World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Cheikyh Tairou M'baye and Sing Sing Rhythms

DANCE ORIGIN: Senegal, West Africa
GENRE: Traditional
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Cheikh Tairou M’baye
First Appearance in SF EDF: 2013

Cheikh Tairou M’baye and Sing Sing Rhythms is a drum and dance company of Wolof griots that originated in Medina, Senegal in 1987 with members of same griot family. The group is named after their ancestor Sing Sing Faye, the first master drummer of Cape Vert peninsula, Dakar. After moving to the U.S., New York City, the group began including premiere dancers trained in traditional Wolof dance and drum.

The ensemble is now headquartered in Oakland, California. Cheikh Tairou M’baye (“Cheikh”) was born into a Wolof Griot family in Medina, Senegal and was called to the drums at an early age. Under the guidance of his grandfather, master Sabar drummer Mame Bouna Basse Gueye, Cheikh’s love for his family’s tradition blossomed.


DANCE ORIGIN: Senegal, West Africa
GENRE: Traditional
TITLE: Barra M’baye, Bak, Thiebou Djeune
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Cheikh Tairou M’baye
CHOREOGRAPHER: Cheikh Tairou M’baye, Babacar M’baye
Randi Clark, Danielle Delane, Aziz Faye, Tamika Harris, Kelly Kouyate, Nikka Maynard, Babacar M’baye, Madelyn M’baye, Sonja Travick, Ayanna Wicker
MUSICIANS: Jamil Diop (mbeung mbeung), Mbor Faye (mbeung mbeung), Ousmane Gueye (thioul), Samba Guisse (mbeung mbeung), Abdou M’baye (Nder accompaniment), Cheikh Tairou M’baye (lead drum, Nder), Papa Kaba M’baye (lamb), Omar Mboup (mbeung mbeung bala), Ibou Ngom (mbeung mbeung)

A Master Senegalese drummer and griot (repository of the oral tradition) leads this high-intensity celebration from the Wolof people, presenting three sabar dances:

The first dance, Barra M’baye, is a traditional rhythm and dance performed for newborn children to protect them from evil spirits and other unknown dangers. Next, Bak, is the name for a type of original creative rhythm to which dancers create their own improvised steps. The final piece, Thiebou Djeune, is a dance
of high energy and joy. Its title is the name of Senegal’s national dish of marinated fish,to honor the country’s premiere dancer who was a great cook.

Sabar is known as a dance of sensuality, flirtatiousness, and expression that uses every part of the body, from the arms and legs to the eyes. Its choreographic combinations are less weighted to the ground than other African styles, incorporating lots of jumping, arm movement, and high knee lifting. The movements of beauty, strength, and grace are accentuated by colorful costumes. Women wear bold jewelry and traditional head wraps, ankle-length dresses with skirts underneath—called lapas—and long sleeves to emphasize the arm movements.

Master Drummer Cheikh Tairou M’baye guides the performance, choosing beats and patterns, gesturing and moving about the stage to interact with the drummers and audience. He also plays syncopated counterpoint to the fundamental rhythms. In Senegal, West Africa, sabar drums once communicated in villages over long distances, and the dance that accompanied the drum also became known as sabar. Sabar drummers strike high-pitched accents with a stick in the right hand, while playing a tenor rim beat or a center bass beat with the left. Rhythms are fast and highly energized, often emphasizing the upbeat. The family of sabar drums include the lead drum, the Nder, and the supporting drums: mbeung mbeung, lamb, thiol, gorong talmbatt, toungouna, and mbeung mbeung bala.

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