Sunday, January 29, 2012

Metzo Djatah & Abdoulaye Wade

Yet another fantastic musical evening at the French Institut – this one marked with a different set of observations.  Myself, Manning and another new friend  - here on a multi-year assignment with the UN (whose family was back in the US for a few weeks) was happy to join in with us as we continue to pack in our musical venues and get exposed to so many African and Senegalese musicians.  The beauty of the Institut being so close - sure makes it easy to do!

Parker and Addison – still happy to hang out at the apartment and watch  a movie while we depart. 

This evenings attraction - Metzo Djatah.  Dakar born, he promotes himself with a genre of Afro Urban Folk highlighting his blend of acoustic guitar, traditional African rhythms, urban sounds and carrying a message about life.

We met Francis at 8:30 thinking it would be packed like the previous weeks event  and we were hoping to have a better choice of seats – not that any seat is actually bad – but there are some rows which are a bit higher offering  un-obstructred views *IF* a taller person sits in a row in front.  So we take a peak in and see the theater which holds about 800 people sitting and standing – was barely full.  Not one person yet having taken up even a seat in the front row. Odd! Okay so we wait a few more minutes and decide perhaps people would come later and miss the opening act. So we chose to sit up front and center in the first row.  9:00 came – and the show started.  

 There was no introductions  - a guy  comes out on stage and starts singing. At first I thought maybe it was a warmup (I'm probably the only one in the whole audience who thought that), since that has occurred in the past, but after about 2 songs when more of the band came on stage – I realized this was him and he **was**  the opening act. And the crowd still remained quite thin.  

 Friday, the 27th  was the day Senegal's Constitutional Court was to declare the candidates for presidency  (remember hanging chads, US Supreme Court, Bush vs Gore - don't mean to veer here but it just popped into my head) everyone waiting to find out if Abdoulaye Wade would be allowed to run for a 3rd term.  There has been much controversy around the legitimacy of him being able to run for a 3rd term and his age at 85 – along with likely many other things making people feel the country has run it’s course with his leadership. However there’s always the other 50% who like what he has done and would enjoy seeing him stay on longer.  With last years riots in July it was anticipated there could be some demonstration and rioting from the resulting declaration of the candidate list. So many messages  either on the news, internet,  word of mouth or even e-mail communications from  embassies  did more than to encourage people to stay home or stay away from certain areas . No one knew exactly when the Court  was going to declare and publish the list – even Parker and Addison’s school opted to ensure students were safe and did not have school. And with the French Institut being an ex-pat hangout – it then became no surprise why it was quite empty by the time of the concert began as the list still had not been published and people likely wanted to just remain home.  Here’s an example of an excerpt of the US communication. 

In addition, the Government of Senegal has banned all demonstrations in Senegal from January 26th through January 30th.  However, opposition groups have stated publically that they will defy the ban and they plan to proceed with demonstrations to protest the expected decision of the Constitutional Council.  Available information suggests that demonstrations will be widespread throughout Dakar, rather than one large demonstration confined to a single area.  The possibility of large demonstrations, traffic disruptions and violence exists throughout Dakar, particularly Friday, January 27th  and Saturday, January 28th .

In the recent past the following areas and/or types of locations have been the sites of demonstrations:

Ouakam area;
Mermoz/Fann area;
Plateau area;
Alamdies area (near the Constitutional Council)
Gas stations;
Bridges and traffic circles;
Government buildings to include local government buildings;
Public market areas;
Corniche near University Cheikh Anta Diop

In response to the widespread nature of these planned demonstrations and the possibility of violence, the Embassy is advising its U.S. employees and families to take the following precautions this weekend:

-  Personnel should return to their residences by early evening on Friday, January, 27th.
-  Personnel should avoid travel into, out of, or within Dakar on Saturday, January 28th.
-  Personnel should complete required errands, shopping, etc. on Friday afternoon and not on Saturday. -  Personnel should park vehicles off the street.

U.S. citizens living in Senegal, and particularly in Dakar, are urged to avoid travel late Friday night and through the day on Saturday.  If travel is necessary, please exercise caution.  Stay tuned to media reports, maintain situational awareness, consider alternate travel routes in case of blockage and avoid demonstrations should you come upon them.

From our perspective while they only listed some 'areas' which ours was included,  their mention of public markets, gov't buildings, gas stations and traffic circles to us meant - you might as well include all of Dakar and it's surrounding 'neighborhoods' and 'suburbs'. We felt that if we walked out side our front door and peered past our passageway and and things were to look unruly we would not go but honestly while we need to take the messages in stride – we also want to continue to live our life here – so since the Institut is within walking distance of  4 blocks – we went.  I will say that the area around the Presidential Palace not to far from us showed more presence of police – but from our level here and our neighborhood  - we did not see any outbursts (but this neighborhood did experience it in the past) – really it all seemed ‘normal’ minus many people.

Metzo Djatah gave a great concert full of heart and soul despite the lack of audience that was recognizable. He was so thankful for all that did come to see him and  acknowledged the challgenges of the country and hoped for peace, prosperity and solidarity. 

 The Kora - from wikipedia - A kora is built from a large calabash gourd cut in half and covered with cow skin to make a resonator, and has a notched bridge. It does not fit well into any one category of western instruments and would have to be described as a double bridge harp lute. The sound of a kora resembles that of a harp, though when played in the traditional style, it bears a closer resemblance to flamenco and delta blues guitar techniques. The player uses only the thumb and index finger of both hands to pluck the strings in polyrhythmic patterns (using the remaining fingers to secure the instrument by holding the hand posts on either side of the strings). 

And of course the evening doesn't end without a drink and the final word from the Council - Abdoulaye Wade in, Youssou N'Dour invalidated (c'est dommage) and our friend making it home safely !


  1. Hilary,
    At the Alliance Francaise in San Francisco, a few years ago, I attended a concert by a Senegalese kora player named Ablaye Cissoko accompanied by a German trumpet player. Small audience too...The organizers had failed to announce the event early enough and there was something important that night (late October), I can't remember what. What a beautiful sound comes out of this instrument!
    Brigitte (EB)

  2. Great photos, nice memories of 'epic' evening!