WILLIAMSTOWN -- When Lamine Touré and Group Saloum take to the stage of Chapin Hall at Williams College tomorrow night, they will introduce the dynamic rhythms of Senegal's sabar drum and mbalax music to the Berkshires.
Group Saloum is a Boston-based band of international artists from Africa and North America. Founder vocalist and sabar player Lamine Touré, along with his percussionist brother Vieux and dancer Cheikh Ngom, are from Senegal; Mohamed Araki on keyboards is from Sudan; and bass player "Chuks" Okpu Chukwadi is Nigerian.
Drummer Patrick Simard from Canada and American guitarist Adam Block round out the band.
Ethnomusicologist and MIT Professor Patricia Tang, who will give a public lecture this evening, explained that the sabar is the main drum the country's majority Wolof people play in Senegalese popular music.
Typically grouped on stands or strapped to the drummer's side, the sabar is played with one hand and one stick, offering a wide range of sounds. Pegs attach the drumhead to the rest of the drum.
"I'm biased, because I love sabar drumming," Tang said.
A classically trained violinist, she encountered African drumming in college
"And that was my life-changing moment," she said.
She met Touré in Senegal while doing post graduate research into popular music and griots, traditional West African musicians and oral historians. They married, and they now have a 3-year- old daughter, Marie.
Over the years, Tang has made her own impression on Senegalese music. She has played violin on recordings by Touré and other bands, including a rap artist. She manages Group Saloum and also co-directs Rambax MIT, a sabar drumming ensemble, with Touré.
Since the 1990s, Tang explained, African popular music has been at the forefront of the world music scene. Senegal is one of the strongest players, with famous artists like Youssou N'Dour and a vibrant hip hop and rap scene drawing a lot of attention recently.
"Group Saloum is named after the region in Senegal where Lamine came from," Tang said. "The band members are interested in learning from his experience as a veteran of the Senegalese pop music scene and the knowledge he can bring."
In the primary language, Wolof, "mbalax" means rhythm or accompaniment and is a fast tempo dance music. Group Saloum plays a fusion style of mbalax known in Senegal as "Afro" music. A wide variety of styles blend in the songs, including jazz, funk and reggae, Tang said.
The hallmark musical phrases that serve as the breaks in the special rhythms played on the sabar are called "bakks" and feature prominently in the band's music, she added.
Touré was born into an extensive family of griots in Senegal.
"All my uncles are drummers, and my mom is a dancer and a singer," he said. "I started playing really early -- my mom said even when I was 2, I used to play drums a lot. When I was 5, I played for my uncle, and they paid me too."
He would go to school and then perform on the weekends.
"At 7, I was thinking, I'm going to be a musician," he said, "because I love it."
He went on to play with various bands and tour North America and Europe before moving to the United States in 2002 to become Artist-in-Residence at MIT.
"It was time for me to do something different," he said. "In Senegal, everybody understands the sabar. It's really popular there. Here, I'm trying to explain it better and teach people the steps. I want to share my culture. It's really important for me to be here and to share that difference."
He finds his students benefit from the experience, too.
"At MIT, they are studying a lot, and the sabar helps them with the stress," he said. "I explain a lot of the history and phrases of sabar, they all mean something. I have a lot of stories to tell, and we're dancing, singing, laughing -- it's a lot of fun."
The concert is presented as part of the Ernest Brown World Music Series, named in memory of the professor, ethnomusicologist and marimba band director who shared his vast knowledge and love of music from around the world with the Williams community for over 20 years.
Touré said he expects the Williamstown audience to get up and dance.
"I do that all the time," he said. "I teach them a lot of steps, and we'll do that together. When I play a show, I want to make sure people have fun too, and moving is going to give more energy."
If you go ...
What: Lamine Touré & Group Saloum in concert
When: Friday at 8 p. m.
Where: Chapin Hall
Talk: Class of 1960 Lecture with Prof. Patricia Tang of MIT
When: Today at 4:15 p.m.
Where: Bernhard Music Center Room 30, Chapin Hall Drive
Information: music.williams.edu (413) 597-3146