©St. Louis African Chorus,
Julien Jouga, conductor
Senegal, a nation famous for its export of the worlds most definitive drummers and dancers, is usually not mentioned in the choral music world. The fact is apparent also that, as in many Islamized parts of Africa, there’s very little fervor for musicological inquiry into indigenous harmonic forms. Thus, the Julien Jouga Chorale was a rarity.
Founded and directed by the late Julien Jouga, the group was formed with the intent to creatively engage urban youth in the Dakar area. That original objective remains, and today largely at-risk children congregate daily to express themselves artistically through ensemble singing.
Children from urban neighborhoods are brought together to rehearse a broad ranging repertoire, from classical to Pop to Jazz, in addition to African songs. Percussion and instrumental classes are also taught, although they are largely focused within the context of the songs that are learned. The group also mentors some of the kids that show some promise in Rap and hip-hop, as such since 1996 the group has organized an annual Rap festival. During these festivals those with rap leaning are given the opportunity to perform with known rappers. For example, in September of ‘96 there was a collaborative press conference with rapper Oumson at the launching of a recording and video.
Although Joulien Jouga passed on recently, his expanded vision for the Chorale continues. Souleymane Ndiaye, a theatre expert has taken up some of the responsibilities. Regular classes, practices, and rehearsals remain popular to the urban youth.