specialists in all styles: orchestra baobab

9 02 2009

When Orchestra Baobab makes that claim, you want to believe them. Not because it is so endearing (it is), or because it reminds you of a particular touching mixture of hope & pride one might encounter elsewhere (one does) – but because once they get jamming, you end up wishing that a lot more music were as ..  content as theirs is.

Orchestra Baobab was formed in the wake of Senegalese independence, and a notion of ‘negritude‘: pride in being African. At the center of a surge in rediscovery & redefinition (Club Baobab belonged to the brother of the then Senegalese president Leopold Senghor), they found themselves being encouraged to incorporate traditional music into the otherwise standard Cuban son and pachanga that nightclubs in Dakar had popularised since the 40’s. Unlike other contemporary bands like Bembeya Jazz National (from Guinea) or the Super Rail Band (Mali) whose work integrated one single regional style, Orchestra Baobab (like the tree) spread their roots wide. Members included Wolof griot singers Laye M’boup and Thione Seck, Mandinka saxophonist Issa Cissoko, guitarist Barthelemy Attisso (Togo), Cassamance vocalist and songwriter Balla Sidibe, and vocalist/songwriter Rudolphe Gomis from Guinea-Bissau with his Latinate compositions.

What is remarkable about Orchestra Baobab is the sheer effortlessness of the fusion of styles they pulled off. You can hear the Cuban influences (what, exactly? figure it out: we’re not musical structure geeks), but you know that the music is its own thing, not a copy. While it might remind you a lot of things (Attisso cites Congolese guitarist Doctor Nico, Ibrahim Ferrer, Django Reinhardt, BB King, Wes Montgomery and Carlos Santana as influences), you know that you’re hearing something that belongs to itself. This music touches you everywhere.

Consider the evening. Tomorrow is on its way. But consider the evening: it is sufficient for now. Do you have something to drink? A comfortable chair? Someone to love? Good. It is sufficient for now.

Épopée de Gilgamesh by Abed Azrié Hommage a Tonton Ferrer (“Tribute to Uncle Ferrer) from the album Specialist in All Styles by Orchestra Baobab

Buy from Emusic, Mondomix or Amazon

More Orchestra Baobab at Last.fm

~ posted by arvind




One response

28 11 2009

While I do not comprehend some of the feelings/reactions described, I do see the fusion of music. Looks like it’s no coincidence that though it was slave trade that shaped a lot of the Négrophonics (if I may invent that word for a matter of convenience), the connection continues.

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