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Senegalese artists had a tremendous impact on African dance in the United States as the result of the influences of Mor Thiam and Katherine Dunham between 1968 and 1974. This video of the National Ballet of Senegal filmed in 2006 is excellent in that it shows the use of both the djembe, indigenous to the Mandeng cultures of the Old Mali Empire and the Sabar of the Wolof people of Senegal!
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One Master Drummer told us that During the Civil Wars to Unite the Old Mali empire the Wolof king turned his back on the rising king, Sundiata Kinte. Once Sundiata conquered the nations, he turned and chased the king through Africa and to the Western Coast of Senegal. Once there, Sundiata forced him and his people to dance and expose their genitals, a way of expressing their shame for their tribal conduct. I don’t know if the story is true, but there is definitely no dance form like Sabar, where the movements are so openly sensual and sexual. It may have started as a dance of disgrace centuries ago, but it is definitely a moving, sensual and erotic form of dance.
Sometimes we have to stop and celebrate little joys and expressions of creativity. This is one of those times. Check out this four year old playing the djembe! Now that’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout! share love with your children!
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Women playing bata have been prohibited from playing these sacred drums. It is said that this was not always the case. With the introduction of Los Reglas de Ocha, or The rules of priesthood, came the introduction of the Ceremony of Ana, or introducing the drums and drummers to the spirit of the the Dead or the spirit of Music, depending upon who you talk to . the purpose was to make the act of playing to Orisha a sacred act. Several Prohibitions were also introduced at this time; the prohibition of using non-consecrated drums in ceremony, the prohibition of non-priests playing in ceremony and most notably, the prohibition of women playing the Bata drums.