A team of four composers from the Sahel has been selected to compose the first opera for that region. An international jury selected Goo Bâ (Senegal), Zé Manel (Guinea-Bissau), Tunde Jegede (Nigeria) and Nawal (Comoros) following a workshop held at the end of June in Senegal. The Sahel Opera, which is an initiative of the Prince Claus Fund, is to premiere next May in Mali.
At age 33, Tunde Jegede is the youngest of the four composers. He studied cello and classical music in London. As a child, he played percussion in his father’s band and was initiated into Mali’s Griot tradition by Amadu Bansang Jobarteh. He also received his first choral lessons from virtuoso Bouly Cissokho.
Zé Manel was the key player in the legendary band Super Mama Djombo that became the mouthpiece of the new country of Guinea-Bissau after its independence from Portugal in 1974. His debut politically tinged solo album, Tustumunhos di Aonti (Testimonies of Yesterday), released in 1982, is now seen as a classic example of this country’s music.
Nawal grew up in France but returned to Comoros in 1985, where she discovered her musical heritage. She played around a lot with her cultural backgrounds’ musical styles before combining them with European influences to produce her own unique sound.
Goo Bâ is not only a singer and musician but also an actor. After completing his studies at the academy of arts, he set up the theatre group Gooli in Dakar and wrote their plays, also taking care of the mise-en-scène. Goo Bâ was also an active member of La Fabriks, the artistic pressure group run by Jean Michel Bruyère.
Leading Senegalese artists go to make up the Sahel Opera’s artistic team. Wasis Diop is responsible for the musical production, Oumou Sy for the scenery and costumes, Germaine Acogny for the choreography and Jean-Pierre Leurs for the mise-en-scène. Casting for the actors, singers and dancers will be held in November. The opera production is being coordinated by the Metissacana cultural centre in Dakar.