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!

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