Ethnolyrical

making music, writing culture

Dakar to Barcelona: Sista Njaaya’s Cosmopolitan Senegal

Part of the fun of my fieldwork with emerging musicians is witnessing their breakthrough moments onstage, in the studio and in their personal lives. In late September 2010, I traveled to Barcelona, Spain with Senegalese musical artist Njaaya, who was invited to play the city’s classic outdoor Greek theater with her group for the week-long, major Barcelona Acción Musica (BAM) festival, which featured daily performances from this year’s sister city, Dakar, Senegal. Hundreds of European World Music fans and Senegalese expats circled the open theatre, which is quarried into the stone Montjüic Mountain bordering the city’s Western edge. For any young Senegalese person (and especially for the hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants who flood the Iberian Peninsula and Western Europe), the European experience represents a space of economic, social, and political opportunity rarely achieved without the aid of a jimmied visa or a dangerous illegal boat ride on a tiny Senegalese fishing gall. Njaaya’s ability to command this international stage as an emerging woman artist speaks to her strength as an artist and to her savvy in translating her deeply-rooted Senegalese sounds, styles and values into the global music scene.

Click here to read more about Njaaya’s career and hear songs/watch videos of her work on this site. Below, listen to a live musical clip from Njaaya’s concert:

Njaaya and her group were chosen for this opportunity via a series of tryouts in Dakar last spring, for which dozens of Senegalese hip-hop, pop, salsa, traditional drum, and fusion artists performed at Dakar’s local arts center, Blaise Senghor. Njaaya was chosen from these (along with Busta-Rimes-flavored hip-hop act Da Brains, Classic rapper Awadi, Afro-Spanish salsa star Sidy Samb, DJs from the monthly CoolGrawul party, traditional Sabar griot drum group Doudou Ndiaye Rose, and fashion spectacle/dance group SIGIL) to perform. When she arrived with her group that weekend, she was relatively unknown in Europe, but word about her brilliant performance spread quickly, and by the time she left Barcelona, she was being recognized by Spanish street passerby. This moment of Njaaya’s new international celebration and recognition was tangibly exciting, and the fact that a number of Senegalese groups were staying at the same downtown hotel meant an atmosphere of excitement and pride as young African people supported each other in offering their music to the world. This even was a global breakthrough moment for young Senegal, and the interest and press that will follow this celebration may help the launch the renewal of Global interest in Senegalese music upon which so many talented artists are poised.

Beyond the vocal, songwriting and dance expertise that make her work globally unique, Njaaya curates a new spectacle for each performance, and for her Barcelona show, she included a crew of rollerblading Baay Fall (Sufi) breakdancers modeling Senegalese coture from the house of SIGIL.

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I didn’t take video at the Spanish concert so I could photograph and sound record the show. A week after her return to Dakar, Njaaya performed this concert for a huge crowd at the city’s Place du Obelisk. Njaaya’s growing fan base and reputation as a great performer (along with the honor of playing in Spain) meant she was bumped up from an early opening slot to the after-midnight swell just before headliner Omar Pene.

See more of Njaaya’s work HERE.

Visit Njaya’s artist site HERE.

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Comments
Nico Said:

niasse Said:

trés beau tu chante trop bien je t’adore


modboye Said:

trop nice cette festival on a vecu de nice moment merci pour les photo merci a njaaya parce que elle tres bien representer senegal par son huper nice concert merci mame diarra pour les photo bon boulot


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