Thursday, 10:01am
3 June 2010

Listening to music in Senegal

Let’s work with the concept of ‘listening’ rather than ‘selling’

I wasn’t expecting this in Senegal, writes Joana Monteiro. Technology not only influences culture but it also changes the way we access it.

02 Senegal_music_on_the_street

The Internet changed our life forever. In particular the way we share and listen to music. We are not listening to music with as much sound quality as before. But we listen more. Because music is everywhere, no matter where in the world we are. And I’m not talking about ‘wallpaper’ music, because then we aren’t really listening. It’s the way we access our music that became more democratic.

My experience visiting Senegal changed my view on the music industry outside western society. In places where you don’t have running water or electricity, music still is the big passion. Like in any other part of the world, in Senegal people listen to music using YouTube, mp3 players and mobile phones.

02 Senegal_DJ

We live now in the Information Age. ‘We’, meaning the whole planet, not just the western world. The music industry is changing, but it’s not dying. Music will always exist, and people will always find ways of listening to music.

If we, designers, want to keep our jobs inside the music industry, we must start working more around the concept of ‘listening’ and not so much with the concept of ‘selling’.

05 Senegal_pirate

Are we pirates or donkeys?

05 Senegal_pirate_vs_donkey

Going to a music shop (top) in Senegal was an interesting experience. All they sell are copied CDs with home made covers. Other places wait for you to make a specific request and burn the files there and then.

03 Senegal_MP3

Before recorded music, live music used to be the only way people could listen to music. It might be that in the future this will be the only transaction occurring between bands and their fans. As designers, let’s get out of our self-indulgent desert island of beautiful packaging and start having fun working side by side with artists / musicians providing more interesting experiences to the audience.

Below: Music from the mosque.

06 Senegal_music_from_the_mosque

Here is a short video I made of my trip to Senegal.

Eye magazine is available from all good design bookshops and at the online Eye shop, where you can order subscriptions, single issues and back issues. The summer issue, Eye 76, will be a music special. You can read a selection of pages on Eye Before You Buy on Issuu. Student subscriptions are half price,