Hundreds of music lovers from around the world flocked to Saint Louis, Senegal this week to enjoy the city’s 30th annual jazz festival.

There were performances from nine main acts at the event, which held from June 2-5. Some of the more notable artistes were Senegalese griot Noumoucounda Cissoko and French-Martiniquais jazz bassist Sélène Saint-Aimé.

The festival, organised by the Saint Louis Jazz Association, is set amid a backdrop of colonial-style buildings. Horse-drawn carts transport locals and tourists around the city centre, located on a 2-km-long island.

“There is something very magical about jazz and something very nostalgic about Saint Louis,” said Marc Lucet, a jazz enthusiast who travelled from Nouakchott, Mauritania for the festival. “I think they come together very, very well.”

When it comes to jazz, Lucet said, it’s all about improvisation.

The event features a unique style of jazz that combines the conventional guitar, piano and drums with traditional West African instruments such as the 22-string kora and the calabash, a percussion instrument made of dried gourds.

“It’s music that comes together when people come together, and we’re seeing this tonight – musicians from different continents and different walks of life who just met each other, coming together and playing together,” Lucet said.

The main event took place each evening at Place Blaya, a central outdoor venue, but live music and dancing continued into the early hours of the morning at a handful of local bars.

“The festival is about more than jazz – it’s about encounters, sharing and community,” said kora player Ablaye Cissoko, who has spent most of his life in Saint Louis. “It’s the heart of the city. It’s our heritage.”

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