Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Canada / Dakar / JUST 4 U concert - April 2010

When a group of Senegalese ladies in Ottawa, Canada, invited me to dance for their 50th Anniversary Celebration of Senegal’s Independence, I was honored! They sent me a ticket and I was on my way! I spent two days at singer / percussionist Elage Mbaye’s house with musicians dropping by and a general air of celebration.Photobucket

The party itself was wonderful: everyone dressed up in their royal best, guest drummers in from Montreal, and lots of good food and music. Since Ottawa is Canada’s capital city, many of the attendees worked in the government and many never EVER danced sabar. One beautifully coiffed woman at the end told me that watching me, a toubab, dance sabar made her proud her country’s culture and encouraged her reconnect with it herself. Everyone was so friendly and festive. Senegal dieum kanam!

With drummers ELAGE DIOUF, SADIO CISSOKHO, and TOBIEPhotobucket

with producer / keyboard player ABDOU SYPhotobucket

On Monday morning, Abdou and Elage drove me to the airport to fly to ….Photobucket

DAKAR!!! Yes, Dakar again! Since Ottawa’s Senegalese community had covered the cost of my flight to the east coast, they’d paid for me to get halfway to Senegal. Anything to get me back there! Once again, the minute I saw Dakar beneath me at dawn, my whole spirit lit up. The moist warmth and smell of the air outside the plane, the bus at the bottom of the stairs waiting to ferry us a hilarious 100 feet to the terminal, the customs officers with their glasses on the end of their noses, the Senegalese looking so happy to be home, the sound of people saying “Salam Aleikoum,” the winding carousel and big x-ray machine in baggage claim, and then … stepping out to find friends and take a taxi home. Heaven!

Like my last visit, I stayed in Camberène 2. Clean room, foam pad, fan, clothes folded in piles on the floor, and a tiny all-in-one bathroom. Perfect! The very next day, I started off on my usual promo routine! With Alyune DIop in charge, I first got my second video clip to all four TV stations. It felt really good to have reunions with TV people I had met last November. They were all very happy with the video and got it into rotation right away.


When I stopped by WALF TV, I got very very lucky. Modou Dieng (in charge of videos) wanted to show me all the new developments at the station, so we went floor to floor, in and out of this and that room, meeting and greeting everyone. When we arrived at a big room I recognized from my last visit (when Goorgoorlu was interviewed along with other tassou artists and we all danced up a storm for the cameras), there were three people sitting inside. A well-known radio / TV personality named Maty Dieng comically said “Yow!” (You!), you should get down on your hands and knees and thank me. Every time your video has played on WALF TV, it’s because I have been in there saying, ‘Play that video again! I love this woman!’” We had a hilarious conversation until she waved her hand and said, “Hey Chiekh Tidiane! Get Ashley on your ATAYA program on Friday night.” Just like that!

On Wednesday we all turned up for the taping. Comedian San Ndiogo and a woman named Ndeye was interviewing reggae artist Sun Sooley, a polician, and myself as a surprise guest. While Sun and the politician handled San Ndiogo’s constant barbs and humor with grace and intelligence, I was hilariously lost. San Ndiogo pounded me with rapid-fire comic questions in Wolof and I am laughing out loud right now to remember my look of total confusion. When I could squeeze it in, I spoke about my music / purpose / passion for mbalax, too.

Finally, I got a chance to perform a playback version of Small Boats, with Fallou and Bamba dancing on either side. The whole studio sang along with the Mame Cheikh Ibra Fall ending. So beautiful!

dressed in taille basse with BAMBA GUEYE, SAN NDIOGO, and FALLOU NDIAYEPhotobucket

with reggae artist SUN SOOLEYPhotobucket

looking fierce with my lady friends: MAME DOER, SOXNA, and KINE NDIAYEPhotobucket


ATAYA showed on Friday night at 10pm, repeated on Saturday afternoon and, I soon realized, was a far bigger deal than I had imagined. EVERYONE had watched it! It was total prime time. For the rest of my stay, kids ran up to me in the streets, women stopped me to say they loved my song / voice, people leaned out of bus windows and sang, “LA ILA LAAA…” to me, security guards said, “Jerejef Ash-LAY” when I left the bank, and so many taxi drivers recognized me, I gave them all copies of my CD!

A typical moment when some girls recognized us and insisted on having photos taken…Photobucket

Next was radio. Alyune set me up each day with interviews with Dakar's DJs, who were all charming and welcoming. . . a typical radio station, Dakar FM with DJ JADREPhotobucket

the booth where I was interviewed ... vive le mbalax!!!Photobucket

with DJ JADREPhotobucket

While bouncing around town, I also saw good friends such as wonderful acoustic artist YORO NDIAYEPhotobucket

Also painter / sculptor / photographer Maaike Wiarda and the very talented Ndigueul MC


Most evenings, I rehearsed in Parcelles with a fully Senegalese band, organized by brilliant bassist, Thierno Sarr. This was surely the highlight of my trip. My band was so talented, professional, punctual, creative, easy-going, ego-free, hard working, and crazy hot playing my mbalax tunes, I thought I would pass out with happiness. Even when the electricity would cut out, it didn’t matter … just great vibes in the room, everyone positive and focused. The last three days, my dear Goorgoolu dancer friends, Fallou Ndiaye and Bamba Gueye, came along and made me laugh so hard with their choreography, everyone made me face the wall so I could sing without falling apart. Here they all are:

bassist extraordinaire THIERNO SARRPhotobucket

ever hilarious and gifted guitarist BAYE DIOPPhotobucket

I nearly fainted when they told me that ALIOU SECK played for Ndongo Lo. What an honor!Photobucket

the detail master of the keyboard – ARONA BARRYPhotobucket

kind, patient, and fierce on drums at the back: PAPE ABDOULAYE DIENGPhotobucket

trying not to laugh with FALLOU NDIAYE and BAMBA GUEYE dancing before me!Photobucket



On March 23rd, we performed at JUST 4 U, opening for Senegal’s amazing Carlou D. What a wonderful night! Ever since I visited JUST 4 U in 2008, I had dreamed of performing there and here I was playing my OWN music with some of Dakar’s best musicians and dancers! We started off calmly and built built built to a firey mbalax finish, much to the surprise of the JUST 4 U regulars. Here was our last number with some tasty dancing at the end ...

TRY TO HIDE – Live at JUST 4 U

What a wonderful band!ashley maher just 4 U senegal

Paradis!ashley maher

with The Divine CARLOU D!Photobucket

(of course, Bamba and Fallou already knew Carlou D)Photobucket

Two days later, I was on a plane back to Los Angeles, already wondering how to return and carry on working / collaborating / developing artistically in Dakar. The more time I spend there, the more clear my purpose becomes. So much to do .... now I just need to find the support to get me back!


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