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As Saint Louis Jazz Festival Returns To Senegal

Hundreds of music lovers from around the world flocked to Saint Louis, Senegal this week to enjoy the city’s 30th annual jazz festival.

There were performances from nine main acts at the event, which held from June 2-5. Some of the more notable artistes were Senegalese griot Noumoucounda Cissoko and French-Martiniquais jazz bassist Sélène Saint-Aimé.

The festival, organized by the Saint Louis Jazz Association, is set amid a backdrop of colonial-style buildings. Horse-drawn carts transport locals and tourists around the city center, located on a 2-km-long island.

“There is something very magical about jazz and something very nostalgic about Saint Louis,” said Marc Lucet, a jazz enthusiast who travelled from Nouakchott, Mauritania for the festival. “I think they come together very, very well.”

When it comes to jazz, Lucet said, it is all about improvisation.

The event features a unique style of jazz that combines the conventional guitar, piano and drums with traditional West African instruments such as the 22-string kora and the calabash, a percussion instrument made of driedgourds.

“It’s music that comes together when people come together, and we’re seeing this tonight – musicians from different continents and different walks of life who just met each other, coming together and playing together,” Lucet said.

The main event took place each evening at Place Blaya, a central outdoor venue, but live music and dancing continued into the early hours of the morning at a handful of local bars.

“The festival is about more than jazz – it’s about encounters, sharing, and community,” said kora player Ablaye Cissoko, who has spent most of his life in Saint Louis. “It is the heart of the city. It is our heritage.”

Noumoucounda Cissoko plays the kora, a traditional West African instrument, with the Sélène Saint-Aimé quartet. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]

Bar-goers dance to live music at the Saint Louis Jazz Festival. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]

The Saint Louis Jazz Festival took place amid the backdrop of colonial-style buildings and horse-drawn carts. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]

Saint Louis’ main tourist area is located on an island just 2km long and three hundred meters wide. A bridge connects it to the mainland. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]

Saint Louis, Senegal is a major hub for fishing – the coastline is packed with traditional wooden canoes called pirogues. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]

A street performer entertains tourists at Hotel de la Résidence during the Saint Louis Jazz Festival. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]

Guestu Jazz Trio performs at the Hotel de la Résidence during the jazz festival. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]

Ablaye Cissoko plays the kora at the French Institute during the Saint Louis Jazz Festival. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]

Musical group Khalifa Niang performs at the Flamingo Bar and Restaurant during the Saint Louis Jazz Festival. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]

Many bars at the Saint Louis Jazz Festival were overflowing with tourists and locals alike. [Annika Hammerschlag/Al Jazeera]

Nollywood – the Nigerian movie industry – was described as a small screen cinema involving amateurs who produced low budget trashy videos with predictable storylines.

But in the intervening decade it’s been transformed into a multi-million dollar industry with rising international interest.


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