By Umer Nangiana
There is more to Senegal than just Dakar rally. This West African country offers some astounding tourism attractions. Hundreds head to the Senegal every year to witness the pink waters of Lake Retba, the Goree island with its centuries old buildings and museums; the beautiful Saloum Delta National Park; and wetlands of Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary, to name a few.
ALL EARS: Ambassador of Senegal Mamadou Sall enjoying the festival with other guests.
It is, however, the Senegalese music that complements everything wondrous that this African nation has to offer to the world. A snippet of this musical extravagance was witnessed by a multi-cultural audience at Katara Cultural Diversity Festival recently when Paco and Manjack Folk Music Group from Senegal gave a touching performance.
Coming from the Southern region of Casamance in Senegal, the group comprising musicians from different ethnic groups brought diversity to an audience that swayed to the rhythms of African traditional instruments such as Kora (a string instrument) and Calabass (drums).
WORD OF THANKS: Ambassador Sall with the musicians thanking the authorities for putting up the show.
“This group comes from South Senegal from the region called Casamance. As you see, this is a melting pot sort of group and it has a lot of our ethnic groups in it such as Fula, Wolof, Manjack, Malinke and others,” Ambassador of Senegal to Qatar, Mamadou Sall told Community after the show.
They were invited by Unesco and Cultural Foundation of Katara to play at the Cultural Diversity Festival.
“You listened to some of our more traditional instruments that are very popular back in Senegal. The big string instrument that you saw in the hands of one of the musicians on stage is called Kora. It is a core of our traditional music,” explained the ambassador.
“This kind of music is popular not just in Senegal, but Africa in general. This was the first time they had been to the Gulf region and I hope after this trip such music will also be popular in the Gulf here,” enthused Mamadou.
Most of the songs were in French, Senegal’s language; however, the music resonated with people from different countries in the audience, including Qataris. From the start to the end of an hour plus performance, the audience kept swelling in size.
Explaining some of their songs, the ambassador said the musicians were denouncing drugs and how we should fight the drugs as they destroy our society.
They also talked about the importance of education and the role of a teacher in encouraging children to school. Through their melodious songs, they sent a message as to how teachers with their affectionate behaviour towards their students could promote education.
“In Senegal, we have both traditional, the religious, and modern education. The singer was emphasising that a pupil is like a son to a teacher and that a teacher should take care of his students like he would take care of his sons,” says Mamadou.
Then they also provided the audience with a glimpse of Senegalese democracy. “And again, the message here was that we should unite and consolidate democracy in Senegal,” says the ambassador.
He said the Senegalese embassy has been organising such events regularly. A music group also came last year to perform here with the Ministry of Culture during the Francophonie days. They also have agreements with Katara and a new one is in the pipeline.
The ambassador also hopes that people from the Ministry of Culture of Qatar are going to visit Dakar next month for a biennale of art. “We have a very big art market in Dakar. Qataris will be our guests, and hopefully, participating in the festival,” said the ambassador.
He said there were a few hundred Senegalese living in Qatar, however, it was not easy to get the exact number as a lot of them did not come to the embassy for registration. There is, however, a Senegalese community organisation here that liaises with the community members.
Most of them work here in telecommunications, oil and gas sector, construction sector and a lot of them are in different types of sports here, Mamadou disclosed.
The ambassador said he had been in Doha for eight months only and liked Qatar. “It is a very nice, peaceful and safe country. People here are very friendly and kind. And then it is kind of a melting pot of different nationalities here. There are so many of them,” said the ambassador.
He has already visited a lot of places here and some of them already are in his all-time favourite list. “I have visited the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), Katara, Souq Waqif and I have taken the boat to Banana Island. I have been to beaches here as well. I have been to the Sealine beach and have also done some dune bashing. It was fun,” he said, smiling.
Paco Diaz, the lead vocalist and leader of the music group, has been singing for more than a quarter century. It was, however, his group’s first ever foreign visit and they would always remember Doha, said Diaz.
Valerio Ferreira, the guitarist, and others have been with Diaz for over five years. They all come from different ethnicities from the southern parts of the country but say they knew each other well when they formed the group.
“My voice is God given. It comes to me naturally. I started professional singing in my early 20s and now it has been 25 years,” Diaz told Community.
“It was our first ever trip out of Senegal to any country and we loved it. Doha has a special place in our hearts and we will always remember it. The audience was great and they thoroughly enjoyed our music,” the lead singer noted.
The medium, he said, did not matter. “It is not difficult to make people understand your music even if they do not understand the language. As they say, music has no language, it is universal; you feel it with your heart. We could see people swaying to the music and they were clapping,” observed Diaz.
The ambassador congratulated the Qatari authorities, the Cultural Foundation Katara and Unesco for organising the event and bringing the group to Doha. They will next perform at the Institut Francais today as part of Francophonie celebrations.
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