80 Senses: #43 - The Sounds of Senegal Music

80 Senses: #43 - The Sounds of Senegal Music

The birthplace - in a round about sort of way - of pop.Modern pop music has its roots in the countries of West Africa, with their rhythms and musical traditions transported across the Atlantic during the slave trade to the USA, from where jazz and the blues evolved into rock'n'roll and pop music as we know it today.


Baaba, not Abba

The circle is now complete thanks to the success of West African artists such as Amadou et Mariam, Youssou N'Dour and Baaba Maal who have blended pop's production values with their soulful African sounds to create truly world music for the global village.

Of the most famous West African artists, the majority come from Senegal and Mali, the latter of which has - tragically - seen a rise in Islamist activity of late. Senegal, however, remains safe and is a wonderful introduction to a very special region and its musical traditions.



The St Louis International Jazz Festival in May is the place to hear the professionals of Senegal music, but even better is a stay at Les Paletuviers, a charming beachside lodge in the UNESCO world heritage region of Sine Saloum, a mangrove-delta region scattered with islands, rivers and salt water creaks leading to the Atlantic. There is such a strong relationship with the nearby village that several times a week, when night falls, locals come over to dance and sing traditional West African songs around the campfire to the beat of a tam tam.