Cultural mediation Music for intercultural understanding

Badara Seck in front of a Kora, the African instrument with high symbolic value
Badara Seck in front of a Kora, the African instrument with high symbolic value | Photo (detail): © Maik Reichert

Badara Seck comes from a griot family. A griot is the memory repository for an African tribe, passing on stories and knowledge in the form of song. Badara Seck sings on stages throughout the world today. A multimedia reportage from the Italian capital.

By Sarah Wollberg (texts, interviews) and Maik Reichert (photos/camera)

We meet Badara Seck outside the entrance of Auditorium Parco della Musica, a concert hall in Rome.  He originates from a Senegalese griot family whose roots can be traced back to the 12th century. Today he sings with famous musicians such as Rokia Traoré and Ludovico Einaudi on stages throughout the world. It’s raining. We find a quiet corner inside.
A griot is the memory repository of an African tribe. He passes on stories and knowledge in the form of song. Furthermore his voice is traditionally considered to have healing properties for curing the sick. The first song Badara sings to us is one that he has written in Italy. It features international greetings, for example Bonjour, Guten Tag and Salaam Alaikum. These are not formalities, he explains, they are words of peace that help us to reach out to each other. “We’re all different. If we aren’t afraid of learning good things from one another, then we can all achieve a better state of balance.” The second song is performed al fresco.

An opera about integration and enlightenment

The sun comes out and we head for the open-air stage to make the most of the acoustics and light out there. We’re captivated by his sound. For Badara, music is the second language of every people. It fosters a sense of closeness and trust. He firmly believes that music can have a positive influence on the whole world. “I’m in the process of writing an opera to bring African and European musicians and dancers together on the stage. The idea is to unite our cultures through shared music and themes.” It will tour Europe and Africa, bringing its narrative about the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea to local audiences. 

Instruments on world tour 

In the Auditorium’s museum, we discover a selection of African musical instruments – including the dunun, djembé, kenkeni and kora.

It is this music that can give Europeans an idea of what Africa means. From this starting point it departed to travel the whole world, mixing together with many other styles. “Everywhere is home to the djembé now. Everyone’s got one, even if they can’t play it.”
  • African musical instruments in the Auditorium Parco della Musica, a concert hall in Rome © Maik Reichert
    African musical instruments in the Auditorium Parco della Musica, a concert hall in Rome
  • African musical instruments in the Auditorium Parco della Musica, a concert hall in Rome © Maik Reichert
    African musical instruments in the Auditorium Parco della Musica, a concert hall in Rome
  • African musical instruments in the Auditorium Parco della Musica, a concert hall in Rome © Maik Reichert
    African musical instruments in the Auditorium Parco della Musica, a concert hall in Rome
  • African musical instruments in the Auditorium Parco della Musica, a concert hall in Rome © Maik Reichert
    African musical instruments in the Auditorium Parco della Musica, a concert hall in Rome
  • African musical instruments in the Auditorium Parco della Musica, a concert hall in Rome © Maik Reichert
    African musical instruments in the Auditorium Parco della Musica, a concert hall in Rome
  • African musical instruments in the Auditorium Parco della Musica, a concert hall in Rome © Maik Reichert
    African musical instruments in the Auditorium Parco della Musica, a concert hall in Rome
Africa became part of our daily life a long while ago. According to Badara, music will set plenty more things in motion. And maybe it will heal us a little as well.