Hey, everyone, it's Friday. But that's not the only cause for celebration, did you know? It's April 4th, which is Senegalese Independence Day. And last year this time, BPP intern Laura Silver was living in Senegal. And a song she heard while she was over there is The Best Song In The World Today, and Laura is in the studio to tell me more about it. Hey, Laura.


MARTIN: Laura, tell me how you got to Senegal in the first place.

SILVER: OK, well, Senegal got its independence from France in 1960. Its first president was a poet, Leopold Sedar Senghor, and I found out about him because I read his work in a French literature class in college, and it made me want to check out the country. It's about the size of South Dakota, has a population of about ten million, and there's a ton of local languages there, but the predominant one is Wolof. And I learned a few words of Wolof when I was there.

MARTIN: Mm hm.

SILVER: I was there for three months as a volunteer in a small town with about 2,000 people, so I had to rely pretty heavily on my Wolof.

MARTIN: On your limited Wolof.

SILVER: Yeah, very limited.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SILVER: So, of course, I looked like a foreigner, but...

MARTIN: And you sounded like a foreigner.

SILVER: I had a New York accent, even in Wolof.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SILVER: But to help me fit it, a woman there gave me a Senegalese name, Aida Sal (ph). And that brings me to The Best Song In The World Today.

(Soundbite of song "Djiergenjieuf")

SILVER: So Aida, Henda, Daouda, those are all common first names in Senegal.

MARTIN: Like John, Jack, David.

SILVER: Exactly.

MARTIN: In English, in America. OK.

SILVER: And the song's title, "Djiergenjieuf," means "thank you." So that's one word I mastered, and I was really happy because I could understand the title of the song.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SILVER: It's by Coumba Gawlo Seck, and you probably haven't heard of her. She's not too big in the U.S., but she's a star in Senegal. She's as big there as someone like Youssou N'Dour is on the world music scene.

MARTIN: Mm hm.

SILVER: So I saw her picture on billboards, and I - at first, I thought this song was kind of annoying. It's basically a thank you to her fans, and I was like, ugh. That's such a throwaway. Of course, she's going to sell the albums. But eventually it grew on me, mainly because I could understand the lyrics, which are pretty simple. "Thank you," and the names of her fans.

(Soundbite of song "Djiergenjieuf")

SILVER: Plus, it had the names of my other Senegalese friends. Rama, who made an amazing fruit compote and is planning to open her own restaurant. Fama, the mother of my host family, who insisted that I put three spoonfuls of sugar in my coffee every morning. Lala, the fashion plate of the town where I stayed. Each outfit of hers had a matching headscarf. My favorite one had pictures of the Senegalese president, Abdoulaye Wade, all over it.


SILVER: And, yes, Abdoulaye is a name in this song, too. Just makes me think that there is a bunch of things I miss about being in Senegal. Kids who followed me everywhere. The adults who included me in their tea, atayaa. It's very bitter and also sweet at the same time. Communal meals, we ate from the same plates, sitting on the floor. It reminds I have a lot of people to thank there, too, my own list of names.

MARTIN: Mm hm.

SILVER: Alassane, Deikuna(ph), Daba, Adama. And I was missing this people so much, that I went to Bed-Stuy, which is a neighborhood in Brooklyn, where there's a large Senegalese and West African population. And I used my very basic Wolof to talk to the guy behind the counter, he said, Nga def? "How are you?" Naka lige be? "How's your work going?" And..

MARTIN: Mm hm. Did he understand what you were saying?

SILVER: Yeah, of course!

MARTIN: That's great!

(Soundbite of laughter)

SILVER: And when I thanked him for the CD, of course, I said "djiergenjieuf," "thank you." And he responded to me with the Wolof version of "you're welcome," which is nyokobok, and literally, that means "we'll share." So that's just one of the great expressions I learned, and that's one of the reasons I wanted to share "Djiergenjieuf" by Coumba Gawlo Seck today, The Best Song In The World Today.

(Soundbite of song "Djiergenjieuf")


Up next on the Bryant Park Project, rattlesnake sacking and BMX racing. One is a new Olympic medal sport. The other's just good fun. Find out which is which. This is the BPP from NPR News.

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