Entry Dates:

 3/13/03   5/8/03
 3/18/03    5/15/03
 4/ 4/03    

Senegal 3/3 to 3/12

The first week was not a productive one. Unfortunately the trip from Arizona to Dakar was a difficult one. When I left Arizona headed for New York, it was 10:50 p.m. The flight was four and a half hours plus a little delay time. That got me into New York about 6 a.m. The big problem there was that my flight to Dakar didn't leave until 5:55 p.m. This meant I had to find a way to occupy myself with my baggage until then (another 12 hours later).

I managed to do that while getting acquainted with my new cell phone. For those of you who know me, and the fact that I have resisted getting a cell phone, this must come as a big surprise. I purchased it to use as a modem and hopefully to diminish the cost of phone calls to the United States. We will see how this works out. Nun-the-less, I now have a cell phone at my disposal.

I arrived in Dakar at 6 a.m. Tuesday morning. After 2 days of traveling with no sleep. You can imagine what that first day was like. I slept most of that day away (Tuesday) and most of Wednesday. Somewhere in those two days I had Thiebou Dien, Couscous Moroccan with lamb. I can't quite remember what else I had to eat for eñ or reer (lunch or dinner). I do remember having some of that delicious French bread sometime before 12 noon each day.

Sometime on Friday I started to come around but it still took until Monday before I could get up and stay awake all day. I did manage to talk to a few people and today (Monday) I made arrangements to get Internet access. I expect this first entry will make it to post by Wednesday.
3/10. Today I started the Language class. I am working with the long "A" sound and the words that include it. Just getting the sound right will help. I am beginning to hear the differences in many words.

It is 8 p.m. Monday night, March 10, and I am waiting for dinner. The next project is going to be figuring out how to get this up on the web from here. I want to include a picture or two so it may be another couple of days before this gets on line. For now I'll try for a weekly update. Check the welcome page at "www.marksunkett.com" and you should be able to tell if anything new is up.

 Senegal 3/13


Sounds of Tamkharit

Tamkharit - Festival of Couscous

Tamkharit is the Muslim celebration for the New Year. It comes one month after Tabaski. Both of these holidays follow the lunar calendar. They come at different times in the Roman calendar year.
Thiere is made with millet and is also the traditional dish served in Senegal for this holiday. This is called Senegalese couscous served with a tomato sauce, vegetables, with meat. It is not the same couscous served in North Africa and the Middle East but just as delicious.

It has become a Senegalese tradition for people to go from house to house with friends after the meal. Females dress as males and males dress as females. (See photo on the right.) Children spend the week before Tamkharit making the drums they will play for this evening of celebration. The drums are often made from tin cans and sometimes just a plastic container is sufficient. Of course there are those who have friends with drums, but a sound, any sound is all that is required. These house-to-house visits include performances. Children sing and dance and each group has a treasurer. If the people they perform for like their performance, they give the performers a few coins, or sugar, or rice. This is then used by the group to buy candy or for food prepared for or by the group members.

"Tallibun" is an Arabic word. Talebé are the children who leave their homes to go to school (Dara) and study the Koran for 3 to 6 years. They learn part of the Koran by singing it. At some point these students will go out into the street to ask for charitable gifts. They may even beat on the can or gourd used to carry their gifts to accompany their singing.

The children of Senegal over the years have modified the words to the song. It now sounds like "Tadji bun." The original call sung by the song leader was "Tallibun," the response was "Ale," translated as respond to my call. The Senegalese now sing Tadji bun and the response has changed to "wole." The other words to the song were originally part of the Koran that they learned in Koranic School by singing. They have also been modified. These words now say that God has agents above and below you who can see all that you do. For Tamharit they go from house to house to ask for charity and in return they will sing and dance for you.


Senegal 3/18

Saturday and Sunday here are pretty much like other weekdays. I hade time today to study without the pressure of producing accurate sounds. Vocabulary is always a challenge but it is coming along. I'm now working with the "i" and "ii" sound. I also have accurate spellings for words I had written incorrectly in the past. When I get a cable for the camera that I left in Arizona, I will put together a separate document for these words with pictures of the items. At least that is the intent.

I'm also working on a few food projects. That will actually be part of my lessons in Wolof. It should be fun. If I can get good pictures and descriptions during the preparation and cooking, I might even be able to cook some of this back in the states.

A question I've had for a long time is, "Do they have or know about turkeys here?" The answer is yes. I saw 2 today walking along with a group of goats. But, I didn't have the camera with me. I'm sure they will pop up again. I might even be able to buy one and have it cooked.

This will be a relatively short entry today. Hopefully by next week I will be able to include some pictures.

The song for Tamkharit 3/30/2003 click here

Tadjibun , wole
Sama Tacc bi (Tacci), wole My gift
Abdou Jambar, wole the name of the angle who is both aove and below
 Niari malaka, wole  2 angels (Abdou Jambar)
 Cikaw le dioge, wole it came from above
 Danu cikaw suuf, wole Feel from above to the earth
 Moone Yaye dyi, wole he said to the mother (woman) there
 Ndakh djulinga, wole Have you prayed?
 Moune ko dedet, wole She responded "No"
 Moune Pape dyi, wole this father (man) there
 Ndakh djulinga, wole Have you prayed
 Moune ko dedet, wole  He responded "No"
 Djagat lenko djagat, wole The angels take the feet and hand of one of the people
 Fouñu ko djaget dieme, wole Where will we take you?
 Sa ajena sa?, wole To Paradise?
 Djagat lenko djagat, wole The angels take the feet and hand of one of the people
  Fouñu ko djaget dieme, wole Where will we take you?
 Sa safara sa, wole To Hell?


Tadjibun, Tadjibun

 Defon nanuko ndaw The last year has passed
Fe ke dewen Have a geed new year
Denew bakhan tal We will pardon everyone
 Belai sarakh doudoule In front of God you must give as much as possible
  (and you will receive more than you give in return)
 Belai sarakh doudoule In front of God you must give as much as possible
  (and you will receive more than you give in return)
 Yaye dji Yalla na nga ray kabaga Children of God whish that all the mothers come to
  Mecca to praye
 Baay dji Yalla na nga ray kabaga Children of God whish that all the fathers come to
   Mecca to praye


This is the phrase that everyone dances to.

(see Senegal 3/13 for for adult women during Tamkharit)

Senegal 4/4

Friday, April 4, 2003

Today Senegal celebrated its independence. It has been an interesting week. The big parade was in Dakar this morning. There were no fireworks that I saw or heard about. Maybe there is something tonight. There was a week of concerts, and wrestling matches.
Senegal played Gambia last Sunday (unfortunately the final score was 0/0).

Monday night I was able to get Ibou Ndiaye to recite the song for Tamkharit. After a few days of intense discussion, it was determined that his version was not completely correct. After a few more days, I sat down with a few more young folks and Astou Konate gave this version. All of that information has been updated with a few pictures. You can get a feeling for what it was by clicking the link at the top of the song.

I've included some pictures of the street where I live. For those who have been here before, I'm staying across the street from the Konate house.

1. 2.3. 4.

5. 6. 7.

8. 9. 10.

1) view from the gate, 2) mattress vendor, 3) local transportation, 4) morning alarm, 5:45 a.m., 5) fruit stand, 6) local traffic, 7) African medicine vendor, 8) delivery truck, 9) homemade peanut brittle, 10) returning home with millet

Next week I will get to the language lessons that include cooking. Perhaps I can also get to the market with the camera. I was advised that going there with a camera is not the best idea. We'll see next week.

 I was able to create a slight change in my regular diet. Suppa Canja (okra soup) is a typical Senegalese dish. t is not my favorite. On the day that it was prepared I was able to have boiled vegetables and fried fish. With a little salt and pepper, this was like being in the U.S.

Last week the Bay Fall had their weekly service Thursday night. They meet just down the street. The singing is pretty intense and this time they had drummers. Things started around 9:30 p.m. and ended about 1:30 a.m. Perhaps they are gearing up for Magal Touba which is in 9 days. That means that there will again be two or three days when all of Senegal closes down for the Mourid khadj.

The big events for me this week were yesterday and today. The government is working on the water for all of Dakar. To do that, they turn off the water for the whole city. Life goes back to the time when Dakar was a village. Every morning someone from each house must go to the local well and bring water to the house. The carpenter who has a shop next door to where I'm staying left the faucet open. When the water came on in the middle of the nigh, it ran until the government turned off the city water this morning.

The Boy Scouts had a little parade through the town last night (Thursday 4/3) about 11 p.m. By the time I was aware of what was going on, I couldn't get the video camera up and running before they had passed. The only way I knew they were Boy Scouts was the scarf the scouts wear around their necks. There were just a couple of drummers. They carried tree limbs with burning material on the end for light. The drumming actually sounded like that from Cassamance. I was told they might march to the bush but I don't know of any place close to walk to. The other possibility is that they were marching to preserve the bush. This seems more plausible.

Until the next time!

 Senegal 4/12/03


Monday 4/7
I spoke to Pape Diouf yesterday and he stopped by to say hello. He has been an important part of the research here since 1994. Recently he had been playing with a pretty well known Senegalese singer, Fatou Geuye. He did a few short tours with her. He is now playing with a group in Dakar. A promoter has put this group together to do a European tour to Germany, Italy. They might even get to the United States. That part is still in negotiation. We had a nice long talk about the creation of the sabar drums and the origins of the gewel. I'm working on the Wolof translation now but it will take a couple of weeks. The recent changes in sabar include preparing the sabar like the jembe. So far Pope has done an mbung mbung and a tungany like that. He is holding out on the larger drums. He said he has seen an nder and gorong yegl prepared with rope as well.

Mbeye Ndiaye also stopped by a few days earlier. He is another drummer (Tabala player) who has been associated with the research from the beginning. He has recently received an invitation to Holland. He will be going in late April. I might be able to do some work with tabala before he leaves but I don't think I will have much time for that.

The language lessons are on eating now. Some familiar words and foods are popping up. The everyday meals are good but because I eat rice and fish almost every day. It's nice when there are days that are different.

Friday 4/11,

Dinner today is FATAYA and Coca Cola.

Fataya is a small fried turnover, stuffed with a meat or fish and served with a caramelized onion sauce on the side. The fast food people who sell it on the street don't always put the paste inside. I've eaten something similar in Trinidad. They were called DOUBLES. There it is street food as well. It is usually available around 11 a.m. The Doubles are stuffed with seasoned garbanzo beans.

I recently discovered they have the equivalent to "Pre-sweetened kool Aid" here as well. Prices have increased so that soda is now considered extravagant. Local drinks like ginger and bisaab are more economical choices.


Senegal 4/23/03

I've hit the point of saturation. My brain doesn't want to hold anymore words. I will preserver.

I also purchased the game Wouré. This brings up the question of which spelling system to use. This spelling is the French adaptation of the word. One student spelled it this way "Uray." With traditional Wolof, the pronunciation is, Uri (ooree) or Wuri. There are a few others. The reason I purchased the game was to work on numbers in class. That has helped a qreat deal.

I had another talk with Pape Diouf today(4/17). He is leaving next Wednesday on a tour with 17 other musicians and dancers. I didn't have a chance to get to any of the rehearsal, but I suspect they are wonderful. We talked a bit more about Ndaw Rabine. He said the dance is Lebou. There is a family in Rufisque, "Rab". They are of the Laoubes who work with iron. They make what we would call hibachis. There are Laoube who work with metal and Laoube who work with wood. The name of the dance, Ndaw Rabine, can be translated as Madam or Lady Rab (ine). The "ine" recognizes that she is in the family "Rab." He also said today and when a group of dancers were here in 2000, that men do the dance too as part of the ceremony "Ndaw Rabine'. The ceremony usually happens just after Tabaski. The Jaraaf (king) of the community is one of the men involved. He can process with the others or ride a horse with the dancers walking on either side of him. The men will dance in one circle and the women will dance in another.


The treat for the week is "Woog or Woogg)." It has the texture of course cornbread. It's made with millet flour, ground peanuts, water and sugar. I believe it is steamed in a pan. It turns out like a big pan cookie (soft), or thin gingerbread but not as spicy. The women who make it, sell it by the piece.




I will be going to Touba for Magal. Stay tuned!


I just returned from Magal. Rather than delay this posting, I will save that experience for next week.

Senegal 4/26/03

Touba (Tuba), 4/20

Gora Sow (second from the left) works for the national police department and lives next door to the Konate family, acquired a car and invited me to ride with him to Touba. He had to go there on an assignment anyway. He brought his two sons along. Khadim who must be 9 and Babacar who is 17. Here in Touba there will be nearly 75 people at this house. Friends and family members from all over Senegal will stay here for two days. Last night two of the women were roasting the coffee beans for "Café Touba." Just like anything else, café Touba taste best in Touba. Most folks agree that it is the water. There are a few more minerals or a little more salt in it. Gora says it is simply that the people of Touba are experts at making it. Anyway, I have not been able to reproduce this flavor and in Dakar it is not the same either.

Gora Kane, the head of the household is our hosts for this weekend. Everyone contributes something either in labor or contributions, but it is a big deal. This morning, as with every morning, any female who has finished other chores, will "tann ceeb" pick impurities from the rice. I suppose you could look at this like one large extended family reunion.

When we arrived yesterday, we saw lots of cows and sheep tied up in front or at the sides of the houses. I remembered from the last time I was here, these animals were going to be the meat for next few days. Tuba is more inland than Dakar and in the heart of the peanut growing region. It is a little difficult to get fish to town for as many people as will be here. It is also amazing to see what is really a small town support so many people. It seems as though half of Senegal and people from other parts of the world come each year for this event.

The Muslims at this event are primarily Murid. Mouridism was founded around 1886 by Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba (Seriñ Tuba). Magal Tuba is a celebration of his return from exile. History tells us that Bamba was the only one to successfully defy the colonizing forces. There are books and chapters in books written about his story. Cheikh Ibra Fall was the close friend of Bamba. One young man described him as a servant to Bamba. Another Senegalese women described them as very close friends. If Bamba thought something, Cheikh Ibra Fall knew what he was thinking before any words were spoken. "Baay" is wolof for father. Those who are followers of Serin Cheikh Ibra Fall are a very strict brotherhood and consider Cheikh Ibra Fall their spiritual father.

The Baay Fall are the individuals who interest me the most here. The drums that they play are the Xiin. This drum is considered one of, if not the first drum created here in Senegal. (This is a subject for further exploration.) Initially the xiin was a drum taken to the fields to provide music for the worker. It was Ibra Fall who authorized the use of this drum as part of their religious practice. Their more secular meeting place is Mbacke, on the border of Tuba. Mbacke was the name of Cheikh Ibra Fall's older brother.

This year I did not get to Mbacke the day of Magal because the traffic was so thick it was impossible to pass. BUT, just last night (4/26) I went down the street to hear the Baay Fall here in Guediawaye. Their style is a little diffenent in that they have a Tabala player with them.



 Treat of the week, Ataya and Begnés. This is basically a fried cake much like a donut. The spice that gives it a kick is nutmeg. The tea is brewed strong. I don't drink the first round. The second round is a little sweeter and has mint added. This is great around 4 or 5 o'clock.  

Senegal 5/8//03

Tuesday, May 5

A lot has been going on this week. I'm working on a longer piece about Baak and Tassou. I also haven't finished the translation of the interview with Pape Diouf on the creation story for sabar. Those are long projects.

This week has been pretty good for community news. Last Sunday, April 27, the Senegalese version of a Barbeque restaurant opened. They call these places "Dibiteries." Barbequed lamb, goat or chicken is called "dibi." The owner is a Baay Fall, Bunn Fall. The drummers you see pictured above provided music for the grand opening. He was giving away samples. As you can imagine, there were many people and lots of them children. It was impossible to get any good recordings of the drummers but here are a couple pictures of the event.

Dibi was dinner Sunday 5/4. This is pretty good stuff. They cut up the whole animal. You are never quite sure what parts you are getting but they all have a good taste. They flavor for "dibi" is in the sauce which is made with onions and spices and a little water. They also give you a small amount of mustard. After the meat is cooked the onions and mustard are folded together and you get what you see here. I suggested that we have fried potatoes with it. That was a great dinner.

Saturday May 3
Today, after lunch (añ), I took some time to sit outside and people watch. It is funny how different males and females are in what they do to try to make a little money. The young men have their own enterprises. They are the fellows selling T-shirts, watches, cookies and candy, fruit or other items on the streets. The older adult women have there home based concessions. They sell fruit, make jewelry, fast food, candy or frozen treats to sell in little plastic bags, or prepare homemade drinks in second hand plastic bottles to sell from tables in front of their houses.

Just next-door there is a carpenter who is making some really nice furniture. There is a lot of handwork involved but there are several young men working for him. He was fortunate to have someone who found some used heavy-duty shop tools in Europe and had confidence enough to send them to him. He has been able to pay for the tools and turn out really nice furniture.





Treat of the week: Jus Buii and Frozen Yogart (crem)
This is made from the coating that is on the seeds of the Baobab tree. The taste is a little tart (and sweet of course) with extra flavors added. You can buy the seeds already removed from the pods by the kilo. They are covered with this white, fuzzy stuff. You soak the seeds in water. After you remove the hard seed and you are left with the fuzz. You add flavor(s) if you like and sweeten to taste. You search for any small plastic bottles and chill.

If you are making CREM, most people buy the cultured milk. The basic stock is made with powdered milk and sugar. The culture is added and the mixture and left to curdle over night. The buii is added and a little more water. You buy the little plastic bags and fill.

Senegal 5/15/03

 The season for


is here!!!


I'm still working on speaking clearly and translations. Until those are in better shape, here is a conversation I had with Pape Diouf last month.

Conversation with Pape Diouf 4/15/03

Tassou, Baak and Taalif
When you think of Gewels you say that there are drummers born into that position in the community. We are led to think that you are born into that position and those responsibilities are passed down to you. When, according to Pape Diouf, Gewels as an ethnic group all come from one community to the north of Dakar, Walo. Doudou Ndiaye Rose is one of those drummers who comes from that area. Pape's Grandfather came from that area. Pape considers himself born Lebou but not a Gewel (really) because he was not born in Walo.

The discussion was centered on Tassou (language spoken rhythmically), Baak (spoken language interpreted on the drums), and Taalif (poetry). My question was, "when he talks does he also hear drumming or drum rhythms?" I noticed when he and his brother (Ousman) talk with each other, it sounds very much like the drumming that they perform in cadence and timing. He said when he talks to Ousman he does hear drumming but with most people it is words only. I was trying to get at how Tassous are created, who does it, and who creates the Baak after the Tassou is created. He said that women are best at creating Tassou. Later that day I was told that female Gewel and Laoubé women are best at creating tassou. Also those men with feminine tendencies do well creating tassou. The Laoubé are also considered a separate ethnic group. I will have to try to find out where they originated.

It seems that there are individuals who have the talent for creating Tassou. Anyone can create a Tassou but there is a talent in choosing the words. I then asked if there were poets who created Tassou? Pape's answer was that poetry and Tassou are really different. I was told by a female that she thought they were close to the same thing.

Pape said that at certain times he is inspired to Tassou but the drummer's task is to interpret the words of the Tassou on the drums. I originally thought there might be some connection to hard consonants, and vowel and how the sounds of the drum are used. Pape said there are no hard rules for that. The drummer simply interprets the Tassou as he or she is inspired. I hope to meet with one of the local folks who would be considered good at creating Tassou. As far as Baaks go in popular music, if you are going to make a recording it is considered a form of plagiarism if you take the Baak created by someone else and use it verbatim. That is why you hear so many pieces that seem to use apart of one Baak or another but they rarely quoted the whole Baak directly.