Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.

– article by Fenna Riethof

I miss Holland, éven when I’m in Senegal

Foto: Robert Oosterbroek

The first time Yassou played a set in Utrecht, it was in Sophie’s Palace, a bar that no longer exists. When he was younger, ‘Jas’ had practised with cassettes in Senegal and with his own DJ set at home in Utrecht, but no-one ever took him seriously: ‘Oh come on, Jas!’ But on that particular evening, Yassou’s talent shone through.

He’s played sets in countless clubs and bars in Utrecht since then, but he’s been resident DJ in Het Hart since 1988. Although he’s not on stage much himself these days, he’s still in charge of the DJ programming. He gained experience in programming a long time ago as coordinator at SJU Podium (the Jazz Utrecht Foundation). “I chose everything you’re hearing right now. I drop 90 percent of my music collection in Het Hart. It used to be mainly lounge, hip-hop and funk, but I play almost anything nowadays.”

It all began with a 3-month holiday in 1991, when two of his older brother’s friends invited him to the Netherlands. “That’s where they were living when they visited our island, Fadiouth, one summer holiday. I showed them around while my brother was at work and we became mates.” Yassou knew nothing about the Netherlands except that they made cheese, but he didn’t like to refuse. His father, who worked as a migrant worker in France to earn money for his family of ten children, wasn’t keen. But his mother said he should follow his heart. And his brother, who was serving in the forces in the USA, even offered to pay for his ticket. His father finally relented when Yassou told him he was leaving, just one day before his flight.

Identity

He was 23 and had dropped out of college, but he was so happy in the Netherlands (in Utrecht!) that he never went back. “I believe in fate. I was destined to stay.” He wells up when he talks about the Netherlands. “I love this country and even miss it when I’m visiting Senegal. I call myself afro-Dutch.”

Yassou spent the first few years in the Airmobile Brigade, then worked for a bank and is now training to be a security guard. The afro-Dutchman was recently offered a job as a translator, which he thinks he’ll like. “It will be good to speak French again. I miss that; it’s who I am, part of my identity.”

His faith forms another important part of his identity. “I’m a Catholic, like most people on Fadiouth.” He explains how he witnessed the advent of Islam in Senegal. “It wasn’t a problem, because the Senegalese are very hospitable. Catholics and Muslims can live happily side-by-side in Senegal.” He loves the Dutch, but can’t get used to the negativity in the media and day-to-day life. “I often say to people: the only thing we need here is a Wailing Wall. Look on the bright side! I’d like to say that to the weather too…”

Passport
Name: Andre Hyacinthe Diouf (given name ‘Yassou’)
Place of birth: Fadiouth, Senegal
Year of birth: 27 October 1967
Motto: ‘Be nice to eachother’


Allemaal Utrechters is a series of interviews with people who moved to Utrecht from another country. We ask them about their background and their impression of Utrecht, revealing the true diversity of our city. The ‘Allemaal Utrechters’ series is a collaboration between DUIC and Culturele Zondagen, and has been made possible with help from Stichting Dialoog and the Municipality of Utrecht. We hope to showcase every nationality in Utrecht.

Click here to view the other articles.