Masters of the Sabar

Wolof Griot Percussionists of Senegal

By Patricia Tang
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Temple University Press, 2006

ISBN 9781592134205

224 Pages


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.



List of Figures
List of Musical Transcriptions
Contents of accompanying audio Compact Disc
Guide to Pronunciation and Orthography
1. You will be griot in another way
     The Ethnomusicologist's Story
2. There once was a king called Maysa Waaly Jon
     Sabar History, Instruments, Ensemble, and Sound
3. The griot lineage, we are one
     Wolof Caste and Identity
4. My foreparents used to beat the drums
     Wolof Family, Kinship, and Musical Genealogy
5. If a snake bites you, you will think of death
     Sabar Repertories
6. Dancing fish and rice
     Performance Contexts
7. The 'pax' you play is so sweet
     The Role of Sabar in mbalax
Glossary of Terms


Patricia Tang is Associate Professor of Music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is a scholar and performer of Senegalese music.

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