The Institut Français Léopold Sédar Senghor has become an oasis for us.
An island of calm in the middle of chaotic downtown Dakar, we retreated there during our first blackout to see the movie Home, Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s climate change documentary which features his famous aerial photos. The mildly air conditioned salle de cinéma, combined with the open air café in the courtyard organized around a baobab tree, proved a winning combination from the start. So two Fridays ago, we made an evening of a movie, dinner at the café, and a concert featuring two young Senegalese singers. The film was a short, 2009 documentary entitled Dakar, la rue publique, by Ben Diogaye Seye. Here’s my loose translation of the French description: Given the anarchy created by the explosion of street sellers and the proliferation of big cars all fighting over access to the narrow streets, it has become very hard to move in Dakar. In this film, urban planners, architects, and sociologists explain the causes of this transportation crisis and propose alternatives to this commercial activity meltdown which has a disastrous effect on all development efforts. Art imitated life for me, for the
short 4 block walk from the Dell store (see my last post) exemplified what has become my Dakarois level of Dante’s Inferno: dirty, chaotic, noisy, unpleasant, which puts me on the defensive and makes it unlikely that I’ll pull my wallet out to make a purchase.
After a pleasant dinner at the café (where Matthew met some friends from school and promptly dropped the ‘rents), the open air concert was a delight. Billed as “découvertes,” the first young artist, Rokhaya Loum, served up a combo of blues, rock, soul,
and jazz with her throaty voice à la the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and my all-time favorite South African singer, Brenda Fassi (unfortunately, now deceased). The second artist, Paco Diaz, hails from the south ( i.e. the
Casamance region) and represents the intersection of Wolof, Manjack, French, and Mandinge cultures. Both artists had their fan clubs in the audience, including Ms. Loum’s mom, so the place was rocking.
NEW as of November 6: In the paragraphs above, you’ll see descriptions of each artist’s music highlighted just after their names. If all went well. click on each and you’ll find short video and audio clips of their performances.