We discovered this place during our “Downtown Sortie” and with a look at the Institute’s program, we quickly learned that one of Senegal’s most famous musicians (next to Akon that is-I bet you didn’t know Akon was from Senegal-cool huh?), Youssou N’Dor would be performing Thursday night!
Thursday after classes, knowing I would be up late, I took a quick mid-afternoon siesta, though interrupted by a hungry cat continuously meowing for food in the alleyway. A group of us “Mermoz-Hos”-it’s our cool neighborhood nickname, don’t be jealous-met at the usual spot, the Elton Gas station where each school day you can find a CIEE student buying lunch of yogurt and cookies.
The “car rapide” did in fact spit us out a little earlier downtown than expected but the walk to the cultural institute was full of charismatic vendors, refreshing whole coconuts for sale, and an Obama mattress we all thought was hysterical.
With my friend, Sarah’s navigational skills (I swear she grew up here), we found the French restaurant that sat side by side with the concert theater. The restaurant strung decorative lights from the tent like seating while snooty waiters ran back and forth and “bourgeoisie” French sat at tables sipping wine in one hand while simultaneously smoking with the other. It was infested with Toubabs and the downtown Dakar we had emerged from, disintegrated into the French Mediterranean coast.
My friends and I sat comfortably without rush or anxiety, sipping chilled Diet Coke and wine, eating fish so enormous it hung off both sides of my plate, and making toasts to a grand semester and African experience though having a hard time remembering where we were with such French atmosphere. The only thing that brought us back to our senses was the abrupt electricity cut (happens frequently here) shutting down the ‘90s pop music and lights for a couple seconds.
We took our seats in the middle back of the concert, a prize we paid for dining so luxuriously as some other CIEE peeps got up front and personal in the 2nd row, but I wasn’t complaining-the outdoor amphitheater let all the audience perfectly see the stage, and for someone with eyes blind like a bat, this was great!
For two hours, Youssou serenaded us while we swayed freely back in forth, stealing dance moves from his back up singers, and not taking our seats except for a break to munch on some of my delicious sugar coated peanuts I got on the street. The performance, enhanced with talents by not only the man himself but shared with his drummers, guitarist, and wicked crazy flipper/dancer, made the evening unforgettable.
I frequently paused during the concert and hit the record and save button in my mind so that I could replay these beautiful moments in the future when I needed them the most. I realized that although this night was magical and amazing, so would the next four months of my experience in Senegal be as well.