Friday, April 10, 2009

More Senegal Swag

Aku and I recently returned from a trip out East for Installment Two of the Spring Break College Tour. I'm happy to report that she's been accepted by a number of renowned institutions - the problem now is to figure out how to pay for the school she finally decides on!

Landing in New York of course we had to make a beeline for
Little Senegal, for Thiebou Yaap, Diiby, Mafé, and pirated CDs by the armful! To hear some of the music we picked up, scroll down.

After a tour of Fordham University (we checked out NYU & Columbia last year) it was off to Boston, where we had dinner with Uchenna of With Comb & Razor fame at Asmara, an excellent Eritrean restaurant in Cambridge, and toured Boston University the next morning. Suitably impressed, we departed for Montréal and world-renowned McGill University.

Never having been there, my impressions of Québéc have all been second-hand: following the traumatic events of 1970, when martial law was declared in the province; reading Pierre Vallières' White Niggers of America; the subsequent election of the separatist Parti Québécois and the ensuing "language wars." So, I didn't know what to expect. Unfortunately, Aku's French-language skills weren't put to the test - everybody we met was enthusiastically bilingual, and often multi-lingual.

I should have asked the crew at Masala for some travel advice before the trip. I'm sure they could have steered us to the (so I'm told) happenin' Afro/Latin/Caribbean scene in
Montréal, but as time was at a premium, we had to content ourselves with wandering the streets around our hotel, mainly in the Vieux Montréal area. Rapidly gentrifying, it still retains a scruffy charm and thankfully hasn't yet been turned into a French-Canadian theme park. Towering cathedrals, funky old architecture and restaurants abound.

You may know that I love good food almost as much as I love good music, and it's apparent that Montréal is a serious food town. French food stars, of course, but just about any cuisine can be found easily. Unfortunately, we didn't get to sample poutine, and we missed out on the legendary Au Pied de Cochon restaurant, but we did follow our guidebook's advice and had a lovely meal at Boris Bistro on rue McGill. I had the Duck Magret with cardamom espresso sauce, and Aku had Duck Risotto, both truly delightful, and reasonably priced as well. Finished off with Tarte Tatin and espresso, it was truly a meal for the ages. The staff couldn't have been nicer, and the manager came over and had a friendly chat with us.

Anybody have any suggestions about what to see, do, eat or hear in Montréal? I definitely want to go back again!

Now to the music we obtained in Little Senegal. I'd wanted to showcase selections from a number of musicians, but one stood out: multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Ousmane Diallo, better known as Ouza, is a "musician's musician" who has achieved cult status in Senegal, not only for his fine music but for his socially-conscious lyrics and his run-ins with the authorities. Over the years he has associated with a series of female backup groups - Les Brancheés, Les Ouzettes and Les 4 Femmes dans le Vent, as well as the Ballet Nationale and the Orchestre Nationale du Senegal. He remained mostly unknown outside of Senegal until 2001 & 2002, when two compilation CDs, Ouza & ses Ouzettes 1975-1990 (Popular African Music PAM OA 208) and Best of Ouza (Africa Productions 01028-2) were released.

The tunes I've chosen here well display his unique blend of mbalax, funk, r&b and jazz.

Here are two tracks from 1975-1990. "Guajira," of course, is an old Cuban song, while "Diriyankee," which originally appeared on the cassette
Nakhe M'Baye (GDL 001, 1982) addresses the exploitation of African resources by the Western world:

Ouza et ses Ouzettes - Guajira

Ouza et le Nobel - Diriyankee

Best of Ouza features music from the latter part of the maestro's career. "La Sante" originally appeared on the 2000 cassette Le Vote (Origines), while "Tamboulaye" is from Sen Sougnou Sama (Talla Digne), which was issued in 1997:

Ouza - La Sante

Ouza ack Ndiaguamarees - Tamboulaye

Diapason Ouza (Keur Serigne Fall) is a live recording released in 1996:

Ouza - Gouye Gui

Ouza - Xadimo

20 Ans?, about which I've been unable to find any recording information, is also apparently a live recording:

Ouza - SIDA Retro

Ouza - Boul Teury

The picture at the top of this post is taken from
Ouza & ses Ouzettes 1975-1990. More Senegal swag in a future post. More non-Senegal music too!


NGONI said...

Many thanks.

Ouza le site officiel.

To hear complete albums - ouza 20 ans?, Ouza best.


CC Smith said...

Where is Little Senegal? I was not aware they'd colonized NYC.

John B. said...

Little Senegal is 116th St. & the adjoining streets just east of Frederick Douglass Blvd. It abounds with restaurants, mosques, hair salons and stalls selling pirated CDs.

Anonymous said...

@Ngoni - thanks for the links. The Ouza oficial site doesn't look too official. Poor discography, several items missing. Are you sure it's his official site?


NGONI said...

@ Al-
Not sure official, but I hung it to facilitate the way to listen (in streaming audio), the complete anniversary concert held in live at Yeungoulene. (1:16 minutes).

For discography better hereCheers.

Anonymous said...

@ Ngoni

Yeah, nice discog :)

But neither John nor I have updated it for the more recent material.


Anonymous said...

John; thank you so much for this incredible series of excellent posts this year. It's been a ton of work following up and doing further research into artists, but well worth the effort.

I understand your fears about paying for the big C bill; it's a very sobering lesson in life, and dominates the family finances. My wife and I have faced and continue to face this, but we have learned a bit having 2 kids in a nameless institution down I-94 in Evanston. Having been accepted is a key, but I think you still have a couple of strong cards to play. Maybe this can help:

It seems to be true that most private colleges with a reasonable endowment will bend over backwards to make sure that a student who REALLY WANTS to attend can afford to attend.

Make a friend in the admissions office: ask questions, thank them for their answers, and ask more questions, so on. It's funny how your file moves to the front of the stack. Express concerns, but make it clear that this is where she wants to be. Having an advocate in the admissions office is a powerful tool you can use.

My son wanted to be a Chem E, but we dug around and found out that physics enrollments were way down, and the school was REALLY interested in bolstering these numbers, so he went in as a physics major. This translated into grants which were not lost when he subsequently switched majors. As many freshmen are not absolutely certain of their academic path, coming in this back door may work for you.

Best of luck, joe

John B. said...

Joe: Thanks for that advice. I wish someone had clued me in earlier how the Financial Aid racket works. It just so happens that Aku's been accepted at that school you mention, with an offer of zeroaid, although we're doing our best to change their minds. Fortunately she has an offer of a full scholarship from an Eastern U. that is perhaps not as "prestigious" but also highly regarded, which means she'll have plenty of money for grad school.

A real eye-opener!

rickdog said...

Find more Ouza in my mp3blog and forum searches: