Last weekend I went to Senegal for the St. Louis Jazz festival! It is a time when many performers and artisits from throughout the region all convene for a weekend of music and culture! Day and night, the streets were filled with parades of people ready to dance.
We went to the big Jazz concert on the last night we were in town and I was disappointed to find two acts, a group of German and French jazz performers. I was hoping for a more worldly combination of acts, like Cuban, Guinean, South African, or Brazilian. Instead I was nearly falling asleep to the French Quartet. They were good but it was a slow wrap-up for a long weekend of music. Perhaps we picked the quiet night!
Outside of the big concert hall, there were literally bars on every corner, each blasting music at maximum volumes, representing many music styles, from classic jazz to reggae and mbalax. These small bars were overflowing with dancing and singing, with action and passion.
This weekend came at a perfect time, the day after the end of the final exams. I was able to truly relax for the first time in months, knowing that I accomplished a tremendous achievement that deserved celebrating.
It was also a fun change of pace to be surrounded by free-spirited people from all over the world. I met with traveling vendors from across Africa. I bought beautiful amber beads from a fellow Mauritanian, two colorful baskets from a kind Malian, and a pair of tiny brass hedgehogs from a Nigerien. I also bought a beautiful dress from a spunky Senegalese woman. I didn't plan on making any purchases, but I found myself making friends with so many warm people and the next thing I knew I was exchanging money for goods.
It was a brilliant weekend. I will keep my souvenirs from the St. Louis Jazz festival and I hope they will serve as a reminder for me to attend it again next year!