Playing in the lobby of the Donahue building.

Aziz Faye and Malick Ngom playing in the lobby of the Donahue building.

Moustapha Faye playing in the lobby of the Donahue building.

Moustapha Faye playing in the lobby of the Donahue building.

Malick Ngom playing in the lobby of the Donahue building.

Malick Ngom playing in the lobby of the Donahue building.

Aziz Faye playing in the lobby of the Donahue building.

Aziz Faye playing in the lobby of the Donahue building.

Moustapha chillin' at Lamine Diallo's house.

Moustapha chillin' at Lamine Diallo's house.

Lamine and Malick.

Lamine and Malick.

Malick watches as Lamine makes ataya.

Malick watches as Lamine makes ataya.

Aziz and Malick relaxing in the History department.

Aziz and Malick relaxing in the History department. (Photo by Ken Martin)

Moustapha at the History department.

Moustapha at the History department. (Photo by Zapo)

Malick Ngom, top model.

Malick Ngom, top model. (Photo by Zapo)

Moustapha at the Suffolk University Dean's Reception.

Moustapha at the Suffolk University Dean's Reception. (Photo by Zapo)

Sipho Bellinger and Moustapha Faye at the Suffolk University Dean's Reception.

Sipho Bellinger and Moustapha Faye at the Suffolk University Dean's Reception. (Photo by Zapo)

Moustapha at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Moustapha at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Aziz and Malick at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Aziz and Malick at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Moustapha with the Bollywood & Bhangra Indian Folk Dancers at Primary Source fund raiser.

Moustapha with the Bollywood & Bhangra Indian Folk Dancers at Primary Source fund raiser.

Malick with the Bollywood & Bhangra Indian Folk Dancers at Primary Source fund raiser.

Malick with the Bollywood & Bhangra Indian Folk Dancers at Primary Source fund raiser.

With the Bollywood & Bhangra Indian Folk Dancers at Primary Source fund raiser.

With the Bollywood & Bhangra Indian Folk Dancers at Primary Source fund raiser. (Photo by Dana Bille)

(l - r) Lamine Toure, Kapono Ciotti and Ndeye Ngom Faye on Sufolk University campus.

(l - r) Lamine Toure, Kapono Ciotti and Ndeye Ngom Faye on Suffolk University campus.

Kapono, Moustapha and Malik on the phone with family.

Kapono, Moustapha and Malik on the phone with family.

Kapono and Ndey Ngom Faye in Boston.

Kapono and Ndey Ngom Faye in Boston.

Kapono and Ndey Ngom Faye by the Union Oyster House in Boston.

Kapono and Ndey Ngom Faye by the Union Oyster House in Boston.

Kapono and Ndey Ngom Faye at historic Haymarket in Boston.

Kapono and Ndey Ngom Faye at historic Haymarket in Boston.

Kapono hoisting a street performing escape artist at Faneuil Hall, Boston.

Kapono hoisting a street performing escape artist at Faneuil Hall, Boston.

Kappono and Ndeye Ngom Faye watching Jean Apolon's Haitian dance class.

Kappono and Ndeye Ngom Faye watching Jean Apolon's Haitian dance class.

Malick Ngom, Pa Seck, Kapono Ciotti and Ndeye Ngom Faye.

Malick Ngom, Pa Seck, Kapono Ciotti and Ndeye Ngom Faye.

Malick working on a drum.

Malick working on a drum.

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Drum and Dance Classes

November 29, 2009

During their residency the Faye family has played for dance classes and taught drum and dance classes in the Greater Boston area. The teachers and students of drum and dance, through their active study and support have provided a fertile ground for African culture, especially in the Cambridge/Boston communities. They have created spaces where people can engage in the collective experience of music and dance. These teachers and students have welcomed Aziz, Moustapha and Malick to take part in their classes and activities. Their participation in these classes can be considered a part of the Faye family’s residency as Distinguished Visiting Scholars at Suffolk University. As an urban campus it is consistent to extend into the communities of the Greater Boston area; the Black Studies Program, which is supporting this residency, also encourages a connection with the wider community; and it is natural for the Géwël to be active in the communities in which they are located. The photos from these classes can give a sense of the joy and exuberance that are a part of these classes.

Moustaph Faye teaching drum class.

Moustapha Faye teaching drum class.

Moustaph Faye teaching drum class.

Moustapha and Aziz Faye teaching drum class.

Students in Moustapha Faye's drum class.

Students in Moustapha Faye's drum class.

Aziz Faye instructing dance class.

Aziz Faye instructing dance class.

Dancing in Aziz Faye's dance class.

Dancing in Aziz Faye's dance class.

Playing class with Pape Ba (left) and Thiokho Diagne (seated).

Playing class with Pape Ba (left) and Thiokho Diagne (seated).

Playing for Pa Seck's dance class.

Playing for Pa Seck's dance class.

Playing for Pa Seck's sabar Dance class.

Playing for Pa Seck's sabar Dance class.

Pa Seck teaching dance class.

Pa Seck teaching dance class.

Dancer in Pa Seck's dance class.

Dancer in Pa Seck's dance class.

Dancer in Pa Seck's dance class.

Dancer in Pa Seck's dance class.

Dancer in Pa Seck's dance class.

Dancer in Pa Seck's dance class.

Dancer in Pa Seck's dance class.

Dancer in Pa Seck's dance class.

Dancer in Pa Seck's dance class.

Dancer in Pa Seck's dance class.

Dancer in Pa Seck's dance class.

Dancer in Pa Seck's dance class.

Dancer in Pa Seck's dance class.

Dancer in Pa Seck's dance class.

Photographing Pa Seck's dance class.

Photographing Pa Seck's dance class.

Sabar as a Living and Modern Art – Part I, Kapono Ciotti

The Origins of Dakar’s Ultra-Hip Music Scene

A storyteller once told me that ‘all stories are true, and some of them actually happened.’ All the stories I’m going to tell you today are true, and having lived in Senegal, and having traveled throughout West Africa I believe that all of these stories actually happened this way. But you can decide for yourself.

If you had the opportunity to hear Dr. Belinger’s lecture on the origins of the Faye family, or you have studied the griot of West Africa you probably have a good picture of what it means to be guewel.

The guewel are the griot, or hereditary historians of the Wolof, Serer, and Lebu of West Africa. Among other thing, their role is to keep family histories through stories and song, to be the council of leaders in the government and to be the keeps of the Sabar.

It’s their role of ‘keeping the Sabar’ that I am most concerned with today, and it’s what I am going to spend the majority of this lecture on.

You are born guewel. “Dret la”. It is in your blood.  There is no substitute for guewel blood and no way of escaping being guewel if that was your born destiny.

The Senegalese Griot and the Mande Djeli

In the early thirteenth century somewhere between the current-day borders of Mali and Guinea lived the Chief Maghan Kon Fatta Konate, rule of Mande. Like the archetypal story goes, he had a royal wife and they had already had a son, Dankaran Touman, who was born to inherit the kingdom. But as fate and the gods would have it Maghan Kon Fatta Konate was meant to marry another, a woman of lowly rank and class, in fact even deformed and hunched-back woman at that. From their union was born Soundjata Keita, a boy of lowly birth, but favored by the spirits to one day unite West Africa under the Mande Kingdom. This is a long and intricate story, but one critical component was power given Soundjata by his griot or djeli, Balla Fasekke Kouyate.

In the Mande tradition the djeli is also a hereditary station in society. Story teller, singer, player of many instruments, but not the djembe, West Africa’s most popularized instrument. The djembe was reserved as the domain of the blacksmith some have said.

Today in countries that once made up the Mande Empire on is called to the djembe. There is no blood quantum requirement to play the djembe, there is no last name, or family association required to take up the art form. Schools of djembe have been set in Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal by world-renowned musicians such as Famadou Konate, Mamady Keita, and others. Master djembe players take appranties or apprentices and pass on their knowledge to them.

In a subtle contrast, the griot, or guewel of the Wolof, Serer, and Lebu are also hereditary historians, however, their charge includes the main percussions instrument of the region, the Sabar.  And it is this small difference that is the root of very important role Sabar has played in the modern music scene of Senegal.

We’ll come back to this idea in a little bit.

Lak Daro Mbaye

Sing-Sing u Birame Gueye, Kewe yaye ou Awa Diange, Badj Guewel Ndakarou.

Mali Baye Manga ak Djakheri Baye Mangi, Boubou yoroup Soumbedjoun Kewe yaye ou  Menga Ndiaye. Aboulo Korothi.

Somewhere at the end of the eighteenth century or the early nineteenth century, when Dakar was still a village and the wind off of the Atlantic ocean had not yet been replaced by diesel exhaust, the Faye family patriarch, Birame Gueye Faye lived in his family compound where the neighborhood of Medina, Dakar currently stands today, the same place is ancestors, Vieux Sing Faye, Tapha Faye and Malik Faye still live. There were no city streets yet, no buses, or bikes, just walking paths from house to house and farm to farm. Like most families, the Faye family, besides being guewel kept a small farm.

Birame Gueye Faye had two sons,  Mame Sing-Sing Faye and Mousse Yess Faye. Well one day as the eldest son, Mame Sing-Sing returned one evening from farming on his plot, which was located in the direction of the neighborhood called Fann, his encountered a great spirit, one named Lak Dawr Mbaye. The Lebu of Dakar have long and complex relationships with the spirits of the plateau. Each district has their own spirit, which sometimes acts as a guardian, but other times can wreak havoc on the people.

Meeting a spirit along the path home must have been startled Mame Sing-Sing at the least. He was probably in fear of his life. At this particular meeting the spirit was not in a malevolent mood and as the two talked Mame Sing-Sing offered to leave Lak Daro Mbaye offerings of millet, milk, and other foods at the ceremonial spot called a khambaye at their family compound.

Over the years this knowledge helped the family be the pre-eminent geuwel of the region.

Both brothers, Sing-Sing and Mousse Yess took up the vocation of their father, however Sing-Sing, as the older brother took on the responsibility of keeping up the relationship with Lak Daro Mbaye and Mousse Yess took on the responsibility of becoming the villages Imam, an esteemed role in a predominantly Muslim country.

These brothers were Badj Guewelu Ndakarou, or the chief griots of Dakar and had an important role as advisors to the village chiefs. This relationship between the Faye family and the government of Senegal continues today as the family’s patriarch Vieux Sing Faye is retired from his government job and still acts as chief drummer at political rallies and events as well as presiding over the Ndawrabine ceremony, a ceremony that marks Dakar’s government leaders.

Dakar’s Sabar Scene

This relationship with Lak Dawr Mbaye and their place as the Badj Guewelu Ndakarou placed Sing-Sing’s grandson, Vieux Sing Faye at the forefront of a postcolonial music scene.

As Sekou Toure, Guinea’s president was forging ties with communist Russia, and China and recruiting the counties best drummers and dancers to star in his Ballets Africans, Senegal was creating ties with Western Europe and had a much smaller cultural resurgence. However the place of Sabar remained integral to life in Dakar.

As Dakar became an international port and center of commerce, so did the it attract guewel from all across Senegal: from the region of Kaolack the Djeri Djeri family of Thio Mbaye, from Walo-Walo the family of internationally renowned drummer Doudou Ndiaye Rose, which forever changed the landscape of the sabar scene in Dakar.

As families formed their own drumming troupes in the capital city, rivalries and friendships formed. Vieux Sing Faye and his contemporaries, Doudou Ndiaye Rose and Ma Cheikh Mbaye, while being the closest of friends were also the fiercest of rivals, each, choosing his own path to fame on the sabar scene.

Each took turns filling roles in the National Ballets, each took turns on World tour, but the most coveted of positions was to be the most sought after troupe to play a Tanember.

A Tanember is the late night women’s dance gathering that is the mainstay of Dakar’s nightlife.

So at this point we pass through what we might consider history and I can start to explain how sabar created the roots of the ultra-hip music scene in Dakar.

Kapono Ciotti presents Sabar as a Modern and Living Tradition.

Kapono Ciotti presents Sabar as a Modern and Living Tradition.
Kapono Ciotti giving talk on the sabar tradition.

Kapono Ciotti giving talk on the sabar tradition.

Kapono giving talk on Sabar as a Modern and Living Tradition.

Kapono giving talk on Sabar as a Modern and Living Tradition

Moustapha Faye, Aziz Faye and Malick Ngom demonstrated the sabar tradition both before and after the presentation by Kapono Ciotti.

Malick, Aziz and Moustapha demonstrate the sabar tradition.

Malick, Aziz and Moustapha demonstrate the sabar tradition.

Those in attendance included faculty, students, staff and members of the Greater Boston  community.

At the talk on Sabar as a Living and Modern Art, photo exhibit by Prof. Ken Martin.

At the talk on Sabar as a Living and Modern Art, photo exhibit by Prof. Ken Martin.

Ndeye Ngom Faye takes a picture of her husband giving his presentation.

Ndeye Ngom Faye takes a picture of her husband giving his presentation.

Lamine Diallo and Lamine Touré listen to Kapono Ciotti's presentation.

Lamine Diallo and Lamine Touré listen to Kapono Ciotti's presentation.

Prof. Duncan Vinson and Prof. Stevan Radojev listen to Kapono Ciotti.

Prof. Duncan Vinson and Prof. Stevan Radojev listen to Kapono Ciotti.

Zapo Babilée and Prof. Ken Martin film and photograph the event.

Zapo and Prof. Ken Martin film and photograph the event.

Suffolk University student Matthew Wagner listens intently.

Suffolk University student Matthew Wagner listens intently.

Dean Kenneth Greenberg.

Dean Kenneth Greenberg.
Kapono Ciotti and Moustapha Faye.

Kapono Ciotti and Moustapha Faye.

On October 30, after the lecture Sabar as a Living and Modern Art by Kapono Ciotti (soon to be posted) we all went to dinner at the Teranga, the Senegalese Restaurant on Washington Street in Boston’s South End.  The restaurant, owned and operated y Marie-Claude Mendy, is an excellent place to have a taste of Senegal –  from the yassa poulet and the lamb shanks to the grilled fish and soupa kanja.  And for our group who were all familiar with Senegalese cuisine, it was a perfect way to top off an excellent presentation on Senegal’s sabar tradition.

Kapono and wife Ndeye Ngom Faye at the Teranga.

Kapono and wife Ndeye Ngom Faye at the Teranga.

Sipho Bellinger and Moustapha Faye at the Teranga.

Sipho Bellinger and Moustapha Faye at the Teranga.

Moustapha Faye and Malick Ngom at the Teranga.

Moustapha Faye and Malick Ngom at the Teranga.

Ndeye Ngom Faye and Zapo Babilée at the Teranga.

Ndeye Ngom Faye and Zapo at the Teranga.

Kapono at the Teranga.

Kapono at the Teranga.

At the Teranga.

At the Teranga.

YOUNG ACHIEVERS SCHOOL

November 13, 2009

The Géwël Tradition Project is concerned with the passing on of the tradition to future generations. With this in mind the Faye family has been working with Kimani Lumsden’s eighth  grade music students at the Young Achievers School in Matapan. They have been working on drum rhythms and bakks (musical compositions) for the past month and will begin to learn the dances that go with these rhythms during the next month. These photos capture some of the energy of the students as they take on learning this new drum tradition.

Moustapha teaching a rhythm to the students.

Moustapha teaching a rhythm to the students.

Aziz works with a student on drum technique.

Aziz works with a student on drum technique.

Students at Young Achievers playing a sabar rhythm.

Students at Young Achievers playing a sabar rhythm.

Teacher Kimani Lumsden works on rhythms with his students.

Teacher Kimani Lumsden works on rhythms with his students.

Students work on the sabar drums.

Students work on the sabar drums.

The following are portraits of the Young Achievers drum class students by Zapo.

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On Friday, November 7, 2009 the Sing Sing family taught a dance class at the Gold School in Brockton, MA. A video and student comments were posted in part one of this entry; this part presents some photos from the evening.

Aziz leads students in warm-up excercises.

Aziz leads students in warm-up excercises.

Aziz leads students in warm-up excercises.

Aziz leads students in warm-up excercises.

Students at the Gold School doing warm-up exercises.

Students at the Gold School doing warm-up exercises.

Aziz demonstrates the dance choreography.

Aziz demonstrates the dance choreography.

Students at the Gold School dancing with Aziz.

Students at the Gold School dancing with Aziz.

Faye family with the Gold School students.

Faye family with the Gold School students.

Aziz with Nailah Randall-Bellinger and Gold School students.

Aziz with Nailah Randall-Bellinger and Gold School students.

Moustapha with Gold School students.

Moustapha with Gold School students.

Malick with Gold School students.

Malick with Gold School students.

Sipho, Malick, Aziz and Moustapha at the Gold School.

Sipho, Malick, Aziz and Moustapha at the Gold School.

Rennie Gold, director of the Gold School.

Rennie Gold, director of the Gold School.

Again, the Faye family and the Géwël Tradition Project wish to thank Rennie Gold for inviting us to work with the Gold School’s wonderful students.

SING SING AT THE GOLD SCHOOL

November 11, 2009

On November 7th the Sing Sing family  taught a dance class to the students at the Gold School in Brockton, MA. It was an amazing experience for the students, but also for Aziz,  Moustapha, and Malick. To get a feel for the high energy of the class watch the video.

Some of the comments from students who took the class, parents of the students, and alumni of the Gold School who viewed the video are below.

COMMENTS ON THE SING SING CLASS BY STUDENTS WHO TOOK THE CLASS

Jacob Guzman

i loved that class!!!!!! when are we doin it again?

November 7 at 8:29am

David Guzman

BEST CLASS IN THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

November 7 at 8:46am

Madisyn Maniff

best class everr!!!

November 7 at 12:47pm

Emily Bullock

i am so glad that I was able to take this class. Amazing cutlure, amazing, choreography, amazing people…thank you for having them teach a class at TGS!

November 7 at 5:30pm

Siobhan Murray

this class was so much fun!!! hope to do it again one day!

November 7 at 5:41pm

Max Fineman

absolutely, positively, the best class i have ever taken. the energy surging through that room was euphoric.

November 7 at 5:56pm

Mikenzi Maniff

this class was absolutley amazing! i loved it.

Sun at 10:03am

Eoin Robinson

AMAZING CLASS!!!!!!!!!i hope we get another great oppritunity like this soon!thanks for the experience!!!

Sun at 11:15am

Briana Voss

That class was SO much fun! I hope we can do something like that again! Best class ever!

Sun at 8:42pm

Alicia Donovan

omgg lovee thatt class..hopee too do somethingg elsee like that!

Sun at 8:47pm

Stacy Eastman

soooo coool

Sun at 9:44pm

COMMENTS ON THE SING SING CLASS FROM PARENTS OF STUDENTS WHO TOOK THE CLASS

Amy Conley McPhee

Olivia loved the class!!

November 7 at 12:50pm

Robyn Epstein Parets

Noah LOVED this!!! Thanks for sharing this video!

November 7 at 10:56pm

COMMENTS ON THE SING SING CLASS BY FROM GOLD SCHOOL ALUMNI

Lois Lemay Redican

that’s great!! and everyone was able to keep up!! how impressive

November 7 at 8:51am

Kristen O’Connell Bullock

“Thank you! That was incredible! What a great way to start my day…I have a smile from ear to ear!! I love it!!’

November 7 at 8:52am

Liana M Guzman

wow that was amazing!!! i wish i could have been there!! u guys all rock!!

November 7 at 9:11am

Cherilyn Caulfield Zaretsky

Amazing. Thanks for posting!

November 7 at 9:55am

Bethany Paquin

awww wish I was there for this!! we have Dunham at school and its like that…loved it.

November 7 at 10:24am

Jonalyn Antionette

Absolutely amazing. I can feel the energy in the room just from watching through the computer. really wish i could have been there.

November 7 at 10:37am

Jackie Hackworth

I so enjoyed watching this. thank you for posting. Not sure if you knew this or not, but, Alison danced in Frank’s company. I loved going to his performances and shows. So much energy you wanted to jump up and dance. The drums go into your soul!!!!

November 7 at 10:50am

Tim Fournier

WOW! Get it you guys!!!!!!

November 7 at 10:53pm

COMMENT ON THE SING SING CLASS AT THE GOLD SCHOOL FROM A SUFFOLK UNIVERSITY ALUMNI

Anta Sane
"Love it prof B..congrats!!! These students have the best to teach them...indeed what a great opportunity!!
Take care, best, talk to u soon..xoxo"

Thanks to the Gold School for inviting the Sing Sing Family. Watch for the posting of photos from the class.

IN & AROUND BOSTON I

November 4, 2009

In between the activities and presentations related to the Distinguished Visiting Scholar residency, we have been able to get around Boston. Below are some photos taken by Zapo Babilee that captures some of the moments when Moustapha, Aziz and Malick were not teaching or presenting.

At the beach in Winthrop

Moustapha, Malick and Sipho at the beach in Winthrop.

Moustapha at the beach in Winthrop.

Moustapha at the beach in Winthrop.

Moustapha and Malick in Winthrop.

Moustapha and Malick in Winthrop.

Moustapha and Malick in Winthrop, MA.

Moustapha and Malick in Winthrop.

Waiting for the bus in Winthrop, MA.

Waiting for the bus in Winthrop.

Riding the Blue line train. October, 2009.

Riding the Blue line train. October, 2009.

Riding the Blue line train. October, 2009.

Riding the Blue line train. October, 2009.

In the subway. October, 2009.

In the subway. October, 2009.

In the subway. October, 2009.

In the subway. October, 2009.

In the subway. October, 2009.

In the subway. October, 2009.

Aziz and Malick riding the subway.

Aziz and Malick riding the subway.

Boston after dark.

Boston after dark.

Moustapha talking with Papae Ba.

Moustapha talking with Papae Ba.

Moustapha and Lamine Toure.

Moustapha and Lamine Toure.

Moustapha and Thokho Diagne.

Moustapha and Thokho Diagne.

At the history department, Suffolk University.

At the history department, Suffolk University.

Moustapha on the train.

Moustapha on the train.

Moustapha and Sipho on the train.

Moustapha and Sipho on the train.

Tapha in downtown Boston.

Tapha in downtown Boston.

Zapo in Boston.

Zapo in Boston.