Frank Bessem's Musiques d'Afrique

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Country Overview
The music of Senegal was made world famous by Youssou N'Dour, but others, such as Baaba Maal, and Ismael Lô, have gained international acclaim on Western markets too. On the African continent, everybody knows Senegalese music for its energy, and the dance moves that go with it, such as "ventilateur"...

• Outside Influences
Senegalese music was heavily influenced by Latin music until well into the 1980s. Bands like the Star Band, Orchestre No.1, and Etoile de Dakar all started playing Latin music. Even now, Africando is internationally successful with Latin flavoured music, and many of its members were formerly part of these earlier bands.
Bands as Xalam were successful with their fusion of afro-jazz, afro-funk, also on the international scene. Relatively late compared to surrounding countries, Senegalese musicians searched to use traditional Senegalese rhythms in popular music. By then, the mbalax sound has gained importance, mainly through Youssou N'Dour but also Thione Seck, Ismael Lô, and Super Diamono, but it was Gambian neighbour Ifang Bondi who had a pioneering role in this quest for using local elements in modern Senegalese music.

• Diversity, Roots and Modernity
Although the music scene is traditionally dominated by the wolof people with the mbalax rhythm, Baaba Maal was the first to break through this hegemony. Maal, of toucouleur origin, has become very popular with his yela music.
Bands like Toure Kunda play a softer, more accessible music, with influences from the Casamance region and from neighbouring countries like Guinee-Bissau. They sold 100,000s of LPs in France during the 1980s. If you prefer acoustic recordings, try the rootsy music of Pascal Diatta and Sona Mané, the folk oriented music of Diogal Sakho or Metzo Djatah or the acoustic recordings of Baaba Maal (album Djam Leelii). It will change your life...

• New Generation
Since the 1990s, rap and hip hop has become very popular, but since long before, a traditional form of rap existed in Senegal, the Tassou. At the same time, the mbalax music has developed into a harder hitting mbalax by a new generation of younger musicians, the Boul Falé (=don't care). These constant dynamics of the musical landscape in Senegal show that the Senegalese musical and cultural identity is very strong, and although Western music has a considerable impact, this identity will remain strong.

Senegal flag Official name:
République du Sénégal

map Senegal
Region: West Africa
Capital: Dakar

Official language: French

Main ethnic groups:
Wolof, Serer, Tukulor, Lebu, Jola, Soninke, Mandinka, Maures

Flags courtesy of ITA's Flags of All Countries used with permission.

Senegal Artist Pages
Useful links on Senegalese Artists