Thursday, January 6, 2011

CD Shopping in Sandaga Market and the International Exhibition of Black Music

I’ve been coming to Dakar since our first Afropop research trip in 1987. Maybe a half dozen times since then. It’s one of my favorite cities in Africa—the people, the artists, the fantastic live music scene, Senegal’s tradition of democracy, a lively independent media, and the free flow of ideas. The just-concluded World Festival of Black Arts 2010 certainly showcased all that. 

One of my favorite things to do when I’m in Dakar is to go to hyperactive Sandaga Market downtown to shop for new music. During the Festival, I dropped by and bought ten copies of Thione Seck’s latest hit release “Diaga;” several new titles by the leading ladies of Senegalese song—Viviane Ndour, Coumba Gawlo Seck, Titi and others; and releases by some of the latest hip-hop artists. (But if you go to Sandaga, go with a local you trust to help you sort out the “regular” CDs from the pirated ones.) 
  Stay tuned later in the month for our special radio report on the Festival and more info on the emerging artists in Senegal.   

Another highlight of the Festival for me was the International Exhibition of Black Music, produced by our colleagues at Mondomix based in Paris. It’s an ingenious interactive audiovisual experience, taking the visitor through five rooms, starting with some of the icons of black music such as Fela Kuti, Miriam Makeba, Marvin Gaye, and Youssou N’Dour. You are given an iPod-sized device and hefty headphones at the entrance of the exhibition and you can choose languages and trigger displays as you go. It was really sweet to see 5-year-old Senegalese kids working their controllers and taking in whole new worlds. There’s a room with a 360-degree surround video showing historical footage of African-based religious music traditions such as vodou and candomblé. Then there is a room with video displays of music styles—salsa, blues, rap, kwaito, baile funk, coupé-decalé, and so on.In that same room, a deejay spins hip hop, dancehall and other contemporary sounds, using a two turntable set up. He invites visitors to get their hands on the gear. 

The exhibition will remain in Dakar until March 2011 at the Maison de la Culture de Douta Seck, and then it will move to its permanent home in Salvador, Brazil later this year. Brazilian singer/composer/bandleader extraordinaire Carlinhos Brown has agreed to partner with Mondomix for this. However, though it may be a traveling exhibition, it will not be traveling online. Mondomix president Marc Benaiche, the exhibition’s creator, told me he wants to keep the exhibition a direct experience for its visitors.

Baaba Maal

Kudos to the Mondomix team, as well as the organizers of the Festival for putting together such an ambitious celebration of the richness of black culture around the world. I will be doing a separate report on the very thought-provoking plenary on the role of culture in educating people about HIV/AIDS, where Baaba Maal was a featured speaker. Special thanks to Djibril Diallo and his team—Richard Leonard and Maria Nghidinwa at UNAIDS—for the magnificent job they did organizing our delegation’s visit to Dakar for the Festival. 

Gloria Herndon and Djibril Diallo
Adrienne Samuels Gibbs and Pierre Thiam
Vendors at Festival concert

Sabar drummers at Just4You Dakar
Festival hospitality crew
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