Ethnolyrical

making music, writing culture

Oumou Sow, Senegal’s Flying Lady Pop Star

I first encountered Oumou Sow in flight, framed up on her stage by the  spangled glamor girls and shiny-suited club boys of the late-night disco crowd at Pikine, Senegal’s exclusive Ravine complex.  Oumou Sow, who has been a star mbalax dancer for some time, has emerged this year with her song “Fly to Fly (Decollage)” with a style she calls “Rap Mbalax.” She invented a dance to go along with the song, waving her arms like a bird, rolling her hands and pointing upward, and swooping her fingers forward like a bow and arrow, that has become incredibly popular here in Senegal. Her song expresses the dreams of mobility and freedom that characterize the dreams of many Senegalese young women, who struggle to find work in Senegal’s resource-poor economy.  And she suggests that, as Senegal sees many of its young people illegally emigrate to Europe and the US in order to keep their families fed and sheltered, she wishes for these young people to have the resources they need to work legally and to fly peacefully to their work sites abroad. As we segue into her next song, “Tal Moto,” which is a sexy dance number about riding motorcycles, Oumou Sow tells us about her love of music:

My name is Oumou Sow of the group the Amazons of Dakar. I am a dancer, artist, and singer. I have been in the arts since I was a child, I come from a family of musicians.My father was Sir Sabor. My uncle, Amadou Bool Ndiaye was the first dancer for Baaba Maal. I have my own group and I am the teacher of students in dance who are professionals. I am proud to tell you who I am, and of my history, I was in the groups Star Production and Black Star Productions, ad I was a dancer for the Orchestra of Dakar, and other groups. My group won a competition to dance in Holland, and I choreographed the piece. If our group does well, it is because God wants us to travel the world to represent Senegal. I’m starting with one country and want to fly everywhere. To fly is evolution, and everyone in the world wants to move above where they are. My first album is called Tal Moto, and my second album is called Fly to Fly.

Watch the video for “Fly to Fly” here:

Watch the video for “Talal Moto” here:

Watch the video for “Kanel” here:

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