01 Evocation du Spectacle Féérique de Gorée (24:06)
(Gorée Island Enchanting Tale)
Petite Musique de Cour des Rois Mandingue et Balante
(Ancient Court Music of the Mandingue and Balante Senegalese Kings)
02 Improvisation Pour Une Fête (kora and balafon) (2:55)
03 Air pour une Fiancée (balafon solo) (3:18)
04 Nocturne pour une Reine (kora improvisation) (2:03)
Songs of New Nations,
sung by the De Paur Chorus (New Jersey)
05 Ghana (2:54)
06 Nigeria (4:16)
07 Congo (2:11)
08 Nigeria (3:12)
09 Ghana (2:55)
Total time 47:40
LP released by Philips, France, 1966
The idea of a World Festival of Negro Arts (1er Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres, aka FESMAN) was proposed at the Conference of Black Writers in Rome, 1956, organized by Alioune Diop (1910-1980), director of the ‘Présence Africaine’ journal in Paris, and publisher of African Literature and History books. A fellow Senegalese, poet Léopold Sédar Senghor (1906-2001) took part to this conference and, as soon as he was elected President of Senegal when the country proclaimed its independence in 1960, he offered Dakar, the capital, to host the festivities. Diop would be the Festival’s artistic director, with help from writer and négritude [+] champion Aimé Césaire and 2 assistants: Swiss anthropologist Jean Gabus (1908-1992) [+] and Cameroonian Jesuit priest and Art historian, Engelbert Mveng (1930-1995) [+]. But Senghor definitely wanted to use the event as a political lever and a négritude flagship, especially since North African countries rejected the concept in favor of Pan-Africanism [+], a doctrine aiming at a fierce independence towards Western countries.
On April 1st, 1966, an international conference (with funding from UNESCO) opened the Festival which was to last until April 24th. A new art museum called Musée Dynamique (again with UNESCO funds) was build in Dakar to exhibit the numerous folk art and ceremonial objects sent by invited countries. For the first time in Africa, folk art was to be examined as Art, and cultural objects on display were compared to each other. The exhibition was shown in Paris as well, 6 months later. A theater was also build in Dakar, called Théatre Daniel-Sorano, to give the African premiere of La tragédie du Roi Christophe, a play by Aimé Césaire. Guest artists to the Festival included: historian Cheikh Anta Diop (1923 -1986); Arthur Mitchell and Alvin Ailey (of the American Negro Dance Company); Mestre Pastrinha, a Capoeira troupe from Bahia; Duke Ellington; Marion Williams; singers Julie Akofa Akoussah and Bella Bellow; writers Aimé Césaire, Langston Hughes, Wole Soyinka, Amiri Baraka and Nelson Mandela. In any respect, this Festival is a key event for Postcolonial studies.
This LP was presumably published by Philips in France in 1966, though the record itself has no proper release date. It looks like mere lip service from some French officials (namely, André Malraux) to Senghor, a loyal ally in Senegal, where the Total Group had been doing extensive oil business since 1954. It comes as no surprise the 2009 Paris exhibition (see below) is sponsored by Total. The first side of this LP, ‘Evocation du Spectacle Féérique de Gorée’, is a 24mn narration of the history of Senegal, Gorée Island and the slave trade, the birth of Dakar and independence of Senegal. It sounds like Ronald Reagan narrating the American Revolution – nation building produces more or less always the same sounds, regardless of continents –, complete with various songs, excellent percussion interjections, incidental music, environmental sounds and noises. Senegal’s national anthem, composed by Senghor, is a paean to kora and balafon, the national instruments. Their inclusion on the B side of this LP could only please Senghor.
Original impetus and basic information for this post come from the exhibition ‘Présence Africaine: A Forum, a Movement, a Network’ , held in Paris from Nov. 10, 2009 to Jan. 31, 2010 (see English press release PDF). Extensive use has been made of several articles from the catalog, especially by Eloi Ficquet and Lorraine Gallimardet. The LP itself is neither on display at the exhibition, nor mentionned in the catalog.