A well-known proverb goes: “Glory where credit is due”. In the case of this concert review, all credit goes to the organization of the Amsterdam Dance Even, the largest dance event in the world. ADE just does it. For example, Youssou N’Dour & le Superetoile programmed the Dakar in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. With this, ADE is making a statement and recognizing the origin of all dance that we hear today in all its manifestations. Tribal West African music, after being forcibly exported to the American continents, has become the foundation of much of Western commercial and artistic music. On the African continent, the music developed further, and the influences of Western music were integrated again. Youssou Ndour has been the king of African music for decades, ‘le roi de mbalax’, Senegalese dance music. Applause for the organization of ADE that programmed this concert.
The Amsterdam concert hall was sold out to the last seat. Here and there a few seats remained empty. People who were still attacked by Covid or who were unable to reach Amsterdam due to the bus strikes. Not everyone was equally lucky. The audience was a colourful mix of the Senegalese diaspora in the Netherlands, traditional music building audience and lovers of world music. You could feel the craving and the excitement in the audience. We don’t see this world star in the Netherlands that often.
Suddenly a slightly older man with Lubumba glasses, dressed in a nice traditional suit, stood on stage. It turned out to be none other than Mbaye Dieye Faye, one of the greats of West African music and the permanent percussionist and ringmaster of the Supertoile de Dakar for decades. He announced the king of the mbalax, and there he walked onto the stage, dressed in a beautiful light blue ‘grand boubou’. No grand entrance, he was just there.
And then came the voice. ‘Saday akh tangay bi’ was used. Of course Ndour also contributed to raising awareness of the consequences of climate change, which is also of great importance for countries such as Senegal, which are so close to the equator. Ndour’s voice has not worn out in decades, it has grown stronger, and sounded magnificent. In the concert hall many people walked around with goosebumps after only 3 minutes.
After the first song, the rest of the legendary Superetoile de Dakar joined their foreman on stage. After the far too early death of musical director and bassist Habib Faye in 2018, the band is missing a great musician and a masterly musical leader who managed to push every performance to unprecedented heights. Now this task was assigned to Mbaye Dieye Faye, who was, in addition to being a great musician, an even greater showman. Faye will be forever missed.
In addition to the young generation of musicians who have supplemented the Superetoile, it was nice to see the deo ude warriors who, together with Youssou and Faye, have made the Supertoile so great. Tama player Assane Thiam, the wizard on the small percussion instrument, the aforementioned Mbaye Dieye Faye, and on guitar there was Jimi Mbaye. The old friend, the grandmaster, who after a few years has returned to his musical brothers. What a bond. Live hard to beat. One of the best live bands in the world.
When the band then started ‘Li Ma Weesu’, the music shifted into a higher gear. The Senegalese diaspora were the first to leave their seats to go dancing. Before the song was halfway through, the whole room was dancing like a man and enjoying it. The band played its inimitable rhythmic breaks tight and flawless. The sax soloed to the ceiling and back before Assane Thiam stepped forward. Youssou took the microphone and held it behind the tama. Pure excitement took over the room. This was fantastic.
Slowly but surely the band worked towards a climax. That came when they used ‘Immigres/Bitim rew’, the classic, which dates back to the 70s. Not only a musical highlight that was spun out on stage until really no one had any resistance anymore but also a unique moment in terms of feeling. A wave of homesickness rolled over the diaspora in the room. Your reviewer has lived in Senegal for years and felt the breeze on the Corniche, the smell of the mimosa and the song of the Muezzin. Music touched all the senses and even the seventh.
All brakes were released and the band played, turning the concert hall into the Thiossane nightclub, home of the Superetoile. Mbaye Dieye Faye danced, and played his games with the audience, and the dancers danced the sabar. It was beautiful, very beautiful.
For the encore, the band appeared dressed in the new shirts of the Senegal national football team. Youssou proudly wore number 12 . The twelfth lion, le douxieme Gainde. The supporters of the national football team. In a month’s time, Senegal will play against the Netherlands at the World Cup and the men on the podium have rock-solid confidence in their team. In Amsterdam, the Senegalese team won easily with double figures, but rarely was an audience so easily overwhelmed. It was a very beautiful evening. Chakanam!