core of Afro-Atlantic cultural creation” (73). This resonates
11Mangin 12/18/03 4:34 PM Page 235
with Hervé Lenormand and the Association Saint-Louis Jazz’s history of jazz in
Senegal (1996:713), which cites a history of violence as one of the primary factors
for the birth of jazz in the U.S. and its dissemination into Senegal, where locals un-
derstood the genre’s relationship to slavery, racism, colonialism, and wars. Further,
the expansion of jazz into popular Senegalese culture as a result of U.S. military oc-
cupation, influence of elites, government sponsorship, and integration into night-
club performances demonstrates a musical continuum that harkens back to
Senegambians shipped to French Louisiana in the seventeenth century.
As new
technologies and media facilitate the spread of information and travel between
global cities increases, jazz in Senegal becomes a way to negotiate evolving modern
identities in the African diaspora in the twenty-first century.
Interpreting Jazz
Three performance types characterize the live jazz scene in Dakar: jazz is in-
cluded during a variété set,
small jazz ensembles perform bop, post-bop, blues,
modal, and fusion standards, and the most widespread diffusion of jazz takes place
in the first three to four songs an mbalax group will play (usually originals and fu-
sion such as Joe Zawinul’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”) before their lead singer enters
the stage, after which the band plays solely mbalax tunes. Additional jazz has been
disseminated through television programs, movies, radio, CDs, LPs, and cassettes.
In the following sections I focus on Senegalese musicians’ interpretations of Amer-
ican jazz, Senegalese imaginings of jazz, and the influence of cosmopolitans in the
Dakar jazz scene.
Jazz and Sabar: Jammin’ at Club Alizé
Jazz in Dakar nightclubs is influenced by locally trained musicians and cosmo-
politan Senegalese who travel, work, and study abroad, accumulating social and
cultural knowledge that they internalize and, upon return to Senegal, share with
local cosmopolitans. Nightclub manager Tanor Diang explains the spread of jazz as
people who were studying overseas, I mean France or in the States or the
intellectual people used to listen to jazz music for a long long time before
the sixties. In the time of Billie Holiday or Louis Armstrong, those kinds
of great musicians since then they listened to jazz. And a lot of jazz musi-
cians from the States came and performed here. People listened to it and
the students at the University when they listen to music it is mostly jazz
and that’s why jazz is very expansive here. Dakar is the capital of jazz in
West Africa. . . . Having friends all over the world wherever they play
jazz they bring the CD or cassettes. You never get into a car with a cassette
without listening to jazz music.
(diang 2000)
Diang identifies a cosmopolitan network between France, Senegal, and the U.S.,
which is traversed by musicians, students, elites, and intellectuals. Senegalese cos-
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mopolitans in this network listen, internalize, and then share their knowledge of
jazz among friends and family in Dakar, contributing to the development of a Sene-
galese jazz sensibility.
Diang continues:
We feel like jazz belongs a little bit to us. It seems like it was coming from
here. The way the beat is, the complaint, the singers. We feel close to jazz,
we feel it when we listen to jazz. Even if 99% don’t speak English, they
don’t know what the singer is saying, what is interesting is that they feel
the beat of jazz. Dixieland or any type of jazz, they feel it.
(diang 2000)
Diang recognizes jazz as a transnational phenomenon with African roots and
Diang’s emphasis on the beat and melodic qualities of jazz as musical ele-
ments Senegalese can associate with (beyond an understanding of song texts)
demonstrates an understanding of Senegal’s incorporation of jazz into their popular
music over time and to historic syncretic practices from the New World based on
West African music elements such as those embedded in the ring shout (Floyd
1995:7, 3548). A brief biographical sketch of Diang will illuminate characteris-
tics of a Senegalese cosmopolitan influencing the Dakar jazz scene.
In the 1970s Diang attended New York University and immersed himself in
the jazz culture of Greenwich Village. Diang vividly recalls the night he attended
a jazz club on Seventh Avenue in New York City, where the headlining act was Stan
Getz. Later in the evening Jimmy Owens walked in and jammed with Getz’s band.
The magic of that night and similar ones remained with Diang, and thus he has in-
stituted a nightly live music jam session at his nightclub Alizé. His idea was to have
an “after-work” party modeled on the U.S. “happy hour.” The goal was to provide an
environment in which people could relax, socialize, and negotiate business. “The
Senegalese beat [mbalax] is too jumpy, you see. And to make those people relax and
so on, jazz was the real music I felt like giving to them. In my own opinion the best
music to relax to is jazz, it’s a listening music. I’ve been into jazz a long long time”
(Diang 2000). Diang created an environment in which musicians could improvise,
experiment with new forms, and have regular gigs, thus addressing his and some mu-
sicians’ resentment of mbalax’s “stranglehold” over musical life in Dakar. Diang’s af-
ter-work party is a result of his elite cosmopolitan experience in New York that in
turn influences local Senegalese cosmopolitans’ awareness of practices abroad and
fosters an environment for interchanges that further the sharing of knowledge.
Mbalax’s domination in popular music in Senegal stemmed from the creation
of the genre as an articulation of Senegal’s independence. The genre is based on
sabar rhythms blended with Cuban, jazz, and Afro-pop styles. Sabar embodies the
history of feasts, harvests, and celebration of life cycle events. It is most frequently
performed at women’s events where community issues can be mediated. Men
dance to sabar at wrestling matches (lamb) and community youth events (simb). In
the nightclub the dynamics and utility of sabar changes under the rubric of mbal-
ax. Men dance with women and no longer are individuals restricted to dancing
specific dances to sabar rhythms.
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In Diang’s club jazz evenings become forums for improvisatory experiments in
which different styles are blended, syncretized, and developed. For example, Tues-
day nights at Alizé are called Soirée Senegalaise and feature mbalax. The evenings
begin around 8:30 p.m. with cocktails and recorded jazz on the stereo. Usually up-
per-middle-class businessmen, government workers, Senegalese who have been
living abroad, and young women socialize. At 9:00 p.m. a jazz or improvisation en-
semble performs. The musicians are most often members of popular mbalax bands
who have formed ensembles to explore jazz. The repertoire from one such group,
Fenni Fare (mbalax musicians in Omar Pene’s band), includes tunes frequently
heard in Dakar such as “Billie’s Bounce,” “Donna Lee,” “Misty,” and a funk tune.
Often Senegalese musicians substitute chord progressions during the solo sections,
as, for example, blues changes played during the solo passages of “Donna Lee.”
In general there is a lack of knowledge of U.S. jazz theory and repertoire. Sene-
galese bandleaders who have studied and performed under knowledgeable musi-
cians such as Americans Sam Sanders and David Murray improvise close to a
song’s chord changes, and sets consist of diverse repertoire. For example, Ab-
doulaye N’Diaye’s sets consisted of a twelve-bar blues “I Remember April,” “Stella
by Starlight,” “All Blues,” “Fifth House,” “Impressions,” “Darn that Dream,”
“Beautiful Love,” “Body and Soul,” “Nardis,” and some free improvisation. N’Di-
aye learned U.S. approaches to jazz through his apprenticeship with the U.S. jazz
musicians Murray and Sanders when they visited, worked, and performed in Dakar.
N’Diaye and other musicians take this knowledge from their sessions with the
Americans and share it with other local musicians who have similar but different
experiences, thus creating a local habitus that will share some similar characteris-
tics with other jazz locals.
By 12:00 a.m. patrons dressed in both indigenous and Western-style clothing
arrive for the mbalax set which feature dancing to the recorded hits of Senegal’s
popular stars. At 3:00 a.m. the dance floor clears and an MC entertains the audi-
ence with jokes and announcements followed by a popular salsa, mbalax or rap
artist who lip-synchs a song they are promoting. Around 3:30 a.m. sabar drummers
enter and perform a combination of standard sabar repertoire (e.g., ceebu gen) with
modern instrumentation such as a keyboardist playing jazz riffs and melodies lines
from Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” in duple time as opposed to the original’s meter in
five/four. As the evening progresses a circle forms, standard sabar repertoire is per-
formed without electronic accompaniment, and dancers from the audience enter
the space one at a time, usually in mbubb. When women are in European clothing
they borrow a wrap for their hips. The dancing involves one person locked in dia-
logue with one drummer. Successive dancers comment or compete on previous
dancer’s performance via more energetic or expressive movements, often creating
new dances and gestures. This is a re-creation of the sabar circle (guew bi) in which
tassu (a partially improvised praise singing), dancing, and drumming is involved
throughout Senegal.
This example demonstrates a particular way in which jazz becomes part of
Senegalese popular culture. The sabar drummers and musicians influenced by the
early jazz set and recordings played at Alizé take these influences, alter them ac-
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cording to their own aesthetics, and then experiment with them within tradition-
al sabar performance practice aesthetics. The nightclub is a liminal space in which
patrons may or may not transgress boundaries and moral codes, such as prohibi-
tions against smoking and drinking in a country that is 91 percent Muslim. Later
these experiences are internalized and incorporated in varying degrees in sabar and
mbalax performances inside and outside the club. Diang’s after-work party allows
musicians to experiment with American jazz repertoire, incorporate that knowl-
edge into their playing, and develop their own styles. These musicians then per-
form in different venues and reach a wider audience in the network of the Dakar
nightclub scene. For example, within walking distance to Alizé are three night-
clubs that cater to a less affluent audience and wider network of musicians that of-
ten includes players from Alizé. In this scene Senegalese musicians who have been
traveling abroad with mbalax bands on the world music circuit frequently sit in
and jam with various groups. These musicians and those from Alizé will collabo-
rate and share their knowledge within a more culturally and musically restrained
club scene that caters and adheres to the working-class Senegalese who do not de-
sire too much innovation.
Cosmopolitans such as Senegalese elites, soldiers, and musicians spread jazz and
their cultural knowledge of foreign places in Dakar and Saint-Louis thus influenc-
ing Senegalese popular culture and music. However, in the nightclubs jazz was
blended with local music styles and other African American musics to create
mbalax, which emerged as the primary signifier of Senegalese national identity. To-
day Senegalese claim jazz as both part of their heritage and as a vital link to
modernity in the black Atlantic. Local cosmopolitan musical and cultural horizons
are expanded because of the frequent collaborations in the nightclubs of Dakar and
events such as the Saint-Louis jazz festival. These collaborations amongst Sene-
galese musicians and U.S. musicians are mediated within working-class clubs that
foreground Senegalese musical and cultural tastes. In the following section I focus
on jazz performances in the Dakar nightclubs Toolu Buur and Sunrise Jazz. I reveal
how complex historical processes contribute to contemporary performances of jazz
through cosmopolitan interactions.
Jazz and Mbalax: Sunrise Jazz Club
Near Alizé are three nightclubs: Sahel, Toolu Buur, and Sunrise Jazz. In the
1970s Sahel was the first modern nightclub built to accommodate the emerging
mbalax groups, as it still does today, although it also accommodates hip hop and
other dance musics. Connected to Sahel is Sunrise Jazz club, a small space that fea-
tures jazz, variété, Afro-pop, and mbalax. Toolu Buur is across the parking lot and is
known for salsa, salsa/mbalax, and mbalax. Unlike Alizé, the clientele is lower to
middle class, since these clubs have lower entrance fees and free admission on cer-
tain nights. This zone attracts and books a wide range of artists. The atmosphere in
the area welcomes musicians to sit in on each others’ sets. One group where musi-
cians frequently sit in is Dieuf Dieul.
Dieuf Dieul named their style “Mandingo mbalax,” yet fans refer to it as “jazz
11Mangin 12/18/03 4:34 PM Page 239
mbalax.” Dieuf Dieul is influenced by Afro-Beat and musicians such as Jimi Hen-
drix, George Benson, Lee Ritenour, David Murray, and Miles Davis. The following
narrative from my fieldwork typifies the flow of events at a Dieuf Dieul perfor-
mance. The set begins with a quartet of bass, drums, keyboard, and guitar playing
original compositions characterized by theme statement, solos, and another theme
statement. Solos are not improvised within fixed song forms (e.g., AABA or AAB)
but begin and end with statements of themes by the lead instruments when the
soloist within the collective communicates sufficient tension or trajectory signal-
ing the conclusion of his solo.
After two songs, alto saxophonist Abdoulaye
N’Diaye joins the group, utilizing phrases and patterns found in U.S. jazz.
By the
fifth song, the “jazz set” is over and the emphasis is now on mbalax, when a vocal-
ist and two sabar drummers join the group. The sabar players fuse modern grooves
with traditional rhythms based on mbalax. The singer’s vocals (mostly in Tukulor)
are melismatic and slightly nasal, reflecting Senegal’s long association with the
Arab north. A tama player joins the ensemble and the overall sound emphasizes
the percussion over harmonic progressions that are reflected in audience members
dancing improvised steps in duet with the lead drummer. The evening’s energy lev-
el increases as more dancers engage the percussionists, particularly when a sabar
plays a bakk, the highly demarcated solo passage in which the player improvises
and “says something.” Throughout the night guest musicians and singers sit in
adding their voices to the collective while appreciative audience members give
money to the singers and drummers who have taken them to higher levels.
This performance reveals nuances of Senegalese perceptions of jazz. When the
sabar drummers began, the other instrumentalists considered the jazz set finished
because they were relegated to performing mostly accompanying repetitious phras-
es. However, audience members still considered the mbalax jazzy because the in-
strumentalists occasionally took lengthy improvisatory solos and used dissonant
harmonies such as diminished chords as opposed to other mbalax groups who re-
frain from extended solos and dense chords. Additionally, there were performance
characteristics common to U.S. jazz used during the mbalax set such as repetition
of phrases, riffs, call and response, extensive use of hemiolas, polyrhythms, musi-
cians sitting in, and intense communication between dancers and drummers. Fur-
ther, Senegalese drummers, musicians, and dancers were engaged in musical dia-
logues reminiscent of U.S. tap dancers and big bands and lindy hopping in
ballrooms (Malone 1998).
How do Senegalese musicians perceive jazz? Dieuf Dieul’s musical director and
keyboardist Nankou Sembene explains:
Jazz is more complete than other music. The possibility of jazz. Senegalese
music depends mainly on the rhythms, percussions. With the rhythms, par
exemple, the instruments do not really really express [things] because
there are rhythms and the singers on it. Because there is not very very long
times when people in Senegal started to know piano, organ, guitar. Before
we know the balafon, the kora, the xalam, the flute. Even today there are
instruments that we cannot play well, that’s why, because of this, a young
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country, jazz [is important], we need to listen, to listen to jazz . . . to learn
and, with this knowledge, to join with African music. We can show to all
the people, you know. With this we can have a nice knowledge.
(sembene 2000)
For Sembene jazz is a music whose meanings are submerged (compared to
mbalax) under dense harmonies and performance practices not common to Sene-
galese popular music.
When these jazz practices are blended with indigenous mu-
sic a fusion can emerge that expresses a modern Senegalese identity characterized
by the historical and present ambitions to incorporate music and cultural dimen-
sions from the African diaspora into local cultural expressions.
Dieuf Dieul and David Murray
The Dieuf Dieul performance analyzed above followed a concert for the
UNESCO summit on education held in Dakar. Many of the musicians for that
concert were members of Dieuf Dieul and guest soloists at Sunrise Jazz. U.S. com-
poser, band leader, and saxophonist David Murray, who has been collaborating
with Senegalese musicians since 1996, selected, rehearsed, and directed the musi-
cians for the April 28 UNESCO date. Instrumentation included a kora (twenty-
one-string harp-lute), balon (five-string bass harp), a Fulani flute, Wolof and Jola
sabar drums, guitar, voice, and alto and soprano saxophone. Matters of tuning and
strategies for leaving space open for performers during solos were based on Murray’s
aesthetic as a jazz musician. For example, since there were indigenous African in-
struments with limited tuning ranges blending with chromatic instruments, issues
of tuning were complex. For Murray the instruments were “out of tune,” whereas
for the other musicians texture and rhythm took precedence over intonation. Mur-
ray’s consistent guidance on the nuances of tuning during the UNESCO rehearsals
resulted in the musicians who performed later that evening at Sunrise Jazz taking
additional time to tune up. This example represents one way in which a U.S. jazz
musician influences practice at the local level.
There is a tension between the primacy of rhythm, as an essential cultural
marker of Senegalese identity,
and harmony as an identifying marker of jazz and
transatlantic modernity. For Senegalese, rhythms can represent specific aspects of
their lives, since drumming occurs at multiple community events and is en-
trenched in performances that negotiate and articulate people’s existence. For ex-
ample, the tonal character of drums such as the tama may imitate speech as well as
convey messages. In sabar performances I have witnessed, tamas immediately re-
peat the sonorities and rhythms of spoken text by griots. In griot recordings such as
Keepers of the Talking Drum (see Mangin 1999) or on cassettes by Salam Diallo such
as Soirée Senegalaise one can hear drums repeating spoken phrases.
This close re-
lationship between rhythm and meaning marks a nuanced similarity and difference
between jazz and Senegalese popular music that Murray conceptualizes in terms of
“language” and “languageness”:
We [African Americans] have a language inside of our music. In most Af-
11Mangin 12/18/03 4:34 PM Page 241
rican music the rhythms are words, expressions, meanings, and codes. Our
language [U.S. English]—maybe because our language was never our
own—is not in our music, especially now in jazz . . . so we are mixing a
languageness with a music that is language. Like, there we have big similarity
and a great big difference. The differences are bigger than the similarities
in that regard.
(murray 2000; emphasis mine)
For Murray, Senegalese rhythms contain more direct referential meanings to
society and culture, which differs from U.S. jazz, which communicates ideas further
divorced from spoken language. Murray’s “languageness” in U.S. jazz is in fact an
aspect of the complex relationship between language and music used to mediate
and express twentieth-century African American and American culture and socie-
ty (see Monson 1996).
Further, when Murray clams that the “language was never our own” there is re-
sentment and a sense of loss over the disconnection from Africa due to violence
and racial oppression from the New World slave trade—a condition that many
black cultures across the Atlantic share (Gilroy 1993:8081).
Murray broadens his discussion of similarities and differences in his experi-
ences with Senegalese musicians to improvisation. He continues:
A lot of times the concept of improvisation in African music is not as far
advanced as in jazz. Like a guy will play what he knows in African music,
but not so much, they won’t play what they don’t know. In jazz we’ll play
the stuff we know, but great improvisers will jump off a cliff and go into an
area that he don’t know nothing about and land on his feet. I’m trying to
get the African musicians to jump off that cliff too.... I want them to
build a world around themselves. It would be great if they could do that
more often.... The drummers build a base for us to build our improvisa-
tion on. In the end sometimes it ends up being that. And then you bring
them into it by doing that. After awhile it becomes infectious and then
they might get it that way. Once they hear something they can copy it and
say “Yeah, OK.” But a lot of African people want to tell you that this is a
rhythm from this country and we have to play it right and they don’t want
to mess it up. “This rhythm is from Mali.” You talk to Mor Thiam, or
somebody like that, “This rhythm is from the Ivory Coast, and this
rhythm is from South Africa.” And their language is [in] that, but don’t
mess it up. So, me, I wanna mess it up.
(murray 2000)
Recognizing that Senegalese and American musicians take a different approach to
performing, Murray descends into the music and drumming with his “language-
ness,” communicating on sonic levels created from different perceptual origins but
relying on the percussionists to establish a common ground for improvisations.
When mutual understanding is achieved, ideas are presented, copied, and varied.
In this instance rhythm is used as a way to bridge different conceptions of perform-
ing jazz and facilitate the influence of U.S. jazz into contemporary Senegalese mu-
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sic. Additionally, two goals within this black Atlantic exchange are actualized.
First, Senegalese musicians can realize their desire to explore international musics
and. second, Murray is able to pursue his artistic and political agendas. He aims to
African American music mixed with African music to come together to
make a meeting point, not something that is a slogan but something real
. . . something that is totally different than what we could do alone. Joint
forces. I’m looking for a total meeting. I don’t want to fuse, I’ve tried oth-
er fusions, but to me that would be the most powerful music that I can
think of, the best African music with the best jazz. I’m not interested in
going to Cuba and mixing, I mean that’s been done. I’m not from Cuba;
I’m from somewhere in Africa. I’d just like to find that place and know
that I’ve touched home. Look, I went to a place where I’m supposed to be
from. I went to find the face of my mother, the face of my father, and to
find out where the fuck I’m coming from, doing the roots. Doing the roots
thing trying to find out where my people are coming from. Just like what
you’re doing. You’re trying to find out where you come from and then
when you see the face of your mother you say, “OK I probably came from
here.” You see the face of your grandmother, you see and say, “Oh yeah.
maybe I came from here, all right.”
(murray 2000)
Africa as home is a powerful idea in African American culture. U.S. jazz musicians
have been mediating this and other aspects of Africa imaginings in music from ac-
counts of musicians who remember Congo Square in New Orleans to musicians
who visit and live in Africa or mediate the idea of Africa in their music today
(Weinstein 1993). Even though Murray was born in the U.S. and now lives in
France, Africa remains a powerful imaginary home, his “roots,” where he seeks the
knowledge and connection to his origins that Billy Jones found in Saint-Louis or
that Senegalese feel in their mbalax and sabar rhythms. Murray’s spiritual, politi-
cal, and personal quests provide an example of contemporary transnational flows
centered on the idea of a black Atlantic realized through music. Through perform-
ing a mixture of Senegalese music and jazz, recording the CD, Fo Deuk Revue
(Where are you from), traveling and working in Senegal, and equitably distribut-
ing publishing rights among the composers of Fo Deuk, Murray aims to create an
idiom that reflects the current situation of cosmopolitans in the African diaspora
and West Africa, an idiom informed by greater access to information through new
technologies and media. Likewise, musicians in Dakar, Senegal, are involved in
similar processes of collaborations with U.S. artists such as Murray and in the ap-
propriation of New World musics such as jazz to articulate their modern identities.
This essay explores multiple ways that Senegalese have borrowed, interpreted, and
incorporated jazz in their popular music and culture. Examination of historical and
contemporary appropriations reveals complex mediations of Senegalese modern
identities (e.g., black, French, African, and cosmopolitan). Additionally, jazz has
11Mangin 12/18/03 4:34 PM Page 243
become more than just a genre; it is an imaginary where the ideas of roots, pan-
Africanism, and connection to the West are celebrated. With its institutionaliza-
tion by governmental organizations and national festivals, jazz is identified with
Senegalese society and the world of nations. Through cosmopolitan interactions in
Saint-Louis and Dakar, jazz continues to be integrated into local pop musics, such
as mbalax, and performed as a distinctive genre in its own right. In this way Sene-
galese musicians not only enhance their musical knowledge but introduce new ma-
terial to the public. Today Senegalese claim jazz as both part of their heritage and
as a vital link to modernity in the black Atlantic.
1. Africanisms in American music and culture has long been a topic in ethnomusicology
(cf. Dauer 1985; Floyd 1995; Herskovits 1941; Maultsby 1990; Nketia 1974a; Water-
man 1952; Wilson 1974).
2. See for example, Monson (2000b) and Weinstein (1993).
3. Scholarship on jazz in Africa has concentrated on the Southern hemisphere (cf. Bal-
lantine 1993; Coplan 1985; Turino 2000). For recent scholarship on jazz in Senegal,
see Benga (2002) and Thioub and Benga (1999).
4. Ethnomusicological writings have discussed one aspect of appropriation in popular mu-
sic from the stance of Western pop stars using world music in respect and admiration
while benefiting financially and professionally from an unequal power relationship af-
forded through major recording artists under contract with large music corporations
(cf. Born and Hesmondhalgh 2000; Feld 1994a, 1994b; Taylor 1997). I use appropria-
tion from the reverse flow, that is, Senegalese musicians incorporating Western musics
to their benefit and as a way to articulate their cultural identies.
5. In this work I use italics and French spellings to indicate Senegalese common usage of
the terms moderne and traditionnel to distinguish between new and Western-derived
items (e.g., the synthesizer) and older indigenous items (e.g., the kora). These issues
point to a rich discourse on the modern/traditional dichotomy (cf. Coplan 1991; Turi-
no 2000; Waterman 1990b) that I cannot address here because of lack of space.
6. Senegalese métisse women from the colonial period were renowned for their beauty
and entrepreneurship. Signares were often the partners of colonial administrators es-
tranged from their wives in Europe.
7. “Au hazard des rues chargées d’histoire et de culture, / il est plongé dans une rêverie
fantastique où se mêlent l’éphémère, / le chimérique et l’énigmatique empreint d’his-
toire. Un soir, presque ivre de tant de jouissances, il joue un morceau de musique.
Soudain, il voit, il entend, émergeant des eaux, une très belle femme. C’est peut-être la
mythique Mame Coumba Bak! En ce temps là et ce temps là est très loin, Mame Com-
ba Bak, la déesse des eaux protectrice de la ville de N’Dach n’était autre qu’une jeune
princesse. Elle vivait entre ocean et fleuve. Tiraillée entre le désir de découvrir le
monde du silence et l’insoutenable légèreté de la vie terrestre, elle est brusquement
avalée par un énorme coquillage. Elle se retrouve alors dans un univers merveilleux et
fascinant. Elle a enfin rejoint le rien, ce rien qui lui permet d’atteindre l’insaisissable.
Depuis ce temps, elle sort parfois des eaux sous différentes formes et apporte protection,
soutien aux Saints-Louisiens. Billy Jones pourra-t-il la rencontrer? Sa musique est un
appel, une complainte mélancolique, une plainte qui enivrera même l’incroyable, l’in-
timothy r. mangin
11Mangin 12/18/03 4:34 PM Page 244
saisissable Mame Coumba Bak.” R. D’Aquino, program notes, L’Odyssée des origines,
June 3, 2000, Saint-Louis, Senegal.
8. Much of the material discussed in this section comes from Tyler Stovall’s Paris Noir
9. Marabout is a Senegalese Islamic leader.
10. “Je n’avais pas vingt ans et je vivais à ce moment là à Dakar. Mon meilleur ami était le
chauffeur d’un grand marabout. Dés que ce dernier le libérait, mon ami passait me
prendre avec le gigantesque Cadillac noire du marabout et nous sillonnions la ville en
tous sens, pour écouter cette musique insensée qui sortait de la radio du tableau de bord
et que diffusait “La Voix de l’Amérique”. C’est ainsi que j’ai connu le jazz. Peu de temps
aprés, en 1943, sont arrivés les premiers contingents de l’armeé américaine, et je n’ai eu
de cesse d’appocher ces orchestres de musiciens noirs américans, pour voir, enfin ceux
qui faisaient cette musique de fous et pouvoir les toucher, leur parler.” Lenormand
11. EMI was formed during the Great Depression in June 1931 from a merger between the
Columbia Graphophone company and the Gramophone Company Ltd., both of which
were British registered but mostly owned by American interests such as RCA Victor.
These labels had already absorbed the French Pathe label, Lindstrom (owner of the
Parlophone label), and other Latin American companies in the 1920s as well as the fa-
mous logo of a dog listening to a gramophone, a trademark known as “His Master’s
12. Personal communication of Khalil Gueye, radio DJ, television host, and producer, and
communications director for USIS. Similar comments were made to me by Senegalese
during fieldwork.
13. Afro-Beat arose in the 1960s as a blend of Ghanaian and Nigerian dance band highlife,
jazz, and soul. In the 1970s Nigerian Fela Anikulapo Kuti and his group Africa ’70 de-
veloped Afro-Beat by infusing it with deep Yoruba phrases and political critique. Afro-
Beat became a powerful national popular music that reached far beyond Nigeria’s bor-
14. See Ellington (1973:33739) for his description of performance. Lenormand (1996:26)
suggests repertoire such as “Ko Ko,” “Black, Brown, and Beige,” “Black Beauty,” “Black
and Tan Fantasy,” “A Drum Is a Woman,” “Creole Rhapsody,” “Sophisticated Lady,”
“Ebony Rhapsody,” and “Liberian Suite.” Likewise, Ousman Socé (1955/93) and
Weinstein (1993:3747) provide insightful fictional accounts of Ellington’s relation-
ship to Africa.
15. Unofficially, the group visited but did not perform at Sunrise Jazz.
16 Other collaborations have included the 1996 performance of the Conservatoire Na-
tional de Musique Douta Seck Orchestra, trained by guitarist Pierre van Domaël
(France) and saxophonist Pierre Vaïana (Belgium) in 19941995.
17. There is an emerging literature and discourse on world music that examines the cultur-
al politics, marginalization, and commodification of non-Western music in the global
market (cf. Feld 1994a; Feld 1994b; Meintjes 1990; Taylor 1997). Also, world music is
popularly used as a marketing term for non-Western music or music of ethnic minori-
ties. My use of and play on world music, in this case, is broad and intended to describe
how jazz allows Senegalese to engage with musicians and musics throughout the world.
18. See Kubik (2000) for a detailed discussion regarding U.S., Caribbean, and Africa con-
nections on the blues.
19. Senegambians during the trans-Atlantic slave trade refer to people from the Greater
11Mangin 12/18/03 4:34 PM Page 245
Senegambian region that includes present-day Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Gambia, and
parts of Mali, Mauritania, and Guinea Conakry. Boubacar Barry argues that any inves-
tigation of Senegal during the slave trade must be contextualized within this Senegam-
bian zone (Barry 1998).
20. For example, vocalist and drummer Pape Niang sets include “Ruby My Dear” (resem-
bling Thelonius Monk’s version), an instrumental, Roberta Flack’s version of “Killing
Me Softly” sung in English with a reggae back beat, Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to
Say I Love You,” “When the Saints Go Marching In,” sung in imitation of Louis Arm-
strong, a mbalax tune, an acapella intro with a 2 + 3 clave beat followed by sabar drum-
21. One way of viewing this phenomenon is described by Samuel Floyd as cultural memo-
ry (1995:810). Floyd defines cultural memory as “a repository of meanings that com-
prise the subjective knowledge of a people, its immanent thoughts, its structures, and
its practices; these thoughts, structures and practices are transferred and understood
unconsciously but become conscious and culturally objective in practice and percep-
tion” (8). However, as I have shown, Senegalese have been listening to jazz, rhythm
and blues, soul, salsa, and blues since the 1940s; therefore the vocal “sentiments” and
feelings that Diang refers to include the appropriations of U.S. black music as they
work in Senegalese black Atlantic imaginations.
22. Most urban popular musicians are male.
23. N’Diaye’s first studied under his father Baraud N’Diaye, a jazz saxophonist influenced
by Ben Webster and Lester Young. Subsequent studies were at the Ecole National des
Artes (with an unnamed Russian), followed by intense tutelage under Detroit saxo-
phonist Sam Sanders where N’Diaye learned Charlie Parker solos (“Billie’s Bounce,”
“Donna Lee,” “Confirmation,” “Dewey Square,” and “Yardbird Suite”). N’Diaye also
learned John Coltrane solos (by ear and from books) and remarked to me during a re-
hearsal how he was influenced by Coltrane’s rhythmic variations of melodic phrases.
24. In general Senegalese musicians do not read music or intensively study Western jazz
harmony and performance practices. However, Sembene (and Senegalese musicians
who have studied under Sam Sanders) constantly seek information on jazz perfor-
mance from locals and visiting artists.
25. There is a plethora of scholarly material that discusses how music and rhythms are in-
tegral to West African society and culture (cf. Bebey 1975; Chernoff 1979; Nketia
1974b; Waterman 1990a).
26. For an analysis of drumming and speech in sabar see Patricia Tang (2001).
27. See Robert Kauffman’s essay on African rhythm for analysis of Leopold Senghor’s use
and conceptualization of rhythm in African life (Kauffman 1980:401).
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Bender offers the first cultural history of modernAfrican music. He describes the whole range of Africanmusical genres from the Senegambian/Manding stylethrough Congolese soukous, Cameroonian makossa, WestAfrican Highlife, and the music of struggle andliberation of South Africa and locates each in itssocial, political, and historical context. "Sweet ""Mother" contains information available in no othersingle source, including an extensive discography andbibliography."
The presence of style indicates strong community, an intense sociability that has been given shape through time, an assertion of control over collective feelings so powerful that any expressive innovator will necessarily put his or her content into that shaping continuum and no other. (Keil 1985:122)