Superstar Senegal: Orchestra Baobab

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As I slow the pace down here a bit to accommodate other aspects of being human I’ll share one of my all time favourite records, the riveting double cd set from Orchestra Baobab.

 

Orchestra Baobab

Orchestra Baobab

The reissue of this 1982 classic — so named because the album from the Senegalese band was pirated all over West Africa — is a thing of beauty, especially considering a whole other album of six more tracks comes appended to the remastered original. So what makes it a classic and worthy of reissue 20 years on? It’s all about the music, a marvelous mix of Cuban and West African that stood at the crossroads before Senegal developed its trademark m’balax sound. And so the rhythms are redolent of Cuba — whose musical influence on West Africa extended back to the 1940s — while other sounds, like the tenor sax of Issa Cissoko, are pure Senegal with its thick Wolof influence. Of particular note are the four vocalists, who sing in a mixture of Spanish and Wolof. Some of the tunes themselves are reworkings of Cuban material, while the wonderful “Utrus Horas” comes from Guinea Bissau, and “Soldadi” has its origins at home in Senegal. Both are given a slow, smoldering treatment, with some spare, lovely guitar from Barthelemy Attisso. The additional tracks (originally released on cassette in Senegal in 1982, but which have never seen the light of day elsewhere) come from the same session, but explore slightly different directions — “Toumaranke” has a decidedly carnival atmosphere, although its theme (sung in Mandinka) is homesickness, while “Balla Daffe” is something of a percussion-fest. For many years this has been one of the treasured releases of world music. Now it’s back in print, and everyone can understand why it’s been so revered. (AMG)

 

If you don’t know this record or band get with the program!

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Track Listing:

1-01 Utrus Horas

1-02 Coumba

1-03 Ledi ndieme m’bodj

1-04 Werente Serigne

1-05 Ray M’bele

1-06 Soldadi

2-01 Ngalam

2-02 Toumaranke

2-03 Foire internationale

2-04 La Rebellion

2-05 Ndiaga Niaw

2-06 Balla Daffe

*^^*

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