Baay Faal Style
In my recent Sabar dance class, We learned a type of dance called "Baay faal."
My teacher explained that the dance comes from Bayefall people in Touba, Senagal, and they wear dreadlocks, wearing a patchwork clothing, just like the pants he wears in the class.
That's all he said before we danced, but it was enough to pull my interest. Not only I liked my teacher's patchwork pants made of various colorful African fabric, It sounded like very interesting people that I had to know who they were! I also thought that it was important to know the meaning and history behind of dance we learn.
Sabar is a drum and dance culture of Wolof people, a largest ethnic group in Senegal - about 40% of the population, and many in the Gambia and Mauritania. So I thought Bayefall is a group of people within Wolof, and it was a good clue to find out more.
The majority of the Wolof people are Muslims, as the Senegalese Sufi Muslim brotherhoods appeared in Wolof communities in the 19th century, and grew tremendously in the 20th.
The Bayefall (Baay Faal in Wolof) is a sub-group of the Mouride brotherhood, a Sufi Muslim order largely believed in Senegal and the Gambia. The Mouride brotherhood was founded in 1883 in Senegal by Shaykh Aḥmadu Bàmba Mbàkke, commonly known as Amadou Bamba (1850-1927). As he is buried in Touba, Senagal, it's the holy city and headquarters for the Mourides (the followers).
The Bayefall was founded by Ibra Fall, a famous disciple of Bamba, known for his dedication to God, and considered work as a form of adoration. Bamba finally decided that Ibra Fall should show his dedication to God purely through manual labor.
Many of Bayefall substitute hard labor and dedication to their marabout (spiritual leader and teacher) for the usual Muslim pieties like prayer and fasting.
Bamba and Ibra Fall are the important cultural icons for many Wolof people. People painted their figures from portraits to the walls and signs, just like street art and they look very pop. As you can see on the second photo, Bamba is on the left and Ibra on the right, and in between them there is the holy Touba.
The members of the Bayefall dress in colorful ragged/patchworked clothes, wear their hair in dreadlocks which are called ndiange or 'strong hair', carry clubs, and act as security guards in the annual Grand Magal pilgrimages to Touba. Long time ago, as they kept wearing same clothes, it got worn out. So they patchworked the different fabrics to mend. Now they wear patchwork clothes as style and keep the tradition. I find it very interesting, and it reminds me of Japanese Sashiko embroidery technique to sustain one garment longer. The photos towards the top is more traditional Bayefall outfit.
In modern times the hard labor is often replaced by members roaming the streets asking for financial donations for their marabout. Some Bayefalls are talented musicians. As long as they have religious heart, anyone can be a Bayefall, and this create the international networks of Senegalese music, dance, art and poetry culture. The photo on the bottom is the recent young Bayefall outfit, not so much patchwork anymore but tie-dye fabric and badges feature their (I think?) marabout. It also seems like there is a bit of American Hip-Hop fashion influence, as they layer many garments and its looseness. I really like how they mix the tradition, religion, craft, street culture and other imported western elements into a style!
It's so exciting when a new rhythm and move bring me the meaning and history behind it. It totally expands my inner world and stimulates the motivation to do and make things! and the best part is that it makes me feel SO optimistic towards the human activity on the earth. I know it sounds so generic and too broad, but it really lets me realize the world is such a interesting place, and worth taking time and energy to find out more.
Senegal (and West Africa), is in my top 3 places (along with Tibet/Himalayas and Alaska!) I want to visit. By the time I visit there, I really hope my dance skill will be a A LOT better than now!