ISMAILA SANÉ (Coubalan, Senegal, 1956–)

Written by Elina Seye (University of Tampere, Finland)

Ismaila Sané is a percussionist, singer and dancer born in Senegal, currently living in Finland. Sané started his artistic career in 1974 in Dakar as a dancer and percussionist for companies performing traditional West African dances and music: Ballets Bougarabou (1974–78), Ballets Africains (1979–80) and Ballet Mansour Gueye (1980). All of these companies toured also abroad, e.g. in France and Spain. In 1981 Sané moved to Tenerife, Spain, to join the second ensemble of Ballets Mansour Gueye, based there. He worked with Ballet Mansour Gueye in Tenerife until 1989.

Sané was asked by the Finnish saxophonist Sakari Kukko to join his band Piirpauke, a forerunner of Finnish world music founded in 1974. Sané joined the band in 1989 but continued to live in Spain. Piirpauke’s line-up has changed several times over the years, and Sané is the second long-time member of the band after the band’s founder and leader Sakari Kukko. Over the years, he has recorded nine albums and toured in various countries with the diverse line-ups of the band. The album Koli by Piirpauke was rated as the number one album in the World Music Charts Europe in October 2010. Sané also participated, along with other Senegalese musicians, in another project initiated by Sakari Kukko, a band called Humbalax, which recorded in 2011 an album called Paratiisi (Paradise) that consisted of Finnish songs interpreted in Senegalese mbalax style.

During the 1990’s, until he moved permanently to Finland in 1999, Sané continued working on the Canary Islands alongside with his participation in Piirpauke. He collaborated with local dance companies and was the lead singer of two jazz bands called M’Balax (1992–94) and Baba Djembe (1995–98). In both bands he also played percussions.

Sané met his future wife, Outi Nieminen (now Sané), a Finnish kantele player, when they both played in Piirpauke. Together they formed the duo Senfi in 1998. Senfi combines musical traditions of Finland and Senegal, both in its choice of instruments (kantele and djembe) and in the songs it performs. The duo became quite widely known in Finland in the early 2000’s through the childrens’ TV program Pikku Kakkonen, where Senfi had its own multicultural series called “Amin kanssa” (Together with Ami). Senfi has been performing for both adults and children, e.g. in various schools, and currently they are recording an album of music for children.

Together Outi and Ismaila Sané have also planned and taught courses about multicultural music education and African cultures for school teachers and educators. In 2003 they received the title “Vuoden Lempo”, resident of the year, in their home town Lempäälä (near Tampere). This was the first time that a municipal recognition was awarded to an immigrant in Finland. In 2005 Outi and Ismaila Sané also received a special jubilee prize from the Cultural Foundation of Kalevala Jewelry for their wide-ranging multicultural work in the field of culture.

Since 2002 Sané has been a member of the group Galaxy [link!], a Finland-based band that plays Senegalese mbalax music. Galaxy was awarded in 2005 the Finland Prize of the Ministry of Culture, the highest governmental prize in the field of art.  In addition to his various artistic activities in Finland, Sané has also maintained contacts to Spain. E.g. in 2008 he performed with a multicultural group of musicians in a jazz fusion project called “A World of Music” on the Canary Islands. And in 2009 he participated in the project Global Perfussion that brought together 15 percussionists from all over the world for three performances in Madrid, Bamako and Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Apart from the bands and projects presented above, Sané has collaborated with many other bands and has toured in dozens of countries with these various musical ensembles. He has moreover been active as a teacher of West African dances and percussion, especially djembe, and has given courses and workshops for amateurs as well as music students e.g. in the Sibelius Academy.

Ismaila Sané’s recent activities include e.g. the band Buddha Surfers that plays afro beat and funk and is planning to release its first album this year (2012). Sané is currently also working on a new solo recording; his first album Ñamandu was published on a Spanish record label Azel Producciones in 1999 and republished as a new version in 2002. As a signal of his career as an established artist in Finland he has in recent years received several grants from Finnish foundations supporting the arts.

Solo recordings:

Ismaila Sané: Ñamandu (2nd version, 2002), Azel Producciones. TF740-2002.

Ismaila Sané: Ñamandu (1999), Azel Producciones.


Piirpauke: Koli (2010), Rockadillo Records. ZENCD 2132.

Pasi Kaunisto & Piirpauke, feat. J. Rusanen: Oskar Merikannon lauluja (2008), Long Play Records. LOPCD 017.

Piirpauke: Kalabalik (2006), Rockadillo Records. ZENCD 2106.

Piirpauke: Ikiliikkuja – Perpetuum Mobile – The Very Best of Piirpauke (2005), Rockadillo Records. ZENCD 2095.

Piirpauke: Laulu laineilla (2003), Rockadillo Records. ZENCD 2080.

Piirpauke: Sillat (2002), Rockadillo Records. ZENCD 2078.

Piirpauke: Laula sinäkin (1998), Rockadillo Records. ZENCD 2058.

Piirpauke: Ave Maria (1996), Rockadillo Records. ZENCD 2050.

Piirpauke: Metamorphosis – Live 1977–1995 (1995), Rockadillo Records. ZENCD 2045.

Piirpauke: Muuttolinnut / Terra Nova (1993), Rockadillo Records. ZENCD 2037.

Piirpauke: Tuku Tuku (1991), Rockadillo Records. ZENCD 2028.


Sakari Kukko & Humbalax: Paratiisi (2011), Rockadillo Records. ZENCD 2139.

The Capital Beat: On the midnight wire (2011), Stupido Twins Records. TWINCD122.

Eero Koivistoinen Music Society: X-Ray (2006), Silenze. SLC027.

Jaakko Löytty: Murhehuone (2005), Humble records. 2627.

Galaxy: Insecurité (2003) Global Music Center. GMCD 0308.

Leningrad Cowboys: Global Balalaika Show (2003), Leningrad Cowboys. LC 001.

Jazzgangsters: Peace (2003), Rockadillo Records. ZENCD 2085.

Good People: Rainbow Dream (2000), Naxos World. 76007-2.

Al Farabi (1999), Azel Producciones.

Baba Djembe (1998), Multitrac Records.

Benito Cabrera: Notas de viajes (1998)

Ghandara (1998)

Antonio Hernandez: Ritual Suite (1997), Azel Producciones. TF-1801-97.

Chiqui Perez (1996), Manzana Records.

Taller Canario: Ahora que (1995), Manzana Records.

Las Ratas (1995), Multitrac.

M’balax: Kike Perdomo – M’balax (1994), Manzana Records.