Recording Studio: “The base of all music in Senegal is traditional,” says Baaba Maal, one of the finest contemporary musical artists in Africa; and, traditional Senegalese music may be the foundation for much of the music of the Western world. Aficionados of country blues, calypso, reggae, beguine, and rap, whether or not they recognise it, hear echoes of the musical rhythms of the land of Teranga, the gateway to Africa
Recording Studio: Yela
Existing traditional Senegalese rhythms, such as the Yela, which come from the old Empire and predate all colonialization of Senegal, still resound thanks to musicians such as Baaba Maal. Senegalese kings used Yela to call the people of the Empire together so that they could listen to important events.
Yela is the music of women, as it mimics the sound they made when pounding grain. When performing the Yela, some women would hit the stressed third beat on their calabashes, while others carried the weaker first beat by clapping their hands. It is the Yela Jimmy Cliff heard when he visited Dakar; and it is reputed to be the primary influence for the development of reggae in the Caribbean.
Recording Studio: Senegalese Musical Instruments
Some of the traditional musical instruments still being used to make music in Senegal are the twenty-one stringed kora, the violin-like riti, the hoddu and the seven-stringed African guitar.
Asly Fouta, a group of seventy musicians, is, according to Baaba Maal, “a university for the traditional African music” being central to the education of many great music makers. It is with this group that many have learnt to play most or all of the traditional instruments.
Recording Studio: Senegalese Songs
Today, the Pekan songs of the northern fisherman, the Gumbala chants of ancient warriors, the Dilere ditties of weavers plaiting their threads, and Yela sung by women, can still be heard, beautifully integrated with the modern musical rhythms. Music in Senegal carries the country’s art, history, and dance all wrapped up in one. To know Senegal, and to understand some of it’s impact on the rest of the world, listen to its beautiful music.