Thursday, August 20, 2009


Just returned to Los Angeles after six glorious weeks out in the world: touring, performing, singing, dancing! HEAVEN! THIS IS PART #3

After traveling all day long from Spain, I dragged my bag up Ladbroke Grove, slept one night, did laundry the next morning, and then got a train BACK out to Heathrow to catch a flight to Paradise … DAKAR!!!!

After a midnight connection in Casablanca, my second flight arrived at Dakar’s airport at 2:30am. My dear friends, the dancers of Goorgoorlu, met and drove me to stay at their cousins’ apartment near to them. My room had a mattress, two sheets, fan, mosquito net, small adjacent bathroom with shower inside. Perfect! My flat mates were two 23-year-old hilarious, kind, and open-hearted young women named Kine Ndiaye and Mame Doeur and another relative named Issa. We all hit it off instantly, laughed and danced all day long to the steady stream of mbalax videos on the TV in the hallway.

Bamba Gueye and Fallou Ndiaye of the Groupe Goorgoorlu
bamba and fallou

My kind, warm, and hilarious apt mates:
Fatou Ndiaye and Mame Doeur
kine and mame d

Dancing every day in the corridor (note the mbalax videos on the TV!)
Kine Ndiaye, Awa Chiekh, and Mame Doeur
girls dancing in apt

For the next two weeks, Fallou Ndiaye and Bamba Gueye (and sometimes Djilly Mbaye) took me EVERYWHERE with them. My general schedule was this: I’d wake up at 10 am, have café touba, bread and butter with the girls, rehearse with Bamba and Fallou, lunch, nap, and then there would be a swirl of activity until 9pm.

Bamba Gueye, Djibril Ndiaye Rose, me, and Fallou Ndiaye
after dancing for Djibril’s new video
djibril's shoot

Once home, I’d sleep from 9pm until midnight, then get up again, groggily dress, and they’d pick me up in a taxi to dance at a club or concert until 5am … every night for two weeks. Oh, it was beyond heaven.

During the time I was there, we danced at tannebeers, at soiree Senegalaises, concerts (Salam Diallo, Orchestre Ceddo), parties, celebrations, for two videos and on TV twice. Everywhere they go, Goorgoorlu bring an infectious energy of festivity and joy. They can walk into a gathering and it becomes and instant party!

Singing and dancing for a 5-year-old relative’s birthday.
Another typical, spontaneous, Senegalese corridor party!

corridor party

Bamba Gueye – sweaty, singing, celebratory

Fallou Ndiaye - sweaty, singing, hilarious, getting his point across

It was so generous of them to include me in everything. I became the big surprise they’d pull out at these events. I’d stand on the sidelines, like any normal toubab guest, but then would suddenly bounce into view dancing sabar … and well??? Over and over again, everyone would erupt with laughter and delight. It was soooo fun!

The only thing that got me down was how little the dancers are paid for all of their hard work and effort. As stars over there (every time you turned on the TV, they were dancing in someone’s video) Goorgoorlu somehow manage always to dress well and play the part, but there is so much competition for work, people often felt at liberty to pay them little or not at all. Given their reputations, they DO get jobs that pay well, but it blew my mind how often I saw them paid the equivalent of $12 to be divided by two … after days of rehearsals, taxi rides, hot days, hours and hours of dancing, singing, or waiting around.

Bamba Gueye, Djilly Mbaye, and Fallou Ndiaye,
standing around, looking groovy, and waiting at at TV shoot
waiting, looking groovy

Staying cool inside a taxi, looking less groovy, ... also waiting
waiting in taxi

The biggest event we did was for Senegal’s Walf TV. Walf TV was hosting an mbalax special featuring the rising tassou / mbalax stars of the day. Many top dancers in Senegal reach a point where they are so familiar to the public through dancing in other people’s videos, they become tassou artists themselves. Tassou is a little like rap, but over mbalax beats, rather than hip hop beats. That day, they interviewed Pape Ndiaye Thiopet, Ndjole, Goorgoorlu, and three other tassou artists I didn’t know.

All dressed up and ready to go to Walf TV for Goorgoorlu’s appearance
before WALF Tv

Goorgoorlu took their places and made sure I was sitting in the front row of the studio audience. I spent the next four hours of filming aware that the cameras were catching audience expressions. Despite not understanding the Wolof, I would laugh when everyone laughed or look intensely focused when everyone was debating some deep point. LOL!

Eventually, each artist got to perform a playback of two songs. Goorgoorlu was up near the end and launched into a full blown dance up of their single “Chiantgi.” Halfway through the song, Bamba motioned for me to join them so I bounced out of my seat and improvised behind them. At a crucial bakk (phrase of drum music) at the song’s climax, they turned to me, like, “Take this one” and I did a hilarious and crisp set of steps and aced it. Everyone cracked up.

Sitting down all sweaty in the sweltering studio, I composed myself, only to have Ndjole call me up to dance for her song too. No prob! She also sang a traditional song that evolved into a mini-studio-tannebeer and I did a nice solo, complete with hat falling off and red hair everywhere. HAHAHAAA! By this time, everyone was looking at me, like, “Who on earth are YOU?” One of the presenters said, “Pass her a microphone!” and asked me, “Well, what’s YOUR story?”

What a window of opportunity!!!! I told them my name was Ashley, that I had met Goorgoorlu when Youssou Ndour invited me to dance at Bercy 2008, that I was grateful for their generosity and honored to be there, that mbalax was now international through the internet, that I am principally a singer, that I had just finished my 5th CD, partly recorded with five of the Super Etoiles at Jimi Mbaye’s house last September. “A singer?” they said, “Sing something!” So I sang a verse and chorus from Crown for Adorning and handed back the mic. Oh, that felt soo great!

They filmed four hours of footage that day, that would be whittled down to a 90 minute show. All week long, on the hour, Walf TV played a 30 second publicity spot, advertising the upcoming special … and about 12 of those 30 seconds was of me dancing! Everyone in the clubs kept telling me they’d seen it. Awesome!

Saturday night was my last night in Dakar. By this time, I had become friendly with the whole apartment building (everyone kept pulling me into their apartments to dance for every conceivable celebration) and when the program started, every time my image came on the screen, you could hear neighbors screaming, “Ash-LAY!!! Ashley WAYE!!!” Bamba and Fallou, who were so blasé about seeing themselves 10 million times on TV, suddenly got all nervous about seeing themselves TALKING on TV and wouldn’t watch it, but I took the whole thing in. They did an excellent job and I looked pretty damn good! WooohooooQ!

Afterwards, their phones were ringing non-stop with people congratulating them and asking them “Who IS she????”, so they said, “Look, pack your bags, put them in the back of our friend’s taxi, and let’s go out for one final dance, celebration on the way to the airport. Done. At 2:30, we arrived at a club Djilly had told us about (their first time too) and it was packed. Mbalax band playing, everyone dancing. But the minute we came in the door, to my UTTER surprise, the whole place started rhythmically chanting my name: “ASH-LAY! … ASH-LAAAAY!, ASH-LAY! …. ASH-LAAAY!” Total strangers came and picked me up off the ground, calling out my name and saying, “TOI, tu es la champione! Tu es la numero UN!!!!” The band joined in and the drummers came forward, clearing a space and insisting that I solo for them.

For the next two hours, Bamba, Fallou, Djilly, and I danced and celebrated and generally showed off! Oh, I was so high I cannot describe it. Talk about The Diva Has Landed! From there we drove to the airport (teary good-byes) where I checked in, waited, took a bus out to the plane, and walked forlornly up the stairs through the humid early morning hours. When I handed my boarding pass to the beautiful Senegalese stewardess, she said, “Hey! I saw you dancing on TV tonight! You dance so well!” WAAAAAAH !!!!

Counting the days to get back there…!

Me, painfully underdressed at a tannebeer.
Awa Cheikh, Kine, and Mame Doeur looking gloriously beautiful!
underdressed for tannebeers

Dilly Mbaye, Mami, Bamba Gueye, Fallou Ndiaye, and Maman Mbaye
(Jimi Mbaye’s daughter and my dear friend.) Also gorgeous!
everyone outside


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey - I am definitely happy to discover this. cool job!

10:53 AM


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