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Savrina Parevadee Chinien
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Parevadee Chinien

Pierre-Yves Borgeaud

Youssou Ndour

Moncef Genoud et Youssou Ndour

Idris Muhammad

Amiri BARAKA (Leroi JONES)

Moncef Genoud et Youssou Ndour

Joseph Ndiaye (conservateur de la Maison des Esclaves de Gorée) et Youssou Ndour

Youssou Ndour

Return to Gorée
On the lyrical trails of Slaves and their diaspora

"At the bottom of the Atlantic ocean there is a rail road, made of human bones; black ivory, black ivory": these compelling words of the American poet Amiri Baraka evoke the horror of the slave-route, leaving behind human bones at the bottom of the sea but more significantly, highlight the ontological denial of the Blacks. They were considered as objects, to be traded and exploited for the sole purpose of money-making. However, out of that inhumanity, suppression and intense physical and psychical suffering, emerged different types of music.

The Senegalese singer Youssou Ndour retraces the triangular slave-route (from the Western coast of Africa, to America, to Europe and back to Gorée island) and commemorates the victims of slavery through (their) music. His hope is to bring back a jazz repertoire to be sung on Gorée island (Senegal). Together with the Tunisian blind pianist Moncef Genoud and several other exceptional musicians, they travel across the United States of America and Europe, meeting singers/musicians and other well-known people during concerts, encounters and debates. Through music, their aim is also to reconcile the black diaspora with the painful memory of History and their personal history.

The film, conceived as a musical road movie, takes us from Atlanta to New Orleans, from New York to Bordeaux and Luxemburg, back to Gorée. The music becomes hybrid, the songs are creative, original, immersed in jazz, mbalax and gospel. The whole journey will finally crystallize into a concert, overflowing with emotions, on Gorée island.

The transcending power of music

For this musical experience in Gorée, Youssou Ndour meets gospel singers in Atlanta and jazz musicians in New Orleans and New York City. All these artists have their own personal history concerning the trauma of slavery and subsequent racism which has, somehow, nurtured their art. The genesis of "black" music is probed into and explored within its historical context: some African rhythms, and more specifically Senegalese in origin, have ended up in New Orleans's celebration of Mardi Gras.

Thus, the American percussionist Idris Muhammad, having a great expertise on rhythm and who played for famous musicians (Sam Cooke and Herbie Hancock), is deeply moved on hearing the music of the local djembe players in Dakar. These musical notes have always been anchored in him, in the very recesses of his mind and soul. Coming to Gorée is like delving into not only the essence of his artistic nature but the very roots of his ancestry and ethnic descent.

Music and poetry intermingle, transcending the barriers between cultures, races, religions. The painful memory of slavery is transfigured into a poignant piece of art, through musical keys and notes, strings and vocal chords.


The film brings forth the hope of tolerance and respect between two traditionally hostile religions: Christianity and Islam. Muslim Youssou Ndour and Idris Muhammed will merge their artistic talents with the Turner brothers who are gospel singers (though Youssou Ndour insists that there is no Christian perspective to the songs).

Gorée, the House of Slaves

It is very significant that the final concert takes place at Gorée, used as departure point for slave-trade. The House of slaves, built in 1784, stands as a sad reminder of a harrowing past. The Turner brothers are deeply touched as they stand by the portal, opening directly upon the seas and the Americas and representing the horror that would experience the slaves, once they stepped beyond. The song of the gospel singers, "Return to Glory", with the pitch of their voices and the perfect harmony they generate, is moving.

There is a palpable thrill when the final moment approaches: the artists are all excited as well as the local people (who will try, particularly the women, to seduce the visitors and/or sell their local products. This speaks volumes of the economic problems on the island) and their interaction is lively and affectionate. For some of the African-American artists, Gorée is like a homecoming, back to the start of their own history.

The concert brings together Americans and Africans, jazz and mbalax, the present and the past, enhancing the significance of unity within diversity.

Savrina P. CHINIEN

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   liens films

Retour à Gorée 2007
Pierre-Yves Borgeaud

   liens artistes

Borgeaud Pierre-Yves

Genoud Moncef

Muhammad Idris

Ndour Youssou

Toure Issouf


projection |France |
Retour à Gorée
Dans le cadre du festival "tous les cinemas du monde"

projection |France |
Retour à Gorée
En présence du chanteur sénégalais Youssou Ndour, acteur principal de ce documentaire, et de Karfa Diallo (Mémorial de la Traite des Noirs, Bordeaux). Entrée libre sur réservation : 05 56 55 66 14.

projection |France |
Retour à Gorée
Projection du film "Retour à Gorée" du réalisateur suisse Pierre-Yves Borgeaud

projection |France |
Retour à Gorée
Dans le cadre du Festival de Passage

02/05/2008 > 06/05/2008
projection |France |
CINEMA : Cycle Back to Black (160ème anniversaire de l'abolition de l'esclavage)
2 Films autour de l'esclavage : Retour à Gorée, Les Caprices d'un fleuve

05/05/2008 > 16/05/2008
rencontre/réunion |France |
160e anniversaire de l'abolition de l'esclavage
10e Mémorial de la traite des noirs - Patronage de l'UNESCO "projet la route de l'esclave"

   liens structures

Cab Productions

Suisse | VEVEY

Hevadis Films
France | ROUEN

Iris Productions
Luxembourg | Kehlen

WIDE - International Sales & Distribution
France | PARIS

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