I spent the weekend reveling in Felwine Sarr’s latest production. Neither in the novel, nor in the essay, even less in the poetic walks between African imaginations. Felwine Sarr released an album entitled Naïssan, thus casting off again the moorings of a musical career started in Orléans within the group Dolé. The “well-mixed roots reggae” band had released two albums before ending the adventure after nearly a decade.
I have often seen Felwine Sarr in concert, in Dakar, notably in the superb cellar of the Djoloff hotel or in Saint-Louis. I still remember seeing him perform with the Daaray Samadhi group in 2019, at La Kora restaurant on the island of Saint-Louis. In this small courtyard, as pleasant as it is charming, the reduced space offers a communion between the public and the artists under the baobab tree which adorns the place.
In this place, which is one of my favorites in the city, Felwine Sarr and Mabousso Thiam distilled notes of afro-folk accompanied by the delicate voice of Gnilane. These three were more than a family but a “brotherhood of souls in search”, a community of weavers of bonds of love to be dressed in the cloud of lovers who populated the public that evening. How not to think, while writing these lines, of Mabousso Thiam who traveled to the other shore? How not to remember this wonderful, brilliant and endearing man of whom Felwine Sarr tells us that he had “the solar soul”. Naïssan is an itinerary during which, if you know the musician a little, you can see his obsessions, his impulses and his favorite places forged in the ink of poetry, politics, history and spirituality. We come across things and destinies, flavors and men and women suggested – in connection of course with the modesty of Felwine Sarr and his anchoring in the words of the soul more than those of the mouth which distorts, weakens and devitalizes this which pertains to the senses and the intimate.
While listening to the album, I met ghosts and heroes from here and elsewhere; people to whom the poet pays homage with the precision that conciseness imposes in the salute to the dead.
Felwine Sarr makes us visit the tombs of martyrs and men whose blood has flowed, making daily life less habitable but conferring boldness and rage of becoming on the heirs. In the title Maskhadov, the artist takes the autocrats by the collar and asks them if they sleep at night after their sinister crimes. It reminds us of the recent dramas of Vukovar, Beslan, Rwanda… It brings us back to the memories of the Chechen leader, Aslan Maskhadov, Nelson Mandela or the Lion of Panshir.
The voice of Felwine Sarr makes us visit physical geographies: Kigali, Dakar, Durham, Pondicherry, Niodior, Orléans; emotional: wars, travels, hope, enjoyment, art, spirituality. The intimate texts recall the figure of the writer and the poet whose literary power overflows this album. He puts to music the imaginary, the intimate, exile, love, beauty, the overcoming of sensible time to sanctify only infinity. Felwine Sarr leaves with this album, a new trace in his abundant, erudite, mixed and eclectic work. The guitar constantly accompanies the words of the story to forge a demanding and tasty melody.
With the company of Daaray Samadhi, the work of Felwine Sarr takes a new flight towards Awakening, the supreme space where everything disappears to let only a self stripped of vanities hatch. I have read all the books by Felwine Sarr who, over the years, has become a precious friend for whom I have esteem and admiration. And it is with emotion and joy that I discover his new project which is part of a long-term work whose purpose is the fine aggressiveness of creating in a spiritual way in order to leave traces of the redemption of his own but also of all those who have the imprudence to come and seek in the midst of the sea salts, the dews of the thousand hills and the arteries of the bolongs, answers to the questions which agitate the hearts of men. The artist sings in French, English, Wolof and Sereer (my Pulaar parents will say that he is the only one to make this last language poetic). These languages say something about the house of humanities that Felwine Sarr has just founded to think about repair and awakening in common beyond barriers and sad passions. The Naïssan album is an aesthetic of links and imaginations, one more attempt in the language of the economist-philosopher-novelist-musician.
Felwine Sarr thus sows new seeds for possible, probable and plausible repairs of souls by crossing borders in order to make the world together. It leaves traces and invites us, incites us to tattoo this world with our perennial traces.