Music and Performing Arts

Islam and popular music in Senegal: the emergence of a 'new tradition'

The city of Dakar is a visual and verbal testament to the pervasive influence of Islam on Senegalese popular culture: ubiquitous fleets of yellow and blue cars rapides, the city's main transport system, display across their hoods the word alhamdulillahi(1) (Praise be to God); streets are named after important local Muslim figures: Allees Thierno Seydou Nourou Tall, Autoroute Seydina Limamou Laye; businesses such as Clef Minute de l'Islam (Islam Instant Key) on Avenue Blaise Diagne incorporate religion into their name: images of the mosque of Touba, the holy city of the Mouride Sufi order, grace the facades of small restaurants and bread kiosks; and in a local nightclub, well dressed Dakarois dance to popular singer Youssou Ndour's hit song about the founder of the Mouride order, Cheikh Amadou Barnba. In this article I explore the influence of Islam on a single aspect of Senegalese popular culture, but one which more than any other has transcended international boundaries, namely popular music.

Almost every Senegalese popular musician has a repertoire that includes several songs that could be characterised as Islamic, but the vast majority of them take the form of praise songs not to God but, like `Mame Bamba', Youssou Ndour's hit mentioned above, to a marabout or Sufi religious leader. I suggest that such songs represent the emergence of a `new tradition' in which the form of the griot's praise song, originally sung to honour ruling families and nobility in Wolof, Haalpulaar, Mande, and numerous other societies of the western Sahel, converges with the reality of a social order that is based on a uniquely Senegalese variety of Sufism. The trend is new in so far as `pop' music is a relatively recent phenomenon, having been introduced into Senegal, according to Panzacchi (1994), after World War II via American, European and Afro-Cuban music that was played in Dakar nightclubs; the trend reflects tradition in so far as it borrows from preexisting forms of verbal art.

The analysis presented here places the emergence of this hybrid form of praise song in its social context by examining the dynamics and entailments of two patron-client relationships, one secular, one religious, that dominate the structure of Senegalese society. The first to be discussed is the secular relationship between griots and the people they praise, while the second is the religious relationship between Sufi leaders and their disciples. In the light of these social considerations, I will suggest that the recent adaptation of the praise-singing tradition to Islam represents the opening of a middle ground in which a multiplicity of cultural, religious and commercial factors converge to shape the nature of contemporary Senegalese popular music.

In one of the earlier scholarly studies of popular culture in Africa, Johannes Fabian remarks on the importance of music as a cultural force: `in countries such as Zaire, popular culture comprises a complex of distinctive expressions of life experience ... Excepting perhaps the sports, popular music is undoubtedly the most conspicuous carrier of this new culture' (Fabian, 1978: 15). Fabian's observation on the role of popular music in Zaire can also be extended to Senegal, where the cultural importance of popular music culminated in its central role in the 1988-89 urban movement known as Set-Setal. Youssou Ndour's song `Set' (`Clean') actually became an anthem of sorts for the multifaceted movement which comprised numerous aesthetic, cultural, political and even spiritual dimensions, and whose most visible effect was the cleaning up of Dakar streets and the appearance of colourful murals and monuments throughout the city.(2) But in addition to the important influence of Senegalese music at home, Senegalese musicians are, among Africa's best known and most popular in the international sphere, thus the added factor of an international audience and market is a potential force in shaping the future of Senegalese popular music.

Although Senegal is an ethnically and linguistically diverse country, Senegalese popular music is dominated by musicians who sing in Wolof, the country's lingua franca, spoken by upwards of 80 per cent of the population as either a first or a second language. A notable exception, however, is Baaba Maal, who sings primarily in 3 Pulaar, Senegal's second largest language in terms of number of speakers.(3) While many other Senegalese ethnic groups maintain their own rich musical traditions, many of which have made important contributions to popular music, the recording industry and other commercial aspects of popular music such as marketing networks have favoured the ascent of urban-based singers who are associated primarily with the Wolof, and to a lesser extent the Haalpulaar, musical traditions. As a result, the ensuing discussion, which focuses on the role of Islamic popular music in its social context, draws mainly on the commonalities inherent in Wolof and Haalpulaar society.(4)


Gewel and geer

The term `griot' refers to members of an endogamous caste of praise-singers or musicians who may or may not practise the profession that is their birthright. These specialised verbal artists, often known by their Mande name, jeliw, constitute an important group throughout the western Sahel, especially among Mande, Fulbe, Haalpulaar, Wolof, Moorish and Tuareg societies.(5) In Wolof they are called gewel and in Pulaar they are called awlube (sing. gawlo).(6) The concept of caste in the Sahelian context is a problematic one which has recently undergone a great deal of reconsideration by various scholars, most notably in Conrad and Frank's (1995) volume, which focuses primarily on Mande society. Until quite recently most of the literature on West African caste systems focused on what was viewed as their rigidly hierarchical nature in which griots were given a relatively low status, a notion that proved difficult to reconcile with the apparent power they wielded. Recent reconsiderations, including Wright's (1989) study of the Wolof, have tended to emphasise the social power of griots and other casted groups such as smiths, leatherworkers and potters, to show that they are adaptable and dynamic agents within their own societies.

The present discussion focuses on the social role of gewels in Wolof and Haalpulaar society in Senegal, although many of the observations to be made are equally valid for griots in other Sahelian societies. With the exception of those who are born to the status of slave, all Wolof or Haalpulaar'en can be identified as members of one of two main social groups: those who are casted (neeno) and those who are not (geer).(7) The latter are sometimes referred to as nobles, but the term is quite misleading, since only a relatively small proportion of geers are descended from noble families. According to Silla (1966) neenos make up somewhere between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of the Wolof population, so that the vast majority are geers. The elite status connoted by the translation `noble' is thus undermined, since an elite is by definition a select group. For these reasons I prefer to translate geer as `non-casted'. By most indicators geers occupy the highest place in the social hierarchy, followed by neenos, who include among their ranks artisan groups such as gewels leatherworkers (uude), smiths (tegg) and weavers (rabb), while slaves (jaam) have the lowest status. It is important to note that those of casted origin do not necessarily make a living by or even practise the profession that constitutes their birthright; nevertheless, they still identify themselves as belonging to such an occupational group. Moreover, low social status of a caste does not preclude individuals from achieving high personal status in terms of reputation or economic standing. Many gewels who make their living by praise-singing or related activities that involve verbal art or music become quite powerful or wealthy, frequently surpassing geers in their socio-economic level. In his film Borom Sarrett (1963), the ever provocative Senegalese film-maker, Sembene Ousmane, exploits this irony by depicting a chance encounter on the streets of Dakar between an impoverished geer who has gone to great trouble to obtain a small sum of money and his praise-singing gewel Reflected in the gewel's sunglasses, a symbol of prestige and wealth, the geer reluctantly parts with his money in what seems little more than an act of extortion. Despite the strained relations between geer and gewel depicted in Borom Sarrett, the relationship between them may best be characterised as a symbiotic one in which the gewel earns a livelihood in exchange for assuring the name and reputation, and thus ultimately the immortality, of the geer whose praises he or she sings. The individual relationship between a geer and a gewel and their posterity, then, is one of social obligations and responsibilities on both sides.

Since verbal art is the domain of the gewel one of the primary ways in which the relationship between gewel and geer is played out is through verbal behaviour. In addition to defining social roles, the hereditary status of gewel or geer also entails a certain type of public behaviour, universally viewed as appropriate to the social rank of the individual. The basis of appropriate behaviour for a geer is that of verbal and physical reserve, a quality expressed partially by the Wolof word kersa. It is unseemly for geer to speak loudly or abundantly in public, to walk or move in hurried ways that may call attention to them, or, according to Irvine (1989), even to travel about excessively to visit others. A second prescribed characteristic of geer behaviour is generosity, which, when he or she is the beneficiary, the gewel rewards warmly by singing the geer's virtues. Geers are frequently asked publicly for money or other favours, and at times of economic crisis, such as in today's post-devaluation Senegal, many geers find the demands overwhelming and may even try to avoid public situations in which they will be asked for money so that their inability to be generous will not be made known.

If geer behaviour is shaped by a set of socially recognised constraints, then gewel behaviour can be characterised by lack of restraint in those same areas. Appropriate gewel behaviour includes a speech style that is loud, expansive, elaborate and eloquent, the opposite of the reserved style of the gee; moreover, to ask for money and gifts is not only acceptable behaviour for gewels, it is considered to be one of their defining characteristics.(8) A gewel who is a high school teacher in Dakar synthesised his perspective on the expected norms of behaviour for the two groups by claiming that gewels are freer than geers because they do not have to watch their behaviour all the time.

The relationship between gewel and geer has survived much historical upheaval and social change. Originally attached to powerful kings and nobles, gewels have witnessed the decline in power of that ruling class in the wake of colonialism and post-independence politics. Considering these circumstances, it is quite remarkable that the gewel-geer relationship has remained so much intact. One is struck by the fact that, even in a discussion such as that of Panzacchi (1994), which addresses the livelihoods of griots in modern Senegal, one of the prime means of livelihood among gewels still derives from the dynamics of their relationship with geers.

Senegalese Islam and the Suft orders

The dissolution of pre-colonial Senegambian kingdoms created a climate of social disorder which, many scholars have argued, helps to explain the mass conversion of large segments of the population to Islam during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Along with a theology, Islam offers the believer a legal system, a code of personal conduct and a well defined social order, thus it was well positioned to take the place of a crumbling pre-colonial social structure. Although Islam had been present in the middle Senegal River valley, in the Muslim state of Tekruur, since the eleventh century, the majority of the Senegalese population, which is currently more than 93 per cent Muslim, converted around the turn of this century. The impetus towards conversion was consolidated around the charismatic figures of various important marabouts, of whom the two most noteworthy were El Hajj Malik Sy (c. 1855-1922) and Cheikh Amadou Bamba Mbacke (1850-1927). El Hajj Malik was a member of the Tijaniyya Sufi order, an order which traces its origins to a nineteenth-century North African cleric, Ahmad al-Tijani, who taught and preached in Fez. Sy and his movement were thus an offshoot of one of the major traditions of African Sufism. Amadou Bamba, who was originally a member of the Qadiriyya Sufi order, became the founder of the uniquely Senegalese Mouride Sufi order. The Sufi orders, to which most Senegalese Muslims belong, are characterised by the submissive relationship of a taalibe or disciple to a spiritual leader or marabout. In return for work and other tangible support, the marabout attends primarily to the spiritual needs and salvation of the taalibes, but may also be in a position to help them with more practical concerns. The Mouride order, more than any other, places great emphasis on the submissive aspect of the relationship, exemplified in the bond between Cheikh Amadou Bamba and his most ardent follower, Cheikh Ibra Fall, who founded a mendicant sub-sect of Mouridism. Originating historically from among the ceddo or warrior class, the Baye Fall, as the vigorous followers of Cheikh Ibra are known, do not pray or fast but rather devote themselves to physical labour for their marabout. Chanting Duma julli duma woor, buma dee ma dem ajjana (`I don't pray, I don't fast, when I die I'll go to heaven') the Baye Fall knowingly flout two of the five pillars of Islam, practices that place them clearly at the periphery of Islamic orthodoxy. The unusual practices of the Baye Fall, which also include drumming and clubbing of their bodies in order to induce trances, have their origins in pre-Muslim Wolof beliefs and practices (Cruise O'Brien, 1971: 141), and also show an important link with secular culture, a fact that may help to explain their significant influence on many aspects of popular culture to be discussed below.

In addition to the Mourides and the Tijanis, there are two other Sufi orders which claim disciples among the Senegalese population but whose numbers are significantly less than the two dominant orders: the Qadiriyya and the Layenes. Although each of the orders has its own distinctive characteristics, they are all characterised by the social dynamic of the marabout--taalibe relationship. Within the historical perspective, marabouts were valued by the French colonial administration, who saw them as an influential link with the rest of the population, and since independence the more powerful of them have continued to play an important role in national politics, going so far in some cases as to dictate to their followers, by means of a ndigal, or religious injunction, for whom they should vote. The pervasiveness and dominance of the marabout--taalibe relationship in Senegalese society is reflected in the Wolof saying, Nit ku baax, ku amul kilifa, dotul nekk nit ku baax (`A good person who does not have a leader does not remain a good person'). Although it does not make an overt reference to religion, this saying epitomises the role of the marabout as a Sufi guide without whom the taalibe cannot find God, and is frequently cited by Senegalese Muslims as a rationale for their adherence to a maraboutic system.

The gewel and Islam

The adaptation of the gewel to a predominantly Muslim social order has not entailed the abandonment of the geer as patron in favour of the marabout.(9) As mentioned above, the bond between geer and gewel has remained intact, but the role of the latter has been expanded to incorporate various aspects of an Islamic culture. For example, a marabout will generally address a crowd in public via the intermediary of a gewel. Typically, the marabout is seated on a platform and speaks in a low voice, so that the gewel must draw close to be able to hear. After a few phrases the gewel addresses the crowd with the phrase Ne na ... (`He said ...'), pronounced in a distinctive declamatory style, and proceeds to paraphrase with embellishments what the marabout has just said. (10) Although the notion of a hierarchical caste system is anathema to the tenets of Islam,(11) another adaptation which can be widely observed, but which individuals are sometimes reluctant to corroborate as a norm, is that muezzins, who call the faithful to prayer in the mosque, are very often gewels. Villalon (1995: 58) cites an instance of an imam who considered the fact that most of the muezzins in his town were gewels to be a normal state of affairs, 1given what he saw as the innate attributes of that caste'. For reasons to be discussed below, the direct public address of a praise song to a marabout by a gewel is a somewhat rare occurrence; the same function is fulfilled, however, by the Islamic popular song.(12)


Music is an important part of the numerous Sufi ceremonies that occur on a regular basis throughout the Muslim year, from small-scale events such as Thursday night meetings of daairas, or local religious clubs, to events of great magnitude such as the Grand Maggal,, the annual Mouride pilgrimage that commemorates the return from exile in Gabon of Cheikh Amadou Bamba and which brings Dakar and other cities to a standstill owing to the exodus of pilgrims towards Touba. With the notable exception of the distinctive Moorish drums used by the Oadiriyya order, and the resonant sabar-like drums of the Baye Fall, the music heard at these ceremonies is primarily unaccompanied singing or chanting to the glory of God. The singing may consist of a simple repetition of the shahada or profession of faith: Laa illah illa Allah (`There is no god but God'), or the sikar, a litany of the names of God, typical of the chanting style of the Baye Fall;(13) or it may draw on the rich Senegalese literary tradition of Sufi devotional poetry such as the Teysir of El Hajj Malik(14) or the Khassaids of Cheikh Amadou Bamba.(15) These may be sung by a few lead singers while the rest of the participants repeat the chorus or simply listen. Typically, although not exclusively, the singing that goes on at such ceremonies is in Arabic and the singers are by no means restricted to gewels; in fact, religious contexts such as these provide one of the only contexts in which public singing is considered appropriate for someone who is not of gewel status. Drawn from both religious and secular origins, the popular Islamic music performed at these ceremonies constitutes an important aspect of the Sufi ritual, and represents one end of a continuum in the relationship of music to Islam in the Senegalese context. At the other end of the continuum lies what I will call Islamic popular music, namely that music within the repertoire of commercially popular singers that reflects themes and influences from Senegalese Sufism, which in its most typical form is a popular praise song to a marabout. In introducing the notion of a continuum from popular Islamic music at the one end to Islamic popular music at the other, the possibility of intermediate types is immediately opened up. While such intermediate types exist, most forms that fuse Islam and music tend to fall at the two extremes of the continuum.

Praise-singing and the Sufi ceremony

While singing the praises of God and the Prophet Mohammed is an important component of the Sufi ceremonies, and no doubt the original reason for their existence, such ceremonies have a complex and multifaceted significance that goes well beyond religious worship and clearly into the realm of the socio-political. A closer look at the evolution of the role of praise-singing within the context of Sufi ceremonies reveals a trend towards increasing immediacy of concern, which in turn gives rise to a precedent for the `new tradition' of popular praise songs to marabouts.

In an analysis of the socio-political significance of Senegalese Sufi ceremonies, Villalon (1994: 422) highlights an important aspect of the Tijani ceremony known as a gammu, namely its dedication to an individual. `While such celebrations officially evoke the broader themes of Islam or of the order as a whole, it is quite clear that each gammu "belongs" to one particular marabout; the event represents his efforts to demonstrate maraboutic legitimacy at once to his disciples and to government officials.' Given the particularity of such ceremonies, it is not surprising that the praise-singing tradition should reflect such an emphasis. In tracing the historical movement from the tradition of singing praises to God or Mohammed towards maraboutic praise-singing within the context of the Sufi ceremony, the `quarrels' between two different branches of the Sy family during the late 1950s over the legitimacy of the successor to El Hajj Malik appear to have constituted a turning point in the nature of the Senegalese Sufi ceremony. According to members of a minor Tijani maraboutic family, it was the taalibes of Ababacar Sy who, in the 1950s, composed numerous praise songs to him which were sung at various gammus in order to enhance the legitimacy of his claim to be kilifa, or leader of the order.(16) Until that time the singing at gammus had consisted of praises to God and El Hajj Malik's poems on the Prophet Mohammed. As the members of the maraboutic family explained, the marabout is seen as an intermediary in the quest for spiritual knowledge; therefore it is fitting to sing his praises, but the emphasis seems to be less and less on the Prophet Mohammed or even on the founders of the various Sufi orders, sometimes even to the exclusion of the former, and the living marabout is increasingly the focus of attention, since he is also in a position to intercede in matters of a decidedly non-spiritual nature.

A parallel development can be seen in the evolution of praise-singing in the Mouride context. While Amadou Bamba's Arabic Khassaids, praise poems to the Prophet, are still very popular, ceremonies known as miiggals, dedicated to Bamba or members of his family, have become increasingly common, and the past five years have seen the appearance of a new ceremony, the cant, which has been described as an animation musicale for a living marabout. As the religious ceremonies become more immediate in their concerns, much more of the singing is in the vernacular, Wolof, as opposed to Arabic.

Far from being sombre events, Sufi ceremonies are associated with an important element of entertainment. This is especially apparent in the ceremonies of the Qadiriyya, which an amused Tijani described as `folkloristic--somewhere between a gammu and a sabar' (a popular Wolof dance). He went on to say that those ceremonies were not very sacred in character, and that he had even heard people at them singing secular songs by pop stars such as Youssou Ndour. While the ceremonies of the Qadiriyya may be the most secularised of the religious rituals, those of other orders also have immense popular appeal. Their ready adaptation to the everyday concerns of taalibes is perhaps the most important aspect of the continued popularity of Sufi ceremonies in Senegal.

Islam and popular music

While much of the music sung at Sufi ceremonies is dedicated to the glory of God and the Prophet Mohammed in addition to the praises of the marabout, the popular music that constitutes the `new tradition' is sung almost exclusively to the glory of the marabout. These popular songs incorporate a variety of musical styles, ranging from Orchestra Baobab's Afro-Cuban melodies to Youssou Ndour's energetic mbalax rhythm. They are sung in Wolof or Pulaar, and sometimes partially in French or English. Many singers also punctuate the lyrics with Arabic phrases which are used emblematically to enhance the religious reputation of the marabout. Songs that most closely approximate the form of the gewel's praise song in their lyrics are those of women gewels such as Kine Lam, Fatou Guewel, and Ndeye Mbaye. In a sense, their music inhabits a middle ground between the two traditions. Kine Lam's title song, `Cheikh Anta Mbacke' for example, sings the genealogy of the Mouride marabout first on his father's side and then on his mother's side, as would be done for any geer, followed by a spiritual genealogy which traces a line of maraboutic descent. Ndeye Mbaye's praise songs to the Mouride marabout Serin Moustapha (Mbacke) and the Tijani marabout Ibrahima `Baye' Niasse that appear on the same cassette (Incha Allah) also give genealogies and extol the virtues of the marabouts via the repetition of formulaic phrases such as Amul moroom (`He has no peer') and Ku baax a baax (`The very good one'). Although male singers occasionally include genealogies in their songs, this is primarily the domain of female singers. Fatou Guewel, Ndeye Mbaye and Kine Lam are wildly popular in Senegal and have best-selling cassettes that can be found in the collections of street vendors throughout the country.(17) For reasons that will be explored in the conclusion of this article, the recordings of female Senegalese singers are more restricted to the national market and are little known on the international scene.

If the music of singers such as Kine Lam, Fatou Guewel and Ndeye Mbaye can be seen as spanning the two traditions, what then characterises the new tradition? Most significantly, in Islamic popular music in Senegal, the charisma and spiritual qualities of the marabout, and especially his role as a spiritual guide, are more explicitly extolled, while the formal genealogical aspects of the praise song are not usually included in the new tradition. A typical popular maraboutic praise song is Baaba Maal's `Sy Saawande', featured on his cassette Lam Toro. Baaba Maal is from the Haalpulaar heartland of northern Senegal, the Fuuta Tooro, a region that has produced many historically important maraboutic figures such as El Hajj Umar Tall, with whom all Senegalese Tijani marabouts claim a link in their spiritual genealogies (Villalon, 1995: 67). Maal's music, while innovative and original, is steeped in the traditions of the Fuuta, in terms of both musical style and theme. He is also committed to his native language, Pulaar, and has almost single-handed pushed it on to the international music scene, where it takes its place alongside Wolof. His commitment is reflected in his band's name, Daande Lenol, the voice of the people meaning the Haalpulaar'en. Accompanied simply by an acoustic guitar, Maal sings the praises of Abdoul Aziz Sy, son of El Hajj Malik Sy, and current leader or kilifa of the branch of the Tijaniyya based in Tivaouane. The song is sung in Pulaar, punctuated with a few phrases in Arabic, indicated below by opposite type:

Abdoul Aziz sy Saawaande,

Gila Bunndu haa Tiwaawan

Sy majjataa.

Sy meed aa saawde gacce.

Aan a saawataa gacce.

Sy yoo leele.

Wallaahi, kaa jankindiido, i woondii.

Wallaahi, kaa kecco bernde, mi woondii.

Wallaahi, kaa goongiyanke, mi woondii.

Kooni wallaahi, kaa lampa lislaam, mi woondii.

Aan a saawataa gacce Sy, Sy, Sy yoo leele.

Lekki ngooti nani Fuuta

Cate makki koy Tiwaawan njantoyi.

Kiin lekki woni lekki laawol Tijaniyya.

Baramlefi koy njaltii.

Kono piindi yi'aama.

Hannde dey mi juuro Abdoul Aziz.

Bissimillaay, miin koy mi fuddiima,


Miin koy mi doorii noon haayoo.

Mid o yillo Tiwaawan.

Abdoul Aziz Sy Saawaande,

From Bunndu to Tivaouane

Sy does not lose his way.

Sy has never dishonoured.

You do not dishonour,

Sy yoo leele.

By God, you are humble, I swear.

By God, you are compassionate.

By God, you are truthful, I swear.

By God, you are the lamp of Islam, I swear.

You do not dishonour, Sy, Sy, Sy yoo leele.

There is a tree in Fuuta

Whose branches reach to Tivaouane.

This tree is the tree of the way of the Tijaniyya.

Its leaves have come out.

We have seen its flowers.

Today I will go to visit Abdoul Aziz.

In the name of God, I have begun,

The merciful,

I have begun.

I will travel to Tivaouane.

In this song the central elements of Sufism are all apparent. The singer sets up the marabout-taalibe relationship by establishing himself as a disciple of Abdoul Aziz Sy. In extolling the virtues of the marabout he apostrophises him as Lampa lislaam, the lamp of Islam, a common image that emphasises the marabout's role as a guide. Through the compelling image of a flourishing tree, Maal alludes to the historical origins of the Tijaniyya order in Senegal and by extension the spiritual link between Abdoul Aziz Sy and El Hajj Umar: the tree's roots are in the Fuuta but it extends to Tivaouane. This tree, he sings, is the laawol Tijaniyya. Laawol may be translated literally or metaphorically as a road, path or way. The notion of the individual journey along a path to spiritual enlightenment is one of the most important aspects of Sufism and a central image in Sufi literature and song. The spiritual way towards religious enlightenment finds a correlate in the physical pilgrimage of a disciple to see the marabout or, if the latter is dead, to visit his tomb, visits which in themselves can result in spiritual enlightenment from the presence of the marabout and the grace he bestows upon the pilgrim. Such pilgrimages may be individual visits or large communal events such as the Grand Maggal in Touba or the annual gammu in Tivaouane, which gather thousands of people together from all parts of the country and even from abroad. Maal ends his song by beginning a personal pilgrimage to Tivaouane to visit Abdoul Aziz Sy. His declaration is beautifully intercalated with a prayer in Pulaarized Arabic as he sings, `Today I will go to visit Abdoul Aziz / Bissimillay / I have begun / Araamaani / I have begun.' The final effect of the intercalation is to emphasise the spiritual nature of both the quest and the relationship between the marabout and the disciple, as well as the appropriateness of seeking spiritual edification at the hands of the marabout.

Mouridism and popular culture

Although not atypical in terms of content, Baaba Maal's song `Sy Saawaande' belongs to a minority of popular songs about Tijani marabouts; it is the Mouride marabouts and most especially the figure of their founder, Cheikh Amadou Bamba, who dominate Islamic popular music in Senegal. In order to place this observation in context it is necessary to consider the dominant role of Mouridism in popular culture. Although the Mourides number less than the Tijanis within the Senegalese population,(18) Mouridism has dominated not only scholarly work on Senegalese Islam(19) but also those aspects of popular culture that have been influenced by Islam. While the former may be due to the uniquely Senegalese nature of Mouridism and its offshoot, the Baye Fall movement, the latter is more likely the result of the powerful influence of the Mouride population, who are primarily Wolof, on certain aspects of urban culture such as language and business networks.

While the mosque of Touba and the lion that represents Cheikh Ibra Fall are common motifs, the most popular icon is undeniably Cheikh Amadou Bamba himself. The ubiquitous images of the marabout, frequently called Serin Touba (Touba marabout), vary very little, since they are all based on the single extant photograph. It shows Bamba standing before a wooden building, dressed in white robes with sleeves that seem to cover his hands, and a white scarf draped over his head and around one shoulder. The lower part of his face is covered by the scarf but his eyes and forehead, upon which some claim to see inscribed the name of God or Mohammed, are visible.(20) Images based on A photograph adorn the walls of restaurants and businesses, they appear on the sides of Mouride-owned vehicles that serve as urban or bush taxis, and the facade of an entire building near the train station in Louga, a town in the Wolof heartland, is decorated with colourful murals of the life of Bamba. The original photograph and its variously reproduced forms thus constitute the basis of Mouride iconography and wield a spiritual power of their own. Believers touch the images in order to obtain grace and come under the protection of the marabout. In addition to such visual images, restaurants and other businesses pay homage to the marabout by incorporating references to Mouridism in their names. Thus Moustapha Kane, in a 1994 study of the effect of Islam on the Dakar business community, documents names like Keur Bamba (`Bamba's home') and Restaurant Sopp Serigne Touba (Love Serin Touba Restaurant).

A second influence of Mouridism can be seen in personal dress. More and more, young Mouride taalibes are dressing, or in some cases are being required by their marabouts to dress, in a distinctive Mouride style. It consists of a woollen cap, generally with a pompom on top, an ankle-length, usually dark-coloured, robe with very long sleeves that cover the hands in the manner of the photograph of Bamba, a long, light-coloured scarf wrapped around the neck several times, and a gafaka or conspicuous box-like leather bag, sometimes disproportionately large, also hung around the neck. The robe is popularly known as a `Baye Lahatte', after Abdou Lahatte Mbacke, Amadou Bamba's son and kilifa-general of the Mourides from 1968 to 1989.

But the influence of Mouridism in personal dress extends beyond the dress of the taalibe, and has influenced popular fashions for men and women alike. Most noticeable is the use of njaxas or patchwork cloth, which is one of the elements of Baye Fall clothing. Legend has it that Cheikh Ibra, in order to show complete submission to Amadou Bamba, stripped himself of all his worldly possessions, including his clothes. A woman who later saw him gave him a piece of cloth to cover his nudity, and others followed suit. The pieces were sewn together to make a rough patchwork garment, which was augmented with new patches as the old ones wore out; in imitation, Cheikh Ibra's followers made their own clothes from left-over pieces of cloth, a tradition that continues today.

Patchwork cloth became very popular among the general population during the late 1980s, when apprentice tailors spent much of their time sewing together little pieces of coloured factory-printed cotton known as legos, after the city of Lagos in Nigeria. The Senegalese cloth manufacturer, SOTIBA, then marketed several fabrics with an imitation njaxas pattern on them which became very popular because they resembled patchwork but did not involve all the work, and thus expense, of the sewing. More recently, people have started to wear njaxas made out of small squares or long strips of coloured damask, the latest popular reflex of Baye Fall-inspired fashion. Perhaps the most spectacular relationship between Mouridism and fashion occurred a few years ago during a hairstyle contest sponsored by one of the companies that make artificial hair augments: one of the winning entries was a hair-do fashioned in the shape of the mosque of Touba.

In the domain of language Mouridism has also had an influence. There is a distinct Mouride way of sAying thank you in Wolof: jaa jef as opposed to standard jere jef. Whether this is a peculiarity of one of the dialects of the rural Wolof and Mouride heartlands or an innovation, it is nevertheless regarded as emblematic of Mouridism. In addition, during greeting sequences Mourides often respond to formulaic questions as to their health by substituting the phrase Maa ngiy sant Serin Tuubaa (`I am praising Serin Touba') for the more commonly expected Maa ngiy sant Yalla (`I am praising God'). It is this kind of local substitution--Touba instead of Mecca, Serin Touba instead of Mohammed or even sometimes God--that has led some non-Mourides to question their orthodoxy.(21) Notwithstanding, the popularity of Mouridism and especially of Cheikh Amadou Bamba as a cultural icon extends well beyond members of the order: in St Louis, in northern Senegal, I observed both a young man who was a member of the Tijaniyya order and a religious young Catholic woman wearing fashionable pendants with the likeness of Bamba. As both a religious and a cultural phenomenon, then, Mouridism is a dynamic influence on many aspects of Senegalese life. As a somewhat sceptical Tijani put it, `The Mourides are on the verge of evolving into something else, and nobody knows yet what it is.'

Given the impact of Mouridism on popular culture, it comes as no surprise that the figure of Cheikh Amadou Bamba dominates Islamic popular music. Almost every popular Senegalese singer, whether Mouride or not, has in his or her repertoire at least one song to Cheikh Bamba. The opposite, however, is not true: Mouride singers tend to sing the praises only of Mouride marabouts. The praise songs to Bamba are usually similar in form to Baaba Maal's `Sy Saawaande', extolling the marabout's virtues and role as a guide. Youssou Ndour's `Mame Bamba', sung in Wolof and English, recounts a miraculous event from Bamba's life when, upon being forbidden by the French to pray on the ship that was taking him to exile in Gabon, the marabout threw his prayer skin onto the water to pray on the surface of the sea. The title of Ndour's album is Wommat--The Guide, an epithet that has multiple covert referents within the collection of songs. Quite plausibly the title may be a reference to Bamba, an interpretation that is compatible with the Sufi emphasis on hidden meaning as a legitimate means towards enlightenment. In a similar vein, the popular Baye Fall singer Moussa Ngom's song `Circulation Lampe Fall' (`Lampe Fall [i.e. Cheikh Ibra Fall] traffic'), on his cassette of the same name, could be construed as a cryptic allusion to the Sufi way. Ngom fuses both the epithet for Cheikh Ibra Fall and the taalibe with graphic road imagery as he sings, Circulation Lampe Fall / Le code de la route c'est le talibe (`Lampe Fall traffic / The highway code is the taalibe'). The inside of the cassette liner contains, appropriately enough, an advertisement for automobile tyres. Another popular Baye Fall singer is Cheikh Ndiguel Lo, whose middle name is a variant spelling of the Wolof word for a religious injunction (ndigal) issued by a religious leader and associated primarily with the Mourides. On the sleeve of his cassette, Ndogal, Lo thanks his marabout, Mame Massamba Ndiaye, whom he calls boroom ndigal, or issuer of the ndigal. The liner of the cassette is carefully constructed to show that the music to be found within is itself religious in nature. Endowed with abundant dreadlocks, the typical hairstyle of the Baye Fall, Lo is shown wearing a pendant of Cheikh Ibra Fall juxtaposed against Lampe Fall, the minaret of the mosque of Touba which is named after him. The letters of Lo's name are arranged around the pendant, while he himself is shown with his hands in the position for receiving barka or grace from a marabout. The act of singing praise songs to the marabout, as well as listening to them, can thus be construed as a means of acquiring barka.

One of the most enchanting of all the praise songs to the Mouride founder is Orchestra Baobab's `Bamba', a version of which also appears on former Baobab member Thione Seck's album Demb. The song takes advantage of the coincidence of the marabout's name with the dance made popular in the 1950s by the American singer Ritchie Valens in his song `La Bamba'. The refrain in the praise song, `Bamba Bamba', echoes Valens's refrain in both lyrics and melody. In this song the elements of Sufism are all present, and the subservient role of the taalibe, a salient characteristic of Mouridism, is emphasised more than in Maal's `Sy Saawaande'.

Kii laa di tarbiyu

Kii laa di soldaaru

Kil laay siyaare

Muhammadu Bamba

Bamba, Bamba

Bamba, Bamba

Tayilan fatiilan jadiilan laama

Muhammadu Bamba

Kii doyna keemaan

Bamba, Bamba

Bamba, Bamba

Tuubileen tuubinaa

Mbir maanga Tuubaa

Tuubaa dey yokk leer

Tuubaa dey wanni baakaar

Bamba, Bamba

Bamba, Bamba


Muhammadu Bamba

Mooxall yoon wi

Ba yoon wi yaatu

Muhammadu Bamba

Bamba, Bamba

Bamba, Bamba

Muhamadu Bamba

Moo niinal ceeb yi

Ba ceeb yi niin

Muhammadu Bamba

Bamba, Bamba

Bamba, Bamba

Moomi Buso Baali

Yobbuna ma Tuubaa

Ma jebbelu sukk raam

Ci woomu Serin Abdoul Qadir

Bamba, Bamba

Bamba, Bamba


Mbeg maanga Tuubaa

Jamm jaanga Tuubaa

Leer baanga Tuubaa

Mine jaanga Tuubaa

Tuuba dey yokk leer

Nan' dem ba Tuubaa

Kii laa di tarbiyu

Kii laa di soldaaru

Kii laay siyaare

Muhammadu Bamba

He is the one whom I serve.

He is the one for whom I become a soldier.

He is the one to whom I will make a pilgrimage.

Muhammadu Bamba,

Bamba, Bamba,

Bamba, Bamba,

Tayilan fatiilan jadiilan laama,

Muhammadu Bamba.

He is miraculous.

Bamba, Bamba,

Bamba, Bamba.

Go and convert, I have converted.

The reason is in Touba.

Touba increases enlightenment,

Touba decreases sin.

Bamba, Bamba,

Bamba, Bamba,


Muhammadu Bamba,

He clears the path

Until the path is wide.

Muhammadu Bamba,

Bamba, Bamba,

Bamba, Bamba,

Muhammadu Bamba,

He oils the rice

Until the rice shines.

Muhammadu Bamba,

Bamba, Bamba,

Bamba, Bamba,

Moomi Buso Baali

Took me to Touba.

I submitted, knelt, crawled

To the knees of Serin Abdoul Qadir.

Bamba, Bamba,

Bamba, Bamba,


Happiness is there in Touba.

Peace is there in Touba.

Enlightenment is there in Touba.

Religion is there in Touba.

Touba increases enlightenment.

Let us go to Touba.

He is the one whom I serve.

He is the one for whom I become a soldier.

He is the one to whom I will make a pilgrimage.

Muhammadu Bamba.

After declaring allegiance and submission to the marabout, the singer-taalibe exhorts others to do likewise by converting. It is not clear whether this means to convert to Islam, or to convert to Mouridism from another Sufi order, but the ambiguity is no doubt intentional. The marabout's virtues are extolled, first in spiritual terms with reference to his role as a guide who clears the path (moo xall yoon wi), but then also in concrete terms when he is credited with `oiling the rice' (moo niinal ceeb yi), a metaphor that evokes material prosperity: only the rich can afford well oiled rice. The singer-taalibe then recounts his own pilgrimage to Touba, where he engages in an act of submission to the kilifa-general, the leader of the order, at the time the song was written, and also recounts what can be found in Touba: happiness, peace, enlightenment and religion. The song then calls for all who are listening to join the singer and go to Touba, and the declaration of allegiance is repeated.


Praise-singing and the `new tradition'

As we have seen, the dynamics of the symbiotic relationship between gewel and geer in Senegalese society are highly complex and involve not only the praise-singer and the individual or family being praised but also the audience, the ultimate arbiter of the reputation at stake. It is this aspect of the praise-singing tradition, namely the appeal to an audience, that was harnessed to promote and establish the legitimacy of the various Tijani marabouts during the succession quarrels of the 1950s, a step that established a precedent for the `new tradition'. The triangular relationship between the praise-singer, the object of the praise and the audience is reconfigured within the Sufi context so that the audience takes on the primary role of patron of the praise-singer. This shift of focus away from the marabout and towards the audience is both appropriate and necessary: the marabout is ultimately an intermediary in a spiritual quest and thus ought not to deflect praise from God. On the other hand, an audience that wishes to express its appreciation for the spiritual qualities of the marabout may do so by rewarding the marabout's praise-singer; thus it is entirely appropriate, even within a religious context, for that audience to assume the role of patron. Singing the praises of a marabout can also enhance the reputation and status of the praise-singer. Such praise-singing is seen as an honourable activity even for someone who is not a gewel. Thus Panzacchi (1994: 208) reports that Baaba Maal's father finally accepted him as a singer when he heard him singing a praise song to El Hajj Umar on the radio. The triangular relationship in which the audience becomes the patron of the praise-singer is readily carried over into the realm of the commercial. The recording industry creates a potentially vast audience whose tangible patronage consists of buying the recordings.

The religious and the commercial

The proliferation of Islamic popular music in Senegal occasionally provokes a critical newspaper editorial questioning the singers' motivation. One such editorial, headed `Conviction religieuse ou marketing?' (Ndoye, 1995), which appeared in a special issue of Sud Quotidien dedicated to the critical examination of religious practices in Senegal, begins by asking the provocative question Si Touba n'existait pas, que chanterait Kine Lam? (`If Touba did not exist, what would Kine Lam be singing?'). The writer, in words that betray his viewpoint, goes on to say that `the phenomenon spares practically no musician' and laments the fact that the songs are purely laudatory in nature rather than conveying the richness of the marabouts' spiritual messages. What he is in essence critiquing is the very aspect of praise-singing that gave rise to the Islamic popular song. He also cites an interview with a cassette vendor who accused the musicians of being opportunistic, since among cassette buyers, he claimed, nombreux sont ceux qui ne reflechissent meme pas sur la qualite du produit pour Vacheter quand ils entendent dans un morceau l'evocation du nom de leur marabout (`Numerous are those who do not even reflect on the quality of the product before buying it when they hear in a song the evocation of the name of their marabout').

Perhaps it is inevitable that when the religious and the commercial meet the ground is laid for such accusations, but the sentiment of the editorial writer and the cassette seller is certainly not shared by the majority of those who listen to the music. More common is the sentiment that popular musicians are simply providing what people want to hear, and that praise songs to marabouts are an important component of public taste. In addition, many people reported buying such cassettes because they either liked the music or felt an affinity with the singer as a co-disciple of a certain marabout, or both. Despite the occasional critiques of popular maraboutic praise songs, many of which are veiled critiques of the maraboutic system itself, the `new tradition' appears to be here to stay.

Sufism and the musical market place

Jamm ak xaalis (`Peace and money') announces the business card of one of Marche Sandaga's cassette sellers, unabashedly proclaiming the goals of his business. The central point from which cassettes are disseminated to markets all over the country is Marche Sandaga, a bustling Mouride and Wolof-dominated market that spills over on to the streets of downtown Dakar. Street vendors pick up their merchandise here to resell at a small profit, and, if they own their own equipment, buyers who come from smaller towns may make unauthorised copies to sell in their local markets. A cassette bought at Sandaga can easily go through several generations of copying and reselling as it moves from urban to rural market place in a journey that is impossible to control.

As the religious becomes commercialised within a system that is difficult to regulate, there have been some novel attempts to control the commercial via religious means. One such solution to the problem of pirated cassettes appeared a few years ago on a tape-recording of the Khassaids or sacred poems of Cheikh Amadou Bamba sung by Mountakha Gueye. Printed on the side of the professionally produced cassette is a message that states: Sur ordre du Ndiguel nous prions a toute personne en possession de cette cassette d'eviter toute forme de duplication, `By order of ndigal, we ask all those in possession of this cassette to refrain from any form of duplication'. This appeal to religious authority is a unique response to the copyright problem and may very well be the most efficacious approach possible, at least on the local market.

Senegalese singers are also among the most popular African musicians on the international scene, and international tastes have also played a role in shaping the nature of Senegalese music. The most obvious results of the internationalisation of Senegalese music are the growing number of songs sung in English and the adaptation of musical accompaniments to the norms of `world music'. The latter phenomenon is quite striking when recordings with the same name, such as, for example, the two versions of Baaba Maal's album Lam Toro, are strikingly different in style. The production of such dual recordings is very common, since one is created for the Senegalese market and the other for the international market.(22)

An additional result of the internationalisation of Senegalese music has been the ascendance of male singers to superstar status, to the relative neglect of female singers, who are nonetheless extremely popular in Senegal. Although there are no doubt many reasons for this phenomenon, part of the preference may be due to the high-pitched nature of the Sahelian singing style, which can appeal to the Western ear when performed in a male register but may require some getting used to in a female register. As the Western audience for such music becomes more sophisticated in its appreciation of different singing styles, female singers from the Sahel will no doubt become more popular on the international scene, as is already evidenced in the marketing of recordings by several female Malian singers, and in the release of Kine Lam's 1996 compact disc entitled Praise.

As a final testament to the adaptability of Senegalese Islam, a 1996 compact disc recording entitled Shakawtu--Faith by Musa Dieng Kala, a Mouride living in Canada, manages to merge the most unique and traditional aspects of Senegalese Sufism with the latest musical trend. In a somewhat incongruous blend, Kala chants the Arabic Khassaids of Cheikh Amadou Bamba to a `new age' musical accompaniment,(23) occasionally breaking into Wolof between poems to declare his allegiance to the deceased marabout. In somewhat surreal fashion, Bamba's face is imprinted on the disc itself, so that to those familiar with Mouride iconography the entire experience of the product becomes suffused with the religious. The singer, who dedicates his album to Bamba, thanks his marabout, Serigne Cheikh Seye, for the ndigal to make the recording, and makes a special appeal to the owner of the compact disc:

Because of the sacred aspect of these poems, it is requested that you

restrict your listening to this recording to places suitable for a

communication with the Most High--accordingly, please refrain from

listening to it in bars or nightclubs or similar spots unless in

special circumstances consistent with this request.

Just like the ndigal against the unauthorised reproduction of Mountakha Gueye's version of the Khassaids, this request by Musa Dieng Kala is an attempt to appeal to a religious authority to somehow moderate the use of a commercial product.


When popular praise songs to marabouts began to be played in the nightclubs of Dakar in the 1970s, so reports go, many people were somewhat shocked at the unusual fusion of the secular and the religious. While there had been a precedent for the incorporation of secular elements into religious ceremonies, the transfer of the religious into a decidedly non-religious context, namely clubs where alcohol was served, was suspect. The initial trepidation was, however, short-lived, and the emerging tradition of Islamic popular music has continued to flourish and has become an important part of the repertoire of most contemporary popular musicians. As just one of a myriad of popular cultural manifestations that artfully draw on Sufi sources, the Islamic popular music tradition discussed in this article attests to the remarkable capacity of Senegalese Islam to adapt to the aesthetics of everyday life.


This article is based on several periods of fieldwork in Senegal between 1988 and 1996. I would like to thank Ousmane Kane and Leonardo Villalon for their encouragement and invaluable commentary on the project, as well as Thierno Seydou Tall for help with Pulaar, Wolof and Arabic translations. I also thank Al Roberts and Polly Nooter Roberts for inviting me to participate in the seventh Stanley Conference on African Art, `The aesthetics of African Urban Identities', held at the University of Iowa in March 1996, where I presented an earlier version of this article. Fellow participants in the conference who provided helpful insights include Mary Jo Arnoldi and Mamadou Diouf. Finally, I am very grateful to Eric Charry, Lucy Duran, Tom Hale, Seydina Ndiaye and Julia Watson for their help and comments on various aspects of the project.


(1) The `graphic environment' of Dakar, as Calvet (1994) has termed it, substantially complicates the question of spelling conventions. In this multilingual environment, where there is a high rate of illiteracy, there are two alphabets, the Roman and the Arabic, which in addition to being used for writing French and Arabic are also adapted to indigenous languages such as Wolof and Pulaar. Moreover, Arabic words may also be written in the Roman alphabet. Calvet considers this environment as `indicative of a situation of transition between orality and writing, a society where the relationship to the written is not yet fixed' (1994: 177-8). I have attempted to follow two rules of thumb with regard to spelling conventions. First, if words appear in written form in the graphic environment (on the side of bush taxis, on walls, signs, etc.) I have retained that spelling. Likewise, I have retained the spelling of album and song names as they appear on cassette and compact disc liners and the common spellings of proper names, which generally reflect a French-based orthography (e.g. Baye Fall, Touba, etc.). Secondly, I have followed standard Wolof spelling conventions as found in Fal et al.'s (1990) Wolof dictionary for all other Wolof words and phrases, including borrowings from Arabic that have become part of the Wolof language (e.g. siyaare, `pilgrimage').

(2) The Set-Setal movement emerged at a moment in recent Senegalese history that was characterised by increasing disenfranchisement among urban dwellers and particularly youth, the main audience of popular music. Mamadou Diouf has described the complex movement as an assault against the ruling class and its historicity which, by redefining public space, has fashioned a new historical memory, one which is quintessentially urban (Diouf, 1992: 41).

(3) Pulaar is the Senegalese dialect of Fula, a widely dispersed language that is spoken over a 2,000 mile stretch of West Africa and numbers at least 10 million speakers. The two westernmost dialects spoken primarily in Senegal and Guinea are known as Pulaar and Pular respectively, while the easternmost dialects are referred to by their speakers as Fulfulde (Arnott, 1970). Speakers of Pulaar are sometimes designated by the somewhat ambiguous term Haalpulaar'en (speakers of Pulaar), which may be restricted to those of the Tukuloor ethnic group or may include all speakers of Pulaar, including the Tukuloor and the Fulbe (McLaughlin, 1995).

(4) Ethnicity is, of course, a fluid, dynamic and constantly renegotiated concept, and Senegal is no exception to this generalisation. The topic is a vast one, but for a glimpse of the role language has played in reconfiguring ethnicity in contemporary Senegal the interested reader is referred to McLaughlin (1995), where I deal with questions of Wolof, Haalpulaar and Seereer identity in the urban context.

(5) A survey of Sahelian societies that have some type of caste system can be found in Tamari (1991). For a discussion of Wolof castes see Diop (1981). A sketch of the hierarchical social categories among the Haalpulaar'en can be found in the introduction to Kane and Robinson (1984).

(6) The appearance of popular West African music on the international scene has changed the meaning of the word `griot' as it is understood in English or French by incorporating a more general definition of any musician or singer. Thus a New York Times article reviewing a concert by Baaba Maal and his group, Daande Lefiol (Parelas, 1995), leads the reader to understand that Maal is a griot when in actual fact he is not a member of the awlube caste. When Pulaar or Wolof terms are used the definition is a more restrictive one. The Pulaar awlube (sing. gawlo) or Wolof gewel refers to those of griot caste, while those who, like Baaba Maal, sing without being members of the griot caste are simply called singers: Wolof woykat or Pulaar yimoobe (sing. jimoowo). The restricted definition also encompasses a set of social relationships and roles that the broader definition does not; thus it goes well beyond describing a profession. Since the social role of the griot has important implications for this study, the Wolof term gewel will be used to avoid the potential ambiguity of the term `griot'.

(7) The equivalent terms in Pulaar are neeno (pl. neenbe) for those who are casted, and dimo (pl. rimbe) for those who are not. The Wolof terms have been chosen for use over the Pulaar simply because, with the notable exception of Baaba Maal, the popular musicians whose songs I discuss in this article sing primarily in Wolof.

(8) Hoffman (1995: 37) observes that in Bamako young griot women, who are timid rather than loud and boisterous in public performance, are criticised for behaviour that more befits a horon (noble).

(9) Although it is the norm, geer status is not a necessary prerequisite for becoming a marabout. There are some cases of illustrious casted marabouts.

(10) I witnessed a particularly interesting case of embellishment which involved code switching between Wolof and French in Tivaouane in 1989. The marabout, who was speaking in Wolof, interspersed several French words in his discourse, as is the norm in urban Wolof; the gewel's embellishments included the use of rather arcane Wolof substitutes for the French terms, but when the marabout uttered phrases devoid of French borrowings the gewel embellished those phrases by adding French words and substituting them for Wolof terms.

(11) An Arabic schoolteacher who is known among his friends and acquaintances for being well versed in Islamic learning told me that he was called in as an intermediary in a case where a couple, one of whom was a geer and the other a neeno, wanted to marry, but their parents and families opposed the marriage on the basis of caste. His role was to convince the families that the union was acceptable by appealing to the fact that Islam forbade such social hierarchisation, and that to oppose the marriage on those grounds would be to go against Islam.

(12) Conrad (1995) describes a group of Mande griots known as funew who specialise in verbal art associated with Islam and who were originally attached to Muslim scholars. From his description their role appears to be that of delivering homilies or reciting religious verses from the Qu'ran rather than praise-singing.

(13) Because of the particular frequency of sikar performances by the Baye Fall, the word is often used simply to refer to any Baye Fall ceremony (Villalon, 1995: xviii).

(14) The Teysir takes its popular name from the first line of the devotional poem composed by El Hadj Malik Sy: `Alxamdulillah thiteysir yallahu' Villalon, 1995: 297 n. 23).

(15) The recitation of the Khassaids can induce a trance-like state and ultimately fainting from religious ecstasy, an experience known as daanu leer (`to fall down in illumination') in Wolof.

(16) Significantly, one of the first popular recordings to include mention of a marabout was Orchestre Baobab's Werente Serigne, which criticises religious, and especially maraboutic, rivalry.

(17) An anonymous cassette seller reported that over the course of several months he had sold more copies of Soda Mama Fall (another popular woman griot) and Kine Lam's cassettes which had praise songs to marabouts as their title songs than of all other cassettes together (Ndoye, 1995).

(18) The results of the 1988 census give the demographic breakdown of the general population as 30.1 per cent Mouride and 47.4 per cent Tijani. (Republique du Senegal, 1990).

(19) The most influential work on the Mourides is Donal Cruise O'Brien's pioneering 1971 volume, The Mourides of Senegal. Others that discuss the Mourides in depth include Jean Copans's Les Marabouts de l'arachide (1980) and Christian Coulon's Le Marabout et le prince (1981).

(20) The photograph is reproduced in Cruise O'Brien (1971) and in Samb (1972).

(21) The substitution of the local for the general seems to have been part of Mouridism since the order was founded. Cruise O'Brien (1971: 142) cites Marty's (1913) monograph in which a Mouride of Kayor declared to him that Amadou Bamba `is the greatest, and Shaikh lbra Fa [sic] is his prophet'.

(22) This point about different markets is also made in a BBC World Service programme, `The African Ear' (17 June 1995) by the presenter, Lucy Duran, who interviews the Senegalese musicians Baaba Maal and Youssou Ndour.

(23) The `new age' movement in North America tends to adopt the mystical aspects of many religions, including those of Sufism, as evidenced in the popularity of the Turkish mystical writer Mawlana Jalal od-Din, commonly known as Rumi.


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Publication Information: Article Title: Islam and Popular Music in Senegal: The Emergence of a 'New Tradition'. Contributors: Fiona Mclaughlin - author. Journal Title: Africa. Volume: 67. Issue: 4. Publication Year: 1997. Page Number: 560+.  

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