Sekhou Senegal • Ousseynou Kouyate Cultural Dance & Drum Collective
West African music and dance
Sekhou Senegal is a West African music and dance ensemble created by twin brothers Ousseynou and Assane Kouyate. Ousseynou and Assane were born and raised in Senegal, Africa, coming from a family line originating in Mali and Guinea. They come from a long line of griots — the poets, historians, storytellers, and keepers of West African song and dance traditions.
Ousseynou and Assane have been singing, dancing, and performing professionally since the age of 13 and were lead dancers and choreographers with Le Ballet National du Senegal and the Sinomew Ballet of Senegal. They danced professionally with both ballets for over 5 years, touring internationally throughout South and North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Now residing in the United States, they are committed to educating people about their culture and sharing the profound beauty of their art. As artistic directors and educators, they instruct classes and master workshops in Africa, Europe, and the United States.
In 2015, 2014, 2012 and 2011, Sekhou Senegal received a grant from ACTA’s Living Cultures Grants Program to support their annual Nuit du Bazin: Bringing in Peace, Love, and Unity, a West African ceremonial and cultural event. “The purpose of the extravaganza is to create an image of West Africa through music, song, and dance while focusing on real life customs and traditions. The evening is filled with pomp and grandeur, of traditional and melodious lyrics in Bambara, Mandinko, French, and Wolof…,” observes Oussenyou. The evening hosts a number of traditional artists from West Africa who are in residence over the weekend to offer workshops to the public in dance and music. The event is widely attended by West African nationals who live in California.
The evening was a multi-generational event. One of the community elders prepares to take the microphone to speak and sing songs of praise herself. Photo: Eric Cesar Morales
Assane Kouyate singing praises. The songs were shared by the brothers; each solo voice carried on when the other voice subsided. Photo: Eric Cesar Morales
Members from the Kora Symphony opened up the evening with songs. The kora is a 21-stringed instrument played with thumb and forefinger whose sound is sonorous and full. Photo: Eric Cesar Morales
Karamo Susso, a master griot from Gambia, plays and sings on the largest kora. The griot is historian and journalist, keeping history alive through song and recitation. Photo: Eric Cesar Morales
A guest dressed in the finery of bazin with embroidery. Photo: Lily Kharrazi
The next generation of musicians are comfortable and encouraged to join in when they want to. Photo: Eric Cesar Morales
Master musician of Sekhou Senegal plays the vibraphrone. Photo: Eric Cesar Morales
A proud father, Alseny Soumah from Guinea, brings his daughter to her first Nuit du Bazin. Photo: Lily Kharrazi
The baby's proud mother, Fatihmou, was also regaled by the songs of blessings and praise by the twins beautiful singing. Photo: Lily Kharrazi
Assane and Ousseynou Kouyate, affectionately known as "the twins," were the hosts for Nuit du Bazin in Oakland, CA. The event brings together primarily West African residents to enjoy a night of finery where one wears their best bazin -- a cloth that is created after a long process of prepartion. The twins are master artists and griots, keepers of the oral histories of their lineage. Photo: Eric Cesar Morales