Keepers Of tradition
  Introduction        Folk Arts & Heritage Program        Search Archives        Blog
Browse themes:
  music PreviousNext
Sana Ndiaye posing with two ekontings, Musician, 2007; Sana Ndiaye; Northampton, Massachusetts;
Sana Ndiaye posing with two ekontings, Musician, 2007
Sana Ndiaye
Northampton, Massachusetts
Sana Ndiaye performing at the Lowell Folk Festival; Musician; 2009: St. Anne's Churchyard stage
verticle bar Artist
Sana Ndiaye
Amherst, MA
The ekonting is an ancient musical instrument from the southern region of Senegal, now extremely rare even in its homeland. Sana Ndiaye is one of the few Senegalese masters who carry on the ekonting tradition. The ekonting is a long-necked gourd-bodied African lute with a skin head. While there are many gourd-bodied lutes in West Africa, the ekonting is an important ancestor of the banjo developed by the enslaved Africans who were transported to the New World during the 17th and 18th centuries. The ekonting has three strings, two long melody strings and one short drone string, akin to the short fifth string on the five-string banjo. O'teck meaning literally "to strike or hit" is the term for the ekonting playing technique. It is uncannily similar to the downstroking employed in the American clawhammer banjo style, known as frailing. In both styles, the short drone string is plucked with the thumb.

Sana Ndiaye was born in the Senegalese village of Djembering where, following the tradition of his Jola people, he took up the ekonting as a small child. He balanced school with playing for community celebrations, while his parents were living in Dakar working to support the family back in the village. As a young man Sana moved to Dakar, and soon hooked up with the seminal African hip-hop group Gokh-Bi System, which had decided to add traditional musicians and instruments. The group's fusion of traditional and contemporary sounds interested American rap producers, and led to recording contracts and several U.S. several tours, where the group shared the stage with artists such as Damian Marley, the Last Poets, Toots and the Maytals, and Michael Franti, among others.

Ndiaye now divides his time between Northampton, Massachusetts and Dakar. When he is not touring with the group, he concentrates on solo projects highlighting the haunting sound of the ekonting with the lovely traditional songs that are an integral part of ekonting music.
verticle bar Purchase Exhibition Catalogue