Senegal’s Blues du Fleuve is an annual music festival founded and headlined by Baaba Maal – a singer so popular and influential in this part of the world that over the course of the weekend a shipment of mosquito nets is dropped off at his house for protecting his guests courtesy of the minister of health. Maal is the man who gets things done around here. In Francophone West Africa he is Kanye West with a diplomatic passport, the Pope with better dance moves.
Maal’s festival has run since 2006 and usually takes place in Podor, the northernmost town in Senegal, although in previous years it’s visited the capital Dakar and crossed the border to Boghé in Mauritania. Podor will always be its spiritual home, though, for two reasons: it’s Maal’s hometown, and it’s in a prime spot on the Senegal river – the Fleuve which gives the festival its name – which forms the border between Senegal and Mauritania, after passing through Guinea and Mali.