Sing Sing Juniors Sabar Drum and Dance Ensemble

December 30, 2008

I want to devote this entry to Sing Sing Juniors Sabar Dance and Drum Ensemble. This group, founded in 2004, is a modern manifestation of the Géwël Tradition.

Malick Ngom, lead drummer for Sing Sing Juniors.

Malick Ngom, lead drummer for Sing Sing Juniors.

The members of the group are all members of the Sing Sing géwël family, who are the géwëls for the Cap Vert peninsula where Dakar is located. Each member of Sing Sing Juniors has grown up in that rich tradition and continues to work within that tradition. However, the group is also unique because it is taking the traditions they have inherited to new places, in new ways without losing touch with the long history and deep roots of that tradition. When they play, the elders are pleased to listen to them, the generation that preceded them is amazed, and the members of their generation get excited.

Magor Mbaye, Serigne Mor Ndiaye andAziz Faye.

Magor Mbaye, Serigne Mor Ndiaye and Aziz Faye.

The group is the creation of Moustapha Faye, first son of Vieux Sing Faye and Ndeye Thiam. He was assisted in their manifestation by his cousins Doudou Faye and Isma Aw. When the group made their debute at Rue 23 in 2004 it drew quite a bit of attention. Musicians from all over Dakar came to pay homage to the Sing Sing family and to recognize a new star on the horizon. The performers who came to participate included the young members of the Doudou Ndiaye Rose family, the late singer Ndongolo, and Alioune Mbaye Nder. But everyone was there to see Sing Sing Juniors. (A clip from their debute is on their website – www.singsingjuniors.com )

Singer Ndongolo performed at the debute of Sing Sing Juniors, July, 2004.

Singer Ndongolo performed at the debute of Sing Sing Juniors, July, 2004.

It was also a rare opportunity to see them perform in a concert setting. Most often when they play it is in a more traditional context. They are constantly called upon to play sabar parties (tànnibéer’s) all over the city. But they also play for marriages, baptisms (ngentes), woman’s association meetings (turs), healing ceremonies (ndeup), wrestling matches (làmb), faux lion events (simb), and other traditional and contemporary events. This is in itself a testament of their abilities. In order to play traditional events one must have a deep understanding of the culture the events are part of and be able to play the appropriate rhythms correctly. The older géwëls at these events will not allow young folks who do not posses the proper knowledge and ability to play. With Sing Sing Juniors they are always pleased to see the continuation of the tradition that they have carried forward.

Malik Faye, drummer and dancer with Sing Sing Juniors

Malik Faye, drummer and dancer with Sing Sing Juniors

However, Sing Sing Juniors also brings a fresh take on the tradition. This is very evident when they play sabar parties or women’s association events. As secular events they are less bound by tradition so they have more opportunity to spice up the rhythms and play new compositions. Their knowledge of the tradition allows them to do this in a way that both maintains the cultural integrity of the rhythm while transforming it at the same time. The dancers provide a visual representation of this by providing fresh interpretations of traditional movements as they work through the group’s new bakks or musical compositions.

Jolie Mboup, dancer with Sing Sing Juniors

Jolie Mboup, dancer with Sing Sing Juniors

The inspiration that creates and drives the group comes from Moustapha Faye, the first son of Vieux Sing Faye and Ndeye Thiam. Since he was a child he accompanied his father and uncles when they performed their work. His skill in playing sabar drums and his knowledge of the traditions of the peoples of Senegal is unparalleled in his generation. He is a direct link between the oldest living generation of the family and the new generation, represented by Sing Sing Juniors

Moustapha Faye playing col with Abdoulaye Ba.

Moustapha Faye playing col with Abdoulaye Bâll.

The Sing Sing Juniors drum ensemble is led by Malick Ngom and the dance ensemble by his older sister Nogaye Ngom. They are the grandchildren of Vieux Sing Faye. They grew up in the Sing Sing family compound on Rue 23 in the Medina community of Dakar, Senegal. As children they went with their elders to traditional events, both sacred and secular; as they grew up they participated in those events, assisting and accompanying the preceding generation. They have inherited the tradition of the Sing Sing family, perfected their knowledge and skills under the tutelage of their elders and developed a high level of artistry in the presentation of their heritage. The depth of their abilities is evident when they work and when they perform; but it is also evident when you listen to the groups first CD. (available at CD Baby and Calabash Music)

Nogaye Ngom at a celebration.

Nogaye Ngom, lead dancer of Sing Sing Juniors.

Sing Sing Juniors CD cover.

Sing Sing Juniors CD cover.

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