After a long, successful tour through North America, Senegalese mbalax superstar Pape Diouf returned with his band, La Génération Consciente, to the Alhambra Ballroom in Harlem on Fri., Aug. 12 for a vibrant night of fashion, music and dance. The gala was a celebration of Senegal, showcasing the artistry and excellence of some of the nation’s fashion designers, mbalax singers and rappers. Some initial technical hiccups aside, the night was an electric one, with a very fashionable crowd cheering on the models walking the runway and getting down to the high-energy sounds of Diouf and company until the wee hours of the morning.
The runway featured several Senegalese designers, including the New York-based Moussa Dia. Dakar has become something of a fashion hub in Francophone Africa, this year hosting its 14th annual Fashion Week presenting uniquely Senegalese designs. Tonight we had a taste of this creativity, ranging from chic sweatshirts to luminous blue boubous.
Well into the night, the live music began, first with mbalax singer Backa Niang and rapper Fata, with a Wolof take on Drake’s “Hotline Bling.”
When Pape Diouf made his entrance and began to croon with his high tenor, the energy ramped up as the crowd gravitated towards the stage and the rapid-fire sabar drumming that makes mbalax music move. Diouf’s voice moved many to literally empty their wallets into his hands, exchanging dollar bill after dollar dill (or $700 watch) for words of praise sung by the master guewel (griot) himself.
Genre boundaries blended, as they always tend to, when the popular Senegalese rapper Bai Babu took the mic for a couple songs and passed it off to Fata.
We hope Pape Diouf gets some good down time after his sojourn through the States and returns before too long to rock the house once again. Many thanks to all the musicians and the designers for the excellent evening!