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)
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.