Photo Essay: The anatomy of a Senegalese drum circle

By Erika Hooker
Dec. 16, 2014

In Senegal, drum circles are usually planned with special events. They're a way to let loose and enjoy dance and music. 

That said, they have historical significance, having been around "Since Allah," meaning there have been drum circles as long as anyone can remember. There are slight differences within ethnic groups about the how, when and why of drum circle traditions. Different ethnic groups have different dances and styles such as the Pulaar (of which this drum circle is an example), the Sereer and Wolof.

"Amde" means to dance in Pulaar. There are a few classic moves that everyone knows but mostly you move to the beat of the dru
"Amde" means to dance in Pulaar. There are a few classic moves that everyone knows but mostly you move to the beat of the drums and make the dance an expression of whatever you want.
Complets, the wrap skirt and matching shirt outfits worn by Senegalese women, are impossible for me to even sit down in. Yet
Complets, the wrap skirt and matching shirt outfits worn by Senegalese women, are impossible for me to even sit down in. Yet somehow they manage to move like it's not even there.
The only rule of a drum circle is to stay out of the middle unless you're dancing; the bigger the movement and the faster the
The only rule of a drum circle is to stay out of the middle unless you're dancing; the bigger the movement and the faster the speed, the better.
While women of all ages typically dominate the drum circles in my village, some men (and energetic boys!) have crazy moves an
While women of all ages typically dominate the drum circles in my village, some men (and energetic boys!) have crazy moves and really get the drummers to respond.
Arms, legs, hips and facial expressions all play a role in the dance.
Arms, legs, hips and facial expressions all play a role in the dance.
The drummers aren't just local boys. They are incredibly good at what they do and usually travel between villages for hire. G
The drummers aren't just local boys. They are incredibly good at what they do and usually travel between villages for hire. Good drummers make a world of difference in a drum circle and help keep the energy up.
Some dancers will respond to each other with their moves, daring their partner to outdo them. These sisters were having the b
Some dancers will respond to each other with their moves, daring their partner to outdo them. These sisters were having the best time doing just that.
Erika Hooker

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