Pape Diouf et la Génération Conciente got their North American tour off to a rollicking start at the Alhambra Ballroom in Harlem Sat., July 9. It felt more like an impromptu party than a concert. Diouf walked into the welcoming embrace of the audience, a wall of ecstatic fans pressed to the edge of the carpet where the musicians performed. Three hours plus of nonstop percussion-driven music and dance followed. Diouf, a mbalax star from a griot family background, pivoted between traditional and pop forms which provoked high-stepping dancers to materialize and dollar bills to flutter over the singer as words of praise tumbled from his lips.
At the heart of the music was three sabar drummers beating the skins with one hand and a drumstick in the other, as the staccato beats of the tama talking drum pierced the pungent rhythms. Guitar, bass, keyboards and drum kit filled out the sound, interacting in a conversational manner and creating a funky groove that didn’t let up the entire night.
Special guest Baye Babou, a popular Gambian rapper and collaborator on the recently released single “Lamb Ju Reuy,” was a highlight of the evening, along with vocal contributions from traditional griot Amat Samba. Paa Seck Diery, a Boston-based mbalax singer and his band opened the show.
New African Production’s Birane Sarr explained that there is no other artist like Papa Diouf currently performing in Senegal. From his home base at Barra Mundi in the Almadies neighborhood of Dakar he performs four nights a week and has a huge following, the most popular singer this side of Youssou N’Dour. The club also presents younger artists, such as Aida Samb, Birahim, Alione Guisse and Ousmane Guangue from the thriving Senegalese scene that New African Productions intends to bring to North America in the future.
The tour continues confirmed dates below, with a return to New York for another night of ambience planned for the Alhambra Ballroom Aug. 12.
Pape Cheikh Diouf 2016 North American Tour Dates:
Mon., July 18: The Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis, MN
Fri., July 22: The Avenue, Cincinnati, OH
Sat., July 30: Washington, DC
Sat., Aug. 6: Monument National, Montreal, QC
Sun., Aug. 7: ACANA Festival, Philadelphia, PA