TABALA WOLOF (SENEGAL)
by HAJI MAJI
This post is riffing off the latest from the legendary Excavated Shellac. As JW points out, “There were certain regions in Sub-Saharan Africa where local music was barely recorded - if at all – by commercial companies or ethnographers, until at least after World War II.” But records from these “barely recorded” places have a way of popping up, and his fantastic track Haalpulaar’en people of Senegal and Mauritania is a perfect example. Here’s a companion record, of sorts.
The vast majority of the populations of Mauritania and Senegal are Sunni Muslims. In the 19th century, several Islamic Sufi orders became prominent. Of these, the Khadria (Qadiriyyah) brotherhood is not only the oldest in West Africa, but likely the oldest Sufi order in the world, founded in the 12th century. The Khadria are one of the two main Sufi brotherhoods in Mauritania, and one of several orders in Senegal. The Sufism of the region also incorporates animistic elements from pre-Islamic religions along with the search for an ecstatic experience, often through music or prayer.
This track features a type of ritual drumming and chanting called Tabala Wolof, performed at night on a set of large kettle drums (tabala) with a chorus of singer/chanters. This is the 3rd part of the poem “Inal Mourada” (“Nostalgia of the Prophet”) composed by the famous Cheikh Saad Bouh (1848-1917). The poem is spread over at least four record sides, maybe more.
Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to locate any information about the Studio Chaouy label, which, according to the label, was located in Senegal’s capitol, Dakar.
For further listening and reading:
An amazing post by Matthew Lavoie on the variety Sengalese Sufi cassettes: http://blogs.voanews.com/african-music-treasures/2008/09/23/sufi-sounds-volume-two/
And a contemporary recording from Village Pulse I have yet to hear: http://www.villagepulse.com/tabala.html