The West African nation of Senegal boasts a rich diversity of peoples and languages — Wolof, Toucouleur, Serere, Diola, etc. — and the wealth of folk traditions bestowed by these diverse ethnic groups is a key part of Senegal’s national patrimony. The folkloric dance and percussion group BAKALAMA was founded in 1972 specifically to celebrate and advance Senegal’s cultural heritage, and has been doing so successfully ever since, with original productions and performances worldwide.
Bakalama was created when the association of citizens of the Thionck-Essyl (also established in 1972, in Dakar) took the initiative to develop a renovation structure for their village. Bakalama means “gourd” in the Diola language, and it’s a name full of history and deep meaning for the inhabitants of Thionck-Essyl, signifying unity, rootedness and fundamental need for the whole community to join hands.
Bakalama believes a community must train its own future artists, as well as students from around the world. It is therefore more than just a performance troupe, but also a school of dance, music and percussion. Its diversified activities revolve around traditional West African songs and dances and such traditional percussion instruments as the sabar, djembe, souwrouba, and congas.
Bakalama also focuses on developing the cultural and socioeconomic sectors of Senegal, by harnessing the strength of traditional folk arts to engage in cultural exchanges worldwide. The group even has its own festival: The International Festival of Dance and Music Thionck-Essyl, initiated in 2006 and is held every two years in the Thionck-Essyl Commune located in Senegal’s beautiful Casamance region.
Bakalama is convinced that culture and the arts are able to unite diverse peoples for mutual understanding and better relations across lines of region, ethnicity, nationality and religion.
Recent Prizes and Honors:
Winner of the Pan African Festival of Algiers 2009 ( Best scenic realization, Best Dancer )
Winner of the Golden Prize of the Senegalese delegation at EXPO 2012 YEOSU in Korea
First Prize at the 2013 Dakar Carnival
Winner of the 2014 Dakar NJUKEL ARTISTIK 1st Edition, February 2014
Original Dance Productions:
2007 MBALIA OR THE REVOLT OF WOMEN
2010 MIRROR OF SENEGAL
2012 DANDE MAYO