Screening & Discussion: Wijdan, Re-encounter of the Souls: Sacred Music in North and West Africa

Thu, September 18, 2008 8:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Alwan for the Arts


the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University

Invite you to

The Third Annual Alwan Festival of Sacred Music

A Film Screening and Panel Discussion

Wijdan, Re-encounter of the Souls: Sacred Music in North and West Africa

Free and Open to the Public


Mousa Kala Dieng

Mamadou Diouf

Souleymane Bachir Diagne

Hisham Aidi

Moderated by Taoufiq Ben Amor

The film:

Wijdan: The Mystery Of Gnawa Trance Music

Directed by John Allen and Produced by Bella Le Nestour

52 minutes

The Gnawa people have been shrouded in mystery since they were taken from the Malian empire and brought as slaves to Morocco. The power of their trance music has come into the spotlight through Western musicians (from Led Zeppelin to Archie Shepp) who help circulate the secret amongst those fascinated by the origin of the blues and the mystic connection of the music.

This film is an intimate portrait of two men who found each other like lost brothers separated by time. Time we now call history. Sibiri, bambarra musician of Mali, and Brahim, gnawa musician from Morroco. This 52 minute documentary is witness to these masters of the supernatural as they transmit secret knowledge to their children. As a testament to a fast changing Africa, we rediscover the meaning of transmission because who knows the color of the chick before it hatches?

The panelists:

Mousa Dieng Kala

Born and raised in Dakar, Senegal, Mousa moved to Montreal, Canada in 1993, after managing Youssou Ndour's recording studio for two years, to pursue a degree in film. While studying film making, Mousa started exploring his vocal talents and founded a group that performed locally. His music was a blend of many African styles and other genres. He was featured in three compilations: "African tranquility" (1997), "Soufi Soul" (1997) and "Prayer" (1998). While honing his vocal skills, Mousa's music turned inward to spiritual themes. In his album "Shakawtu" (1996), he put the poetry of Sheikh Amadou Bamba to his melodies. He followed with two other albums "Salimto" (2001)and "18 Safar" (2003). Mousa's meditative music breaks away from emphasis on rhythm and dance is at once old and new.

Mamadou Diouf

Mamadou Diouf is a renowned West African scholar and historian, and is currently Prof. of History and Director of the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University . His research interests include urban, political, social and intellectual history in colonial and postcolonial Africa. His most recent book is Histoire du Senegal: Le Modele Isalamo-Wolof Et Ses Peripheries (2001). He is the author, editor and co-author of several other works including Les Figures du Politique En Afrique, Des Pouvoirs Herites aux Pouvoirs Elus (1999) and Les Jeunes, Hantise de L'Espace Public dans Les Societes du Sud, (Autrepart, 18, 2001).

Souleymane Bachir Diagne

Souleymane Bachir Diagne is a Professor at Columbia University in the department of French and Romance Philology. His field of research includes history of logic, history of philosophy, Islamic philosophy and African philosophy and literature. His most recent publication, Comment philosopher en Islam (Paris, Panama, 2008) - « How to philosophize in Islam »- is just coming out this October.

Hisham Aidi

Hisham Aidi is a Lecturer at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and a contributing editor of Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Culture, Politics and Society. He is the author of Redeploying the State: Corporatism, Neoliberalism and Coalition Politics (Palgrave Macmillan 2008) and co-editor (with Manning Marable) of Black Routes to Islam (Palgrave Macmillan 2009). As a journalist, he has written for The New African, Africana, Colorlines and Middle East Report.

Taoufiq Ben Amor

Taoufiq Ben Amor is professor of Arabic at Columbia university. His research interests bring together linguistics music and poetry to study the politics of music production. His last essay is entitled "Tradition in the making: The standardization of the lyrics of the Tunisian Andalusian repertoire." Ben Amor is also a performing musician, who concentrates on Sufi repertoire, and is the curator of the Alwan Festival of sacred Music.

Last updated: 2008-11-05 15:15:51

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