Edited by Azizi Powell
This is Part I of a three part series about Senegalese baby naming ceremonies/parties (ngentes; also found as nguentes and nguenté.)
Part I presents excerpts from one book and excerpts from two blog posts about Senegalese baby naming ceremonies/parties.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2016/02/information-about-senegalese-gewels.html for Part II of this series. Part II provides information about gewel (griots), Mbalax, and Senegalese Hip Hop.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2016/02/fata-el-presidente-featuring-mbaye.html for Part III of this series. Part III showcases a Senegalese video of "Nguenté" by Fata (also known as "El Presidente") featuring Mbaye Dieye & Waly Seck
Selected comments from that YouTube video's discussion thread are also included in that post.
The content of this post is presented for anthropological and cultural purposes.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
Update: February 8, 2016- I just found this article on 2013 informative and well written blog post about Senegalese "ngentes": http://senegalesekathryn.blogspot.com/2013_07_01_archive.html
This excerpt is from pages 137-138 of the Google books portion of the 2007 book Masters of the Sabar: Wolof Griot Percussionists of Senegal By Patricia Tang (Temple University Press). Here's some information about this book from http://www.amazon.com/Masters-Sabar-Percussionists-Senegal-Soundscapes-ebook/dp/B0037CFDN2#customerReviews
"Masters of the Sabar" is the first book to examine the music and culture of Wolof griot percussionists, masters of the vibrant sabar drumming tradition. Based on extensive field research in Senegal, this book is a biographical study of several generations of percussionists in a Wolof griot (gewel) family, exploring and documenting their learning processes, repertories, and performance contexts-from life-cycle ceremonies to sporting events and political meetings. Patricia Tang examines the rich history and changing repertories of sabar drumming, including dance rhythms and bakks, musical phrases derived from spoken words. She notes the recent shift towards creating new bakks which are rhythmically more complex and highlight the virtuosity and musical skill of the percussionist. She also considers the burgeoning popular music genre called mbalax. The compact disc that accompanies the book includes examples of the standard sabar repertory, as well as bakks composed and performed by Lamine Toure and his family drum troupe."
Excerpts of pages 137-138.
Note that the words given in italic were given as they appeared in this book excerpt for accent marks in the spelling of many of those words.
Masters of the Sabar: Wolof Griot Percussionists of Senegal By Patricia Tang
"At both weddings and naming ceremonies, sabars take place in the afternoon, after the rituals and ceremonies are completed and the celebrations is to begin.
At a ngente or marriage a large tarp or open-sided tent with chairs under it is usually set up in the street outside the house. The tent symbolizes a sort of extension of the household, keeping the event an essentially private affair, despite it being in the “public” street. This distinguishes it from a tannibeer, which never takes place under a tent, and is always an open, public event.
A ngente is usually an all-day affair. In the morning the men (male relatives and other distinguished friends of the head of the household), come to pay their respects and praise the baby. It is in the morning that the baby is named as well. Laax which is served at Korite (A Muslim holiday to be discussed later), is traditionally served on the morning of a ngente. Lunch will be ceebu yapp, a rice and meat dish, cooked with the sacrificial sheep. The men slaughter the sheep in the morning, after which the women griots busily prepare cooking it.
Although all sorts of friends and family visit the household throughout the day, the men primarily come in the morning, whereas the afternoon is the time for women (and, not so coincidentally, is also when the sabar takes place.). All guests bring a small monetary gift (ndawtal) to the mother to congratulate her and to help with the cost of the ngente (which can be a very expensive affair, between renting chairs, the sabar group, and providing food and drink for everyone).
In contrast to its role at a tannibeer, which is a dance event which is also an occasion for drummers to show off their virtuosity and showcase bakks, the sabar’s role at an ngente (and marriage) is purely functional: to accompany dance. The drummers play dance rhymes*... Normally they play a set for an hour or so, break for a big late lunch, then resume playing later in the later afternoon. Naturally, the drummers engage in woyang, praising the mother or whatever other prominent people are around, thus eliciting money for them”...
*The word "rhythms" here probably means "rhythms". The names of various rhythms are given in this passage.
"A Special Ngente Ceremony: “Bekete”
In addition to the naming, dancing, and other festivities common to all Senegalese baptisms, people of the Lebou origin, descendant from Diagne Ndoye and Diagne Mbaye, celebrate a special ngente ritual called bekete. Since Mbayes are of gewel** origin, the Mbaye family considers bekete to be an important gewel tradition and performs it every time a new baby is born into the family.
Bekete is a ritual of protection. As Macheikh Mbaye explains
'Bekete is a means of protecting the child. When the child is eight days old, we will celebrate bekete in order to protect him. We will protect him from the evil spirits, from any type of accident, from evil tongue (caat)- because some tongues will destroy anything when they talk about it. We will protect him/her also from the evil eye; that’s what bekete is all about- to protect the survival of the child, that’s all.' (3/9/98)
Gewels = griots. Information about gewels (griots) is given in Part II of this series.
This 2005 blog post was written by a White woman from the United Sates. In her 2005 profile she described herself as a teacher living in Dakar, Senegal for nine years with her husband. The blog post describes the amended form of a ngente (Senegalese baby naming ceremony/party) that the couple held for their two month old daughter.
This excerpt focuses on the blogger's descriptions of the baby naming ceremony/party. I reformatted this excerpt for this post to enhance reading clarity.
From http://birds-nest5.blogspot.com/2005/11/what-is-ngente.html [written by] Lisa, Saturday, November 12, 2005
"What is an ngente?
Well, we are busy preparing for Mariama's ngente. What is an ngente you say? It is what the people here in Senegal call a naming ceremony. It is typically held on the eightth day after a child is born. Until that time, the child's name is not spoken by the parents to anyone.
Typically the ceremony takes place about ten in the morning which includes a prayer of sorts, shaving the head as part of their tradition, and the announcing of the name. At about this time is when the sheep is killed, out of sacrifice or celebration, it is unclear. Before the ceermony takes place though, they begin to serve the laax. Laax is a grain that is made into powder and then formed into the consistency of oatmeal and then served with a sweet milky yogurt over it. It is really delicious! After the sheep has been killed, cooking of lunch begins, which is always "ceebu yap" (rice and meat), which is a signature Senegalese dish. This is generally served about 2:00, since they will serve the laax to anyone who comes until about noon. The lunch is served on large platters around which about 6 people will eat, in Senegalese fashion...
After lunch, guests are served some drink, generally cokes, frozen juice from a store, or one of the homemade Senegalese jus, which are not like anything we drink in the states, but they are delicious. This is finished about three or four o'clock. Often for the Senegalese, the day does not end here. They may serve leftovers of lunch to those who come around 5:00, and then will serve a dinner around 8:00. But also around 6:00, there is the exchanging of gifts between the families. The family of the mother of the baby and the family of the father of the baby essentially compete to outgive gifts to the other side of the family. If good enough gifts are not given by one side, not only does it insult the other side of the family, but it also causes the side who gives inadequately to be looked down on by all the neighbors because everyone is watching this event. Yeah, no pressure here!!!...
The mother of the baby is called the "boroom ngente", meaning lord of the ngente. The boroom generally wears a different outfit for every meal, getting more expensive as the day goes on. I will wear a nice outfit I already have for the morning but am getting a new outfit for the afternoon lunch time. Her hair and makeup are very fixed and very heavy generally."...
This 2012 blog post was written by a White woman from the United States who identified herself as a Peace Corp volunteer. The nguenté that this blogger attended was held for the fifth born child of her (Senegalese) host mother.
This excerpt focuses on the blogger's descriptions of the baby naming ceremony/party.
From https://lesvoyagesdejulia.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/a-senegalese-ngente/ Posted on October 18, 2012 by juliaschroer
"Yesterday, I had the pleasure of experiencing my first Senegalese ‘ngente’ or naming ceremony. An ngente is a special day where family, friends, and neighbors gather to celebrate the birth of a new baby by enjoying yummy food, presenting gifts, and attending the Islamic naming ceremony. The affair seems to be a cross between a Christian baptism and an American baby shower. The ngente happens exactly a week after the baby is born. The baby girl was born on October 10th, so the party was yesterday, October 17th. During those first seven days, my host mom didn’t leave the house and tended the new baby 24/7. I am really impressed by how self-reliant my host-mom is and how she handled the pregnancy (I moved into when she was in her 7th month) and delivery with such a cool head and calm disposition!
Yesterday, everyone gathered at our house early in the morning and the women started to prepare breakfast – lahk (millet and yogurt deliciousness). At some point in the morning, the father of the child and his posse of friends meet with the Imam (religious leader) to discuss the child’s name for the naming ceremony. The mom gets to put in her request for the name, but ultimately the dad decides the official name (though the mom might still call the baby what she wants).
After surviving a morning full of anticipation, the Imam and father announce the name of the child, Miriam! The name is very important. Every child is named after someone, called a homonym or namesake. The person who the baby is named after becomes like the Christian idea of a godparent. It is a huge honor for a child to be named after you and you play a special role in the child’s life, like taking a particular interest in their well-being and giving gifts and helping out if ever something happens to the parents...
At one point in the day, I realized the baby’s hair was all gone. She was born with a lovely amount of fuzz giving pretty full head coverage. Then I remembered reading in our cross cultural manuals that there is a Senegalese tradition of shaving the baby’s head on the day of the ngente. My cross cultural notes explain “the ceremony is composed of shaving the hair of the baby, then the Imam or a learned man rubs his hand over the child’s head, prays and spits in its ears the name by starting from the right. Finally, a sheep is killed in its honor.” Another Senegalese tradition I’ve observed involving a new baby, or small children in general, is to make sure they are always wearing “binbins”. A binbin is a string with special beads worn around the stomach, arm, or throat, to ward off evil spirits and protect health of the child.
After the announcement, it is time to kill the sheep! Everyone gravitated towards the backyard at this point where the sheep was killed – the men did the dirty work and the women generally don’t watch, but may take a fleeting glance to see the progress. As soon as the deed is done, breakfast is distributed and the women get down to business and start preparing lunch (this happened around 10:30/11 am)...
This blog post continues with a description of the lunch and evening meal, as well as some other comments. The blogger indicates that she was concerned about having to give a monetary gift for the ngente, but no collection was taken. She speculates that maybe this was because her host mother was well off and this was her fifth child. The blogger also indicates that there was no band for this ngente.
This concludes Part I of this post.
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