August 16, 2007

I am back from Dakar! Since my last posting was almost a week ago some of you may be wondering about the lapse. It did not take me all of this time to travel from Senegal to Boston, but it did take me several days to recover from the journey (more on that later). My last two days in Dakar were busy ones. I spent the time having conversations, visiting friends, eating mangos, visitng markets for gifts or kola or cafe touba, having conversations, eating with the family, getting goat skins for drums, having conversations, squeezing onto car rapides and ndiagne ndiayes, bargaining fares with taxi drivers, trying to remember what I’d forgotten, enjoying dibi and a final Gazelle, having conversations, and packing. And since one of the two days was a Sunday – and Sundays in Dakar are quiet and slow-moving with many of the shops and businesses closed – it was a very busy final weekend. My apologies to all who I did not get to visit with on this short trip to Dakar. I will make sure I see you on the next visit.

I will be writing more about the Gewel Tradition from my keyboard here in Boston. But before I sign off today, I have to say something about air travel to Africa from the States. You can fly a direct route, which is relatively quick and not too exhausting; however it is also usually quite expensive. If you find a more reasonable fare you end up going through Europe where you have to deal with differential and constantly changing regulations, stops in various countries along the way (some announced, others not), long layovers and delayed take-offs, and unattentive and negligent service aboard the flight. During the layovers and while sitting on hot planes waiting to take-off, I had the opportunity to talk to a good number of fellow travelers. What emerged from these conversations was a picture of consistently poor air service being provided between Europe and the African continent. It did not matter what airline, what time of year or what the country of final destination was, most travelers I spoke with had similar experiences with the range of poor service mentioned above. I wonder why this is the case. . . . .

Now that I have gotten that out, I will see you soon with more information on the Gewel Tradition, InchAlla.


August 10, 2007

Today is the last opportunity I have to make a posting from Dakar. I wish that I had something significant to write about but this last week has been really administrative and not of much interest. I will continue to write about the gewel tradition from the states, and I hope that the entries will be of interest.  I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone who has read any of the entries that have been posted over the past month. If you have returned more than once I appreciate your willingness to wade through the typos and grammatical errors, the varying sizes of the pictures posted and any other inconvenience. Until the next time……………..

Ba benen yoon, InchAlla.

August 6, 2007

The Gewel Tradition History Writing section of the project provides an opportunity for this generation of gewels to write and present the history of their families and the gewel tradition in their own voices.

Ibrahima working with Doudou Ndiaye (grandson of Doudoud Ndiaye Rose) as part of the Gewel Tradition history writing project. p1010016.jpg

August 6, 2007


These are photos of two of the students from the Sing Sing family working in the computer lab at the Suffolk University Dakar campus. This is part of the educational support section of the program. p1010004.jpg

August 3, 2007

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Some who are reading these entries may be interested in knowing a bit more about the Gëwél Tradition Project, so that is what today’s entry will discuss. The Gëwél Tradition Project was developed to research, document and support the gëwél tradition historivcally and presently. The three sections of the project intertwine with one another in much the same way as oration, music and dance do in the gëwél tradition.

The first two sections, research and documentation, are focused on learning about the many facets of the g ëwél tradition, both historically and presently and documenting it in in written and audio/visual formats. The third section of the project, support of the gëwél tradition, is one of the most significant parts of the project, and the section that gives the real shape to it.

If you have visited the Sing Sing Juniors website you know that the group was created in 2004 by Moustapha Faye, Doudou Faye and Isma Aw. All three of these men came into their adulthood at the end of the twentieth century. They formed this group to provide the next generation who are now coming of age in the opening years of the twenty-first century, a vehicle for carrying this tradition on in a new way. This is a major undertaking.

With globalization and the increasing use of technology, traditional skills and art forms all over the world are being challenged. This is true for the gëwél tradition as well. The traditional methods of making a living have changed, while the ecomomic needs are increasing. Many young gëwéls are being enticed to go to Europe, the United States, and other countries to try to make a living as musicians and dancers. This not only removes them from their homes and communities, but it also fractures a tradition that contains much more than music and dance. The Gëwél Tradition Project is trying to provide an alternative to those limited and often destructive options. However, it should be made clear that this is not preservation work. The project is not trying to keep young folks tied to a past that no longer exists.

Sing Sing Juniors Sabar Drum and Dance Ensemble is one of the most visible examples of the support segment. While a central part of this project is focused on the performance art traditions, it also recognizes that the young generation of gëwéls have dreams and aspirations as all young people do. They also have a wide range of skills and interests, some of which are traditional gëwél activities and some which are not.

Presently we are developing a history writing project and exploring ways to support those interested in developing business. But the project also trying to supports the educational aspirations of the young folks from elementary school through university, InchAlla.

The Gëwél Tradition Project supports these aspirations so that the young gëwéls will have options other than removing themselves from the core of their traditions. Since these young folks are the ones who will decide how to carry the tradition that they have inherited into the future, today I am posting some pictures of some of their pictures.


August 1, 2007


August 1, 2007

I have not been very active with entries over the past week but it is now the rainy season in Senegal (yesterday it rained from 4:00 am to 3:00 pm). While the rain is necessary and good to see it makes getting around in Dakar difficult. Even with the rain I have been busy in my capacity as international manager for Sing Sing Juniors. Since the release of their first CD in April many of you may be aware of the group as a sabar drum ensemble. However that is only the audible section of the group. The complete group is Sing Sing Juniors Sabar Drum and Dance Ensemble. Those who are familiar with African performance arts probably understand the close relationship between music and dance, but I will say a few words about that relationship here.

My friend and colleague, Emmet Price, an ethnomusicologist who teaches at Northeastern university, refers to the relationship between oration, music and dance as “the holy trinity” of African performance art. This is particularly true when one is talking about the gëwél tradition. For the gëwél the spoken word is both music and dance; the music played on the drums can also be expressed vocally or with movement; and the dances can also be presented audibly through language or on the drum. There are several examples of the connection between oration and music on the Sing Sing Juniors CD, especially Bakk Yinni Burrit (song #2) where the group sings the Bakk (or musical composition) and then plays in on the sabar drums. If you are not familiar with the CD you can go to or to purchase it – links can be found on this blog page (I apologize for the inserted advertisement here, but I am the group’s manager). If there was a video component to the CD you would be able to see the dancers also dance the bakk. The opportunity to see this three way relationship will be available in the near future, InchAlla. For now I here are photos of the drummers and dancers who together are the Sing Sing Juniors Sabar Drum and Dance Ensemble.

I want to give a thanks to photographer Ken Martin for the photo of the drum ensemble posted today. He is a wonderful photographer with a gift for capturing the moment. The dancers were photographed by me as Ken had to catch a flight home. Thanks Ken – see you in Boston!