One of the annual highlights in Abene, is the festival which takes place around New Year. It’s a cultural show case for musicians from the Casamance, from across Senegal, neighbouring countries and occasionally Senegalese musicians living overseas.
Unfortunately I’m unlikely to make it this year, but had a flavour this past weekend with the mini-festival.
We entered and sat near the sandy stage. Too close as it happens, as the sound was ear splittingly loud. For the first hour or so, rappers stalked the stage, trousers half mast in the gangsta rap style and their side kicks spraying fire into the crowd from spray cans. It appeared the health and safety manager was absent. Kids from the crowd would run on stage. Some, dissolving in a fit of giggles and running back, others thrusting some coins or perhaps a hat into the hands of the musicians. Adama suddenly appeared on stage, shouting political slogans whilst a kora player tinkled. I’m not entirely sure what he was saying, but everyone cheered wildly. As he roused the crowd to a frenzy the kora player started swirling the instrument around his head and played it upside down.
Afterwards, there was a succession of djembe groups, each better than the last. After a drumming intro, women would sing in a high pitched wail and then appear, taking the stage to dance. I never cease to be amazed by the craziness of the dancing styles, which Khady, a dancer herself, has promised to teach me. Occasionally the official dancers would step back and members of the audience would come forth, each trying to out do the last.