Monday, February 3, 2014

Senegal's Orchestre Baobab - "Coumba" (sound file, video, comments)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is Part I of a three part series on the name "Coumba" in Senegalese culture. This post showcases a sound file of Orchestre Baobab's song entitled "Coumba". That song is also featured in a video of Dakar, Senegal's street life.

Information about orchestra Baobab and comments from those video's viewer comments threads are also included in this post.

Click for Part II of this series.

Part II showcases a video of a song by the Senegalese singers Baaba Maal & Ndeye Coumba Dia – Gilli and a video of a song by the Senegalese singer Coumba Gawlo Seck. That post also provides additional information about the name "Coumba", including information about the Senegalese King
Kumba Ndoffene Joof II.

Click for Part III.

That post showcases an excerpt of and my comments about a 2007 university paper by Michelle Margoles, 2007 about the Saint Louis, Senegal river goddess Mame Coumba Bang. That post also includes a Senegalese traditional dance video with a title that includes the name "Coumba".

The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

To make a long story kinda short, I learned that Coca Cola's Super Bowl XLVIII ad featured people of different races and ethnicities singing "America The Beautiful"* in various languages.** One of the languages featured in that ad is Senegalese-French. I then found out that Coca Cola also posted complementary videos that focused on each of the people singing in those other languages, including a video of the young woman taping the Senegalese-French portion of that ad. The inclusion of the Senegalese-French language in that Coca Cola video prompted me to find out how a traditional Senegalese language sounds.

*This is a correction of the wrong title that I gave this song in my original post.

Because I wasn't sure which languages are traditionally spoken in Senegal, the first website that I visited was
where I red this information:
"Senegal...officially the Republic of Senegal (République du Sénégal, IPA… is a country in West Africa...

French is the official language, used regularly by a minority of Senegalese educated in a system styled upon the colonial-era schools of French origin (Koranic schools are even more popular, but Arabic is not widely spoken outside of this context of recitation). Most people also speak their own ethnic language while, especially in Dakar, Wolof is the lingua franca[citation needed]. Pulaar is spoken by the Fulas and Toucouleur. The Serer language is widely spoken by both Serers and non-Serers (including president Sall, whose mother and wife are Serers); so are the Cangin languages, whose speakers are ethnically Serers...

Senegal has a wide variety of ethnic groups and, as in most West African countries, several languages are widely spoken. The Wolof are the largest single ethnic group in Senegal at 43 percent; the Fula[37] and Toucouleur (also known as Halpulaar'en, literally "Pulaar-speakers") (24%) are the second biggest group, followed by the Serer (14.7%),[38] then others such as Jola (4%), Mandinka (3%), Maures or (Naarkajors), Soninke, Bassari and many smaller communities (9%). (See also the Bedick ethnic group.)"
Then I started a YouTube search and happened upon a video of Senegal's Ochestre Baobab's Coumba (given as Example #1 below). And since I'm interested in names & name meanings, I began to started a Google search for the meaning of the word "Coumba". If I had continued on YouTube, I would have found the video given as Example #2 below. That video (which is actually a sound file), includes a comment that indicates that "Coumba" is a rather common name in Senegal and Gambia. But prior to finding that video & reading that comment, I found the paper on the river goddess Mame Coumba Bang (that I subsequently featured in Part III of this series), information about a Senegalese king whose name was Kumba, and the videos that are featured in this post.

All together, I would say that I've had a great time learning something more about Senegalese culture, all because of that Coca Cola Super Bowl (American football) ad.

Coca-Cola - It's Beautiful - Official :60, Coca-Cola - It's Beautiful in Senegalese-French; and for a listing of the other languages spoken in that commercial, with special emphasis on the Tagalog language.

By the way, some conservatives in the United States are up in arms about that Coca Cola video, complaining that the national anthem shouldn't be sung in any language but English (Note: "America The Beautiful" isn't the United States' official national anthem.) But I like that ad because of its content, and because it led me to this cultural research about Senegal, West Africa which I am now sharing with you.

"Orchestra Baobab is a Senegalese Afro-Cuban, Son, Wolof and Pachanga band. Organized in 1970, as a multi-ethnic, multi-national club band, Orchestre Baobab adapted the then current craze for Cuban Music (growing out of the Congolese Soukous style) in West Africa to Wolof Griot culture and the Mandinga musical traditions of the Casamance. One of the dominant African bands of the 1970s, they were overshadowed in the 1980s and broke up, only to reform in 2001 after interest in their recordings grew in Europe."


Example #1: Senegal - Orchestre Baobab - Coumba Dakar Streetlife

Seka Moke, Uploaded on Dec 7, 2008

If the title of that video had been written as Orchestre Baobab - "Coumba" (Dakar Streetlife),
I would have been saved a lot of fruitless speculation about a community called Coumba in Dakar, Senegal. But, I learned something from that search. So it's all good (or mostly good anyway).

Example #2: Orchestra Baobab - Coumba

gd73, Uploaded on Jan 26, 2009

Orchestra Baobab - Coumba
from the album Pirate's Choice
originally recorded in 1982
re-released by World Circuit Records 2001

The song was written by Radolphe Gomis

[The musicians are listed in this summary]
Selected comments from this sound file's comment thread:

gahgeer, 2009
"What does coumba mean? sounds like the onl Wolof word in this beautiful song :-)"
xMARTHEinWonderland, 2010
in reply to gahgeer
"@gahgeer The rest is french (i think, i'm still listening now), It's a story about a girl.. called Coumba.."
rochegador, 2010
"Just beautiful! This African music transcending superciality and the usual clichés about what is African music. By the way, "Coumba" is a girl's name often found in the area around Senegal, Gambia"

dimnarion95st, 2011
"and there is also this part:"Coumba, Coumba qui a changé les couleurs Coumba, Coumba, la mer n'est plus bleu pour toi Coumba, Coumba qui a changé les couleurs Coumba, Coumba, la mer n'est plus bleu pour toi" :)"
Google Translate from French to English
"and there is also this hand: "Kumba, Kumba Kumba that changed colors, Zandi, the sea is bluer for you Kumba, Kumba Kumba that changed colors, Zandi, the sea is not blue for you ":)"
Obviously Google Translate got “hand” wrong. But its interesting to me that Google Translate gave the name "Zandi" for "Coumba/Kumba". Google Translate also gave the name "Zandi" for "Coumba" in information about the Senegalese singer Coumba Gawlo Seck. That information is included in Part II of this series.

Does anyone reading this know what the names Zandi, Coumba, and Kumba mean in Senegal and the Gambia? If so, I'd appreciate you sharing that information in the comment section below.

babybluebenz, 2012
"[i]s about love and love lost and the constant cycle of chasing and being chased ..and saying sorry but when i am about to die its gonna be you i think of and those memories will make me smile"
If Coumba is the a female's name [only], what can be made of that name being given to the male singer Ndeye Coumba Dia – Gilli? And what about the historical King of Sine (which is now part of Senegal) Maad a Sinig Kumba Ndoffene Fa Ndeb Joof, also known as Kumba Ndoffene Joof II or Bour Sine Coumba Ndoffène Fandepp Diouf? More information about those two personages is included in Part II of this series.

Thanks to the musical legacy of Orchestre Baobab. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post, and thanks also to the producers of those Coca Cola commercials which started me on this particular cultural journey.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. It occurs to me that the name "Coumba" ("Kumba") is the same as the beginning part of the word "kumbaya".

    However, "kumbaya" and "Kumba" don't have the same roots or meaning.

    "Kumbaya" is Gullah* for "come by here".


    "Gullah (also called Sea Island Creole English and Geechee) is a creole language spoken by the Gullah people (also called "Geechees" within the community), an African American population living on the Sea Islands and in the coastal region of the US states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and northeast Florida."

  2. Nice research, nice post. Thanks for sharing it with us. Greeting from Venezuela.