recorded horn sections for Senegalese singer Baye Magattes new album Kaye Kaye


Mbalax is the national popular dance music of Senegal and the Gambia. The traditional form of mbalax originated from the sabar, a Wolof genre that historically fused musical and cultural practices from different ethnic groups such as the Njuup, a religious Serer music. The popular dance form of mbalax developed in urban Senegal in the early 1970s. Like many other francophone West African countries the Senegalese popular music scene was partially influenced by soul, blues, jazz, R&B, and rock from the United States, varieté from France, Congolese rumba, and Latin pop from the Caribbean and New York (e.g., pachanga, son, charanga, salsa, and Latin jazz). In this mix of African diasporic sounds Senegalese fans and musicians wanted their own urban popular dance music so they began singing in Wolof (Senegal's lingua franca) instead of French, and incorporated rhythms of the indigenous sabar drum). Dancers began using moves associated with the sabar, and tipping the singers as if they were traditional griots.

Among the bands that played this new style, Etoile de Dakar (starring Youssou N'Dour and El Hadji Faye), and Raam Daan (starring Thione Seck), Xalam II, and Super Diamono. Since becoming popular, both Mbalax and its associated dance have spread to other regions such as Mali, Mauritania, Ivory Coast and France. This dissemination has come about through radio, audio cassettes and televised video clips.

Mbalax instrumentation includes keyboards, synths and other electronic production methods. However, it is the Nder (lead drum), the Sabar (rhythm drum), and the Tama (talking drum) percussion, and widely influenced African and Arabic vocalistic stylings that continue to make Mbalax one of the most distinctive forms of dance music in west Africa and the diaspora. Jazz, Funk, Latin (especially Cuban) and Congolese pop music influenced the early sounds of Mbalax, today it is also influenced by RnB, Hip-Hop, Coupé-Décalé, Zouk and other modern Caribbean, Latin, and African pop musics. Mbalax artists frequently collaborate with artists from other genres, such as Viviane Ndour's work with Zouk star Philip Monteiro and French/Malian rap star Mokobé. Perhaps the most well known collaboration of all was Youssou Ndour's huge hit with Neneh Cherry; 'Seven Seconds'.


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