Thielao is a community of over 3,000 Pulaar people in northern Senegal, near the Mauritanian border. Located on the Douè River, Thielao farmers grow rice during the dry season using irrigation channels from the river. The river is also a valuable source of fish for the community. During the rainy season, farmers grow millet, cowpeas, vegetables, and hibiscus. The community also raises cows, goats, and horses. Hoddu player Dema Dia from Thielao performed on the communities’ recordings. He had recently returned from a tour of the United States and has previously performed with Baaba Maal from nearby Podor and other renowned Senegalese musicians. The community is interested in micro-credit and income-generating projects. The money generated from the sale of their music will be used to implement these projects, including granting a micro-loan to repair broken tractors and investing in livestock to generate income.
About Community Voice International and the Pilot Project
Community Voice International is a nonprofit organization that facilitates cultural understanding and supports international development by improving communities' capacity to share cultural resources. Community Voice International works with communities to record local music, distribute the recordings online to engage a global audience, and return 100% of the proceeds to the communities to fund local development efforts chosen by the communities themselves.
In June 2013, Community Voice traveled to Senegal to pilot its music project in collaboration with Peace Corp Volunteers and Tostan, a non-government organization specializing in holistic, non-formal education. The team partnered with eight communities across Senegal, recording performances of local music in each of these communities. These communities come from five of Senegal's major ethnic groups—Bambara, Mandinka, Pulaar, Soninke, and Wolof—and each performs a unique style of music. Musicians played stringed instruments (kora, hoddu, and ñaañeru), drums, and other percussion instruments including various uses of calabashes, gourds, and bowls. Solo singers and call and response ensembles sang lyrics ranging from traditional griot stories to Muslim chants to new compositions celebrating the growing importance of women's rights in Senegal. The members of our partner communities are excited to present their music and are proud to share this part of their culture with a global audience.
These songs were recorded in the local context—often outside under the shade of a tree. In addition to the voices and instruments of the community, each recording is rich with the sounds of daily life: babies crying, birds chirping, and the murmur of conversations. We believe these sounds add to the recordings, rather than detracting from them. Each community holds the copyright to its own recordings and has named Community Voice International to act as agent on their behalf.
For more information on Community Voice International, Peace Corps Senegal, and Tostan, please visit our websites: