Friday, May 13, 2011


SENEGAL AGAIN !!! After my Nov. 2010 visit to Dakar to record and film our ani-AIDS song “ON DIT MERCi,” I spent three months back in L.A. studying Senegalese mbalax, writing new material over mbalax grooves, and planning my next concert in Senegal. Once again, my extremely patient and generous fan base contributed toward my plane ticket and I headed back to Dakar in April 2011.

This arrival, after feeling my usual giddy sense of joy and wonder at the airport, I did NOT hit the ground running, Instead, I went straight to bed for three days of vomiting, fever, and stomach problems. LOL !! (unusual for me …). However, by the weekend, I got my groove back and started planning rehearsals and The Show with my musical director: bassist Thierno Sarr. I would spend my days doing promotion and we would rehearse for five evenings to prepare for the show.

with my musical director, brilliant musician and bassist THIERNO SARR


I also met with my long term beloved collaborators, GROUPE GOORGOORLU, who would be dancing and singing tassou: BAMBA GUEYE, DJILLY MBAYE, FALLOU NDIAYE


REHEARSALS started with great enthusiasm, all the musicians turning up prepared, on time, and ready to work hard. However, every day we ran into randomly timed and ridiculously long power outages. Although the down side of this was that five rehearsals became twelve, the advantage was that we all got to hang out and connect. Each musician had an interesting life story. And nothing made me happier than when they said they loved playing this music … that it was “authentic AND fresh.”

at rehearsal with THIERNO SARR, and keyboard player IBOU MBAYE


Each night, when everyone’s instruments went “pop” and we all plunged once again into darkness, I was impressed that there was no swearing, no moaning, no complaining … just everyone using their cellphones like flashlights, lighting some candles, going out to bring in coffees …. and then lots and lots funny stories. If the studio was stuffy, we’d end up on the rooftop, where the air was cool and everyone could spread out and chat.



with dancer / tassou artist FALLOU NDIAYE


But when we DID get to rehearse, it was True Heaven. Here I was, official mbalax junkie, 7000 miles from home …. in Mbalax Central with some of the best mbalax musicians in Dakar! What a thrill !!

BLISS at rehearsal


Meanwhile, my daytime promotion went well. After multiple visits to Senegal I am now a familiar face at the TV / radio stations and with the journalists. “Ashley Wayyyyye! Nanga def? Namenala !!” (Ashley dear, how are you keeping? We missed you!). I also still love the chatty, patient, helpful, wheeling & dealing taxi drivers, who consistently make me laugh to and from appointments.

MAYACINE AK DIAL: One coup was when a Senegalese friend who’d I’d know long ago in Los Angeles recognized me after an enormous street party in Guediawaye. Youssou N’Dour’s TV station TFM had filmed the tannebeer (party) for their program “Dakar Ne Dors Pas,” showcasing the dance group AFRICA NDIGUEL and stars like Ndeye Gueye, Gorgui Ndiaye, Ndiole Tall, and Oumou Sow. After Goorgoorlu and I sang and danced a playback of “ON DIT MERCI” for about 4000 people, my friend Pape Diene Ndiaye tracked me down in the crowd.

PAPE DIENE NDIAYE (in stripes) and the crew of MAYACINE AK DIAL


When I knew him in LA, Pape talked constantly about cameras, how he dreamed of working in film / TV, and how he loved Senegal. All this time later and he now directs Senegal’s #1 comedy, MAYACINE AK DIAL. In a country inundated with imported soap operas from India, Spain, France, Portugal, and Brazil, Mayacine ak Dial is culturally very important. Created by a completely Senegalese crew and featuring Senegalese actors, Myancine ak Dial tells very Senegalese stories. Pape invited me to appear in an episode that we created and improvised together about me looking for a hair salon and I laughed the entire day working on it..

The character Dial is played by actor NDEYE SENE … her face is eternally hilarious


MAYACINE AK DIAL: here I am in the season three teaser preview… !

THE BIG SHOW: Our show was April 21. What a magical and powerful night !!! A national TV station, 2STV, came down to film the concert with professional lights, cameras, and sound, the band played brilliantly, numerous excellent dancers came down to join in, Senegalese artists Abou Thioubalo, Ndigueul MC, Aliou Guisee, Yatma Thiam, and Toula guested on the mic, Groupe Goorgoorlu danced and sang tassou like True Masters, and it was a throw down PARTY !

Here is a photo album of the whole trip … viewable via Facebook only

My Dream Band: SAMBA NDOKH MBAYE (tama), IBOU MBAYE (piano) PAPE ABLAYE DIENG (drums), BAYE DIOP (guitar), THIERNO SARR (bass, behind me) and DUPAIN CISSOKH (sabar).




A moment to solo


NDIGUEUL MC (far right) and NGUEWEUL RHYTMES surprised us at the end of SMALL BOATS


all together with GOORGOORLU


Afterwards, I met a load of new friends and Facebook contacts, took photos, and sold CDs. JUST 4 U’s owners raved about the show , saying, “Senegal needs this !!! Your show is exciting and original !! The next time you come, we will give you a prime night and promote it heavily ourselves.” YES!!!

PARIS: The next evening, I flew to Paris for a long weekend on the way home to Los Angeles, staying with brilliant bassist Idy Diallo and his lovely wife Julia. I stopped in to see my friend Jean-Philippe Rykiel for a delicious lunch. (Jean-Philippe produced some of my all time favorite Salif Keita and Youssou N’Dour records, has a rich history of collaborating with West African musicians and groups like Xalam, and wrote the original music for the song AMINA on my last CD). Back at his studio he asked to hear my new mbalax demos (bless him) and played along as he listened …

I also took a wonderful workshop with YAMA WADE (aka “Reine de Sabar”).


Yama truly is a Queen … exacting, fierce, creative, a consummate sabar dancer, and yet also warm and very very funny. One student took this video of Yama and I solo-ing. (Visible via Facebook)

After class, more hanging out and horsing around … so much fun!

The rest of my time in Paris, I caught up with friends, enjoyed the delicious spring time air, napped in parks, and wandered in and out of churches to meditate in the Quiet. Although I don’t “belong” to any religion in particular, I love all holy places. Churches, mosques, synagogues, the beach, mountain tops, cliff tops, deserts, under certain trees … these are all equal altars to me. By chance, I ended up in Notre Dame for their dusk Easter Service. It was hot and packed and I found a small stone ledge across from the staggeringly beautiful Rose Window. As the choir burst into ecstatic singing, with all that prayerful energy and a whole bank of candles lit across from me, I just burst into tears and cried through the whole service. So moving and wonderful… !

The last night in Paris, Yama, her friend Roxanne, and I went to Club Titan for their Soiree Senegalaise and danced all night. Got home at 6am before another friend Rougui So drove me out to the airport for my morning flight. Slept all the way home on the plane … in fact, slept the whole next week. But now that the laundry is done and the bills have been paid, I am back at the desk planning the Next Chapter of this Musical Journey. I am very very blessed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What words..

10:38 AM


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