Senegalese and Inuit singing come together at Kanesatake powwow
CBC News | June 01, 2022
Bamba Diaw and Nina Segalowitz's collaboration brought crowd to tears, organizer says
Oscar Baker III · CBC · Posted: Jun 01, 2022 4:00 AM ET | Last Updated: June 1
Only a couple of weeks ago, singers Bamba Diaw and Nina Segalowitz were complete strangers. But a chance meeting in Victoria opened the door for an impromptu performance at a Quebec powwow — where their blending of his traditional Senegalese performance and her Inuit throat singing brought people to tears.
One of them was Alan Harrington, of Shoal Lake #39, who organized last weekend's Kanesatake land-back powwow to spark discussion about issues facing Indigenous people
"It was so powerful and moving," he said of their performance. "It was like being in two different worlds."
Diaw, who lives in Montreal, says he and Segalowitz, who is Inuvialuit-Dene, "just wanted to show people how beautiful human beings are."
Since moving to Canada in 2016, Diaw, 39, says he wanted to find a way to build a bridge between Indigenous people of North America and Africa. He said both have been severely affected by colonization and face unfair stereotypes.
"Together we are stronger and we can help each other show how beautiful Indigenous people are," said Diaw, whose first language is French though the interview was conducted in English.
Diaw says he was surprised by the cultural similarities. He said both cultures have a large respect for the drum, the crowd, elders and to traditions. He said watching the powwow celebrations felt like he was back home; that the community, 65 kilometres west of Montreal, was very welcoming to him and his twin eight-year-old daughters.
"I felt like family," said Diaw.
Segalowitz, 49, had met Diaw the previous weekend in Victoria. She says she heard the beat of the drum and turned a corner to see him performing. She didn't know what he was singing but says it moved her.
"Music has always been an international language. You don't need to know what they're saying … if you can feel what they're saying," said Segalowitz.
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She says her great-grandfather was a Senegalese and Portuguese whaler who met her Inuvialuit family while travelling the Northwest Passage.
She performed with Diaw in Victoria but had no idea they'd meet again so soon. Meanwhile, a friend pointed Diaw toward the powwow in Kanesatake.
"Our ancestors bring us into moments for a reason," she said.