Xoolal! Simb Ñëwna!

August 8, 2011

SImb Ñëwna.

SImb Ñëwna.

The sound of sabar drums on a late summer afternoon do not always indicate a sabar bëccëg – an afternoon sabar party. If in following the sound of the drums you encounter large numbers of children cautiously looking towards the source of the sound, approaching a tarp that blocks a section of the street with hesitation you have found a Simb, or Faux Lion event.(1)  The Simb is another event organized for children and young people although the whole community may attend.

With a Simb, a section of the street will be cordoned off with tarps, for this is a paid event. It is within the space formed by blocking off the street that the Simb will take place. Like a sabar party, there will be a circle created with the drums at one end. In this circle the Simbs will dance to the bakks played by the drummers. It is also where those who are captured by the Simbs will be brought.

Although the Simb is fierce and is often seen as an ominous figure by the young people, they are drawn to the event. The children you have seen on your way to the event, for whatever reason, have not purchased a ticket to the event and thus are the potential victims of the lions. If they are caught by a Simb they will be brought into the center of the circle to be punished by being forced to dance or do exercises before the Simb rubs sand into their heads and escorts them out of the event.

Those who have tickets are able to take part in the event and enjoy the playful nature of the Simb. They will have a space to sit or stand around the circle where they are able to watch the dances performed and are encouraged by the “lions” to show their appreciation. At specific moments they will sing songs about the Simb that are part of the event, and on occasion they are even invited into the circle to dance to the drums.

In addition to its cultural and folkloric significance, the Simb is a summer activity that provides a positive outlet for the young people in communities throughout Senegal. The following pictures show children taking part  in a Simb.

Notes

1. For an explanation of the Simb see the Géwël Tradition blog entry of January 26, 2011 – Simb of Senegal, by Mohamad Faye.

Children at a Simb at a school in neighborhood of Amitie.

Children at a Simb at a school in neighborhood of Amitie.

Children at a Simb

Children at a Simb

Singers before the Simb arrives.

Singers before the Simb arrives.

A Simb checking for tickets.

A simb with some of his captives.

A simb with some of his captives.

Simb checking for tickets.

Simb checking for tickets.

Protecting her younger brother from the Simb.

Protecting her younger brother from the Simb.

A frightful moment.

A frightful moment.

A scary moment for a young girl.

A scary moment for a young girl.

Simb rubbing sand into the hair of a boy with no ticket.

Simb rubbing sand into the hair of a boy with no ticket.

Simb rubbing sand into the hair of another boy with no ticket.

Simb rubbing sand into the hair of another boy with no ticket.

Simbs dancing for the crowds.

Simbs dancing for the crowds.

Simb calling for encouragement from the crowd.

Simb calling for encouragement from the crowd.

A Simb with a full crowd.

A Simb with a full crowd.

Simbs engaging the crowd.

Simbs engaging the crowd.

Children dancing at a Simb.

Children dancing at a Simb.

Children dancing at a Simb.

Children dancing at a Simb.

Dancing to the Simb's bakk.

Dancing to the Simb's bakk.

Another boy dancing to the Simb's bakk.

Another boy dancing to the Simb's bakk.

Children posing with a Simb.

Children posing with a Simb.

Simb with a baby.

Simb with a baby.

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Xali Nungi Fecc

August 2, 2011

Young girl dancing.

Young girl dancing.

It is summer in Dakar. The daytime temperatures are between 80 and 86 degrees fahrenheit though it usually feels much hotter. It is during these warmer months that the schools close and the school aged young folks are enjoying the freedom that the “vacance” or vacation brings. With this free time, between the end of school in early July and the coming of rain in early August, young people take part in sabar related activities. Young people will take any opportunity to express themselves through the dance movements of sabar, and any time drums are played on a summer afternoon, one will find young people dancing. But more often than not the dancing will be done in the setting of an organized event.

In the late afternoon, between 5:00 and 8:00 pm, on most weekends it is common to hear the rhythms of the sabar drums resounding in the air. If you follow the sound of the drums to its source you will find a sabar bëccëg, or an afternoon sabar party taking place. While the late night sabar parties or tànnibéer’s attract young adults the sabar bëccëg is usually for young girls who range in age from perhaps as old as 15 to as young as 3 years old. Just as at a late night sabar party you will see all of the invited guests seated in the chairs that form the géw or circle, dressed in tailored dresses that reach the ankles, hair carefully coiffed and maquillage (make-up) on their faces. The hosts will be identifiable by their matching outfits and their prominent position in the circle. The central ring of chairs will be surrounded by friends, relatives, community members and interested onlookers of all ages.

As the drummers play the rhythms of the sabar repertoire the young girls will enter the circle to dance either singly or with some of their friends. The girls take this opportunity to showcase their dance skills and abilities to their friends and the larger community. It is also an opportunity for them to do the new dances of the season to the accompanying bakks that the drummers will play. While the afternoon sabar parties are organized for young girls, young boys also dance sabar though rarely in these settings.

These celebrations of the afternoon sabar party has been halted early this year with the start of Ramadan, but the photos that follow are a reflection of the joy of summer in Dakar.

Notes

1.The sabar bëccëg is also known as a sabar takkusan. Bëccëg translates to daytime while takkusan refers specifically to the time of late afternoon prayer.

2. Bakks are musical compositions that can sometimes be musical versions of proverbs or linguistic phrases. When a bakk is played the various musical phrases are expressed in movements by those dancing to it.

Hosts of an afternoon sabar party.

Hosts of an afternoon sabar party.

Dancing at an afternoon sabar party.

Dancing at an afternoon sabar party.

Dancing at an afternoon sabar party.

Dancing at an afternoon sabar party.

A duo dancing at an afternoon sabar party.

A duo dancing at an afternoon sabar party.

Dancing the latest steps.

Dancing the latest steps.

Steps of the newest dance.

Steps of the newest dance.

Two young dancers.

Two young dancers.

A young dancer at the party.

A young dancer at the party.

Dancing at an afternoon sabar party.

Dancing at an afternoon sabar party.

Dancing at an afternoon sabar party.

Dancing at an afternoon sabar party.

Dancing at an afternoon sabar party.

Dancing at an afternoon sabar party.

Dancing at an afternoon sabar party.

Dancing at an afternoon sabar party.

An afternoon sabar party.

An afternoon sabar party.

A dancer working the rhythms.

A dancer working the rhythms.

Dancing to the drums.

Dancing to the drums.

Dancing with style.

Dancing with style.

Bira Fall working the rhythms.

Bira Fall working the rhythms.

Dancing with joy.

Dancing with joy.

Focused on the moment.

Focused on the moment.

Lila  dancing with energy.

Lila dancing with energy.

The beauty of dance.

The beauty of dance.