Wolof Griot Percussionists of SenegalPatricia Tang
Masters of the Sabar is the first book to examine the music and culture of Wolof griot percussionists, masters of the vibrant sabar drumming tradition. Based on extensive field research in Senegal, this book is a biographical study of several generations of percussionists in a Wolof griot ( géwël) family, exploring and documenting their learning processes, repertories, and performance contexts—from life-cycle ceremonies to sporting events and political meetings. Patricia Tang examines the rich history and changing repertories of sabar drumming, including dance rhythms and bàkks, musical phrases derived from spoken words. She notes the recent shift towards creating new bàkks which are rhythmically more complex and highlight the virtuosity and musical skill of the percussionist. She also considers the burgeoning popular music genre called mbalax. The compact disc that accompanies the book includes examples of the standard sabar repertory, as well as bàkks composed and performed by Lamine Touré and his family drum troupe.
“Tang adds a unique perspective by highlighting the role of the sabar drum among Wolof griots….She provides a thorough analysis of the standard rhythms…The accompanying CD is a wonderful resource.”
“This excellent publication…(is) a well-written account (of) the music and culture of Wolof Griot percussionists…an important addition to the literature.”
“Tang’s ethnography is lucid and engaging… (Her) study is particularly significant for examining the performance of sabar beyond its indigenous social and aesthetic frames…. Masters of the Sabar represents a significant contribution in this direction.”
—African Studies Review
"(A)n important contribution to scholarship of West African music cultures and the hereditary caste system into which griots are born. Tang’s integration of oral history sources with other contemporary and historic sources, as well as her care in transcription and translation, sets a high standard for the presentation of research findings. Her autoethnographic introduction will surely assume an important place in research methodology courses."
—The Oral History Review