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Gambian Cultural Dancing
Culture & Traditions   Music   Traditional    Masquerades      
 Kankurang  Kumpo   Simba
Traditional 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) music.

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.


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