Cheikyh Tairou M'baye and Sing Sing Rhythms
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
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
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.