Sufi Sounds of Senegal by Estrella Sendra

Senegalese scholar, writer and musician Felwine Sarr suggests that the African continent is shaped by the ‘delocalisation of its presence in a perpetual future’, that is, a vision of what it will be; an incomplete present. An Afrotopia possible only through a spiritual, musical revolution.

One prominent figure inspiring spiritual revolution through music in the nation is Cheikh Amadou Bamba (1850-1927), the Sufi founder of the Murid Brotherhood. The much loved Sufi leader is often referred to as ‘The Servant of the Messenger’, and ‘Serie Touba’ as he established, in 1887, the city of Touba, regarded as the Senegalese Mecca. Murid devotees gather there to pray, perform zikr, and take part in an annual pilgrimage and music festival, the Grand Maggal, which attracts millions of people from across Senegal and the diaspora. However, his influence goes beyond the Grand Maggal. His portrait, which is based on a single photograph discovered in 1912, can be found all over Senegal, not just on T-shirts, necklaces, postcards, posters and stationary, but in street art, carved on trees, painted on walls, and on car rapides, a popular mode of public transport in Dakar – the iconic image is revered and believed to offer protection. Cheikh Amadou Babou was a prolific writer who produced works on the Qur’an, rituals, meditations and an extraordinary number of poems.

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