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Negotiating a Feminist Musical Language in a Twenty First Century Senegalese Muslim Society

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African Languages and Literatures in the 21st Century
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This chapter examines the language of Muslim feminism as expressed in Senegal’s signature pop music genre called mbàllax. First, it defines and contextualizes Senegalese moderate Muslim feminism vis-à-vis global feminisms and as iterated in the country’s broader literary and artistic discourses. Then, it draws from selected Wolof pop songs to examine how female Senegalese Muslim musicians have used music to negotiate feminist expression and tease out latent patterns of gender inequity in a twenty-first-century majority-Muslim African country. In doing so, the chapter argues that the female mbàllax singers have created a modern musical language articulating a double-edged feminist social commentary that embodies a woman’s self-praise, on the one hand, and an anti-patriarchal satire, on the other.

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  1. 1.

    For more on mbàllax composition, see Patricia Tang (2007).

  2. 2.

    Personal interview with the Artist, Summer 2016, Dakar, Senegal.

  3. 3.

    The rap songs of pioneer Senegalese female rap crew Alif’s provide examples of how the local scurrilous feminist poetry has penetrated female rap music in the country. Alif’s song, “Douta Mbaye” (Trickery, 2014) is one among many examples where they take on men’s abuse of women.

  4. 4.

    Qur’an, Al-Nisa (The Women), 34.

  5. 5.

    (1) Personal Interview with the Artist; (2) Cheikhou Gueye (Saanex); Aziz Niane; Cheikh Ndiaye, Interview with Kine Lam, In “Ngonal” TV Show, first aired on TFM TV on December 14, 2016.

  6. 6.

    In the traditional Senegalese Muslim society, the wife moves over to the husband’s house after marriage.

  7. 7.

    Sabadoor is a Senegalese type of men’s dressing suit.


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Camara, S. (2020). Negotiating a Feminist Musical Language in a Twenty First Century Senegalese Muslim Society. In: Lisanza, E., Muaka, L. (eds) African Languages and Literatures in the 21st Century. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-23478-2

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