July 18, 2007

Greetings to all who have logged on to this blog. I am presently writing from Dakar having arrived here yesterday. Things are going well here. Dakar is hot which is a nice change from the unpredictability of New England. Since I arrived so late Monday evening I did nothing but shower and sleep. There really needs to be a less expensive flight that goes directly to Dakar from the US.


July 18: Mbapatt in Dakar


Today I went to the Sing Sing house and found their street, Rue 23, blocked off because and sand laid out in the street. I asked what was happening and was told that they were having an Mbapatt. It started on Sunday night and will continue through tomorrow. Of course I had to go back that night to see it. I arrived a little after 10:00 and the children were warming up the drums. The young gewels always play before the event starts; this is one of their earlier public playing opportunities.



After about 30 minutes the drummers for the event arrived and took over the drumming. Some of the drummers were members of Sing Sing Juniors and others were from the age group just behind Sing Sing Juniors and leading the group were members of the generation preceding Sing Sing Juniors. Once this group of drummers began to play the Mbapatt was ready to start. As the drummers played the rhythms for the mbapatt the first group of wrestlers began circling the ring in the traditional wrestlers dance.



This first group appeared to be quite young, but the next two groups were a bit older than the first. After their introductory dances the wrestlers prepared to fight. Once opponents were decided two wrestlers took the ring and began sizing each other up, a very important part of the match. During this time the wrestlers test their opponents strength and ability; he also checks to see if his opponent knows the moves he will try. Keep in mind that Senegalese wrestling is not the same as what passes for wrestling in the United States. This calls for a great deal of skill, strength and cunning because the first wrestler to hit the ground is the loser. Once they size each other up the action gets hotter, until one wrestler is able to put his opponent on the ground.



Although the wrestlers were all young men from the community and there were no prizes given, the event was significant. To get in one had to pay 22cfa. Most importantly the drums were there as the central part of the event since they played the necessary rhythms for each section of the mbapatt. As the more experienced wrestlers began to enter the drum rhythms also became more intense. At this point the electricity was cut and Rue 23 was covered in darkness. The drummers played ya nuy moom to end the event as people filled out toward the main street.

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