music and West African cultural dancing go very much together
in Gambia. They range from the vibrant cultural dancing of he
Jola tribe to the more modern dance style of the Wolof which is
accompanied by Ndaga (Mbalax)
Each ethnic group has its own
dance and ranges from wild, dynamic and exuberant arm and body
movements, foot stamping and hip gyrating. Some types incorporate
the Kumpo masked dance from the
Jola which has to be seen to be believed.
It involves a man decked in lots of grass twirling while pivoted
on a pole on his head!
Although each people have their own favourite drumming tunes and
unique dance styles, most Gambians perform
a similar popular dance. Typically a circle or semi-circle is
formed with the dancers facing the drummers. Each in turn, dancers
will come to the center for an energetic but usually short yet
spirited display of fancy footwork and vigorous hip movements.
Women's head scarves (Mussour) will often be thrown into the ring
to show appreciation for the drummer's ensemble, and a dancer
may draw someone else into the circle with the same Mussour.
Mandinka dancers are known for
their arm movements and footwork, where as Wolofs
tend to emphasize their hips. It is the men who usually play the
drums while the women dance, but sometimes men will also take
part in the performance. This type of dancing is more of a community
affair with everyone participating. In contrast, the special acrobatic
male dance of the Fulas is more of a performance.
Their ensemble consists of a lead flutist, a fiddler, and one
or more drummers beating ringed fingers on calabash gourds placed
on their chests. Each musician will take his turn performing acrobatic
feats to the accompaniment of the others. These dancers often
perform on weekends at various beaches such as Sanyang.
The "Taxuraan" is a type of show put on in villages
including dance and music. Men's dances are featured with the
men wearing the very full chaya pants which sway back and forth
as they move. Wolof dance is accompanied by a "tama"
(underarm talking drum). Two types of griot participate in the
Taxuraan - the tama players and others who sing and speak.
While the Sabarr features mostly women
dancers, the Taxuraan is mainly a men's thing where they improvise
and puns, jokes, and riddles addressed to the female audience
they hope to attract.
The "Tatu Lawbe" is performed by women wearing many
strings of beads around their waists and their hips up in the
air. The beads make a clacking noise while the hips undulate.
This dance has given birth to the modern-day "Climatiseur"
or the faster "Ventilateur" of Senegambia.
A Lebu dance of rejoicing on the election of a new Djarraf (village
chief) is called the "Gumbe." Another occasion for a
special Lebu, performed by the women, is when fishermen bring
in their catch. Mask dances are more traditional among the Mandinka,
Jola and Basari in the south and east of Gambia and Senegal.