This Week in Beat Making: Sabar Drumming Deep in Dakar This Week in Beat Making: Sabar Drumming Deep in Dakar
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This Week in Beat Making: Sabar Drumming Deep in Dakar

by Pierce Freelon

June 14, 2013

One evening in Dakar, our beat making curriculum was transformed by a chance encounter.

I struck up a conversation with a West African drummer, in front of a coconut vendor. He was a weightlifter and a welder and fluent in Japanese, and part of a lineage of traditional Sabar drummers. Within an hour of meeting, he invited me and my friends [producer Apple Juice Kid and filmmaker Saleem Reshamwala] to his home in Medina. For two miles, we darted between sewing shops, street vendors, and mosques; stopping every few blocks to speak to children playing in the streets and to soak in the early evening air, which was filled with the delicious scent of cheebu jen (fish and rice).

When we arrived at his house, he introduced us to his family and retrieved a dozen drums from a small wooden shed. He and his brothers then started teaching us traditional Sabar rhythms—native to Senegal—while women and children from his family danced and laughed. Eventually I put my drum down and started rapping—clumsily trying to incorporate some of the limited Wolof I had learned over the previous days—into my lyrics. This was my introduction to Sabar drumming and one of my most memorable experiences in Dakar.

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This Week in Beat Making: Sabar Drumming Deep in Dakar