the United Colours of Africa
                                                                                                   


Senegal Dakar Mbalax

Travel is a great education. I visited West Africa in 2000. It was my first trip out of South Africa. On my first day in Senegal, I walked into the city of Dakar and the tricksters saw me coming from a mile away. They spoke to me in English and say they want to take me down to the bar at the harbour to have a Senegalese beer . We do this. An old gentleman was selling birds. He had a cage full of ground sparrows. My newfound ‘friends’ tell me that I am supposed to buy a bird from him. This I do and the old man takes one bird out of the tiny cage and sets it free!

The young guys were now hustling me and i was none the wiser. Oh they say they brought me to this beautiful venue opposite the harbour because tomorrow there will be a big wedding with lots of people and they would like for me to experience a Senegalese wedding with dancing. First, however they had to get me appropriately attired. They put me on the taxi and through the streets of Dakar we go into a rabbit warren of traders and finally to a stool in a shop where I am fitted out in white robes head to tail. Then I return to the beautiful Hotel Lagon II where I am being put up and reflect whilst the waves gently crash beneath my window. The next morning I finally realised there was no wedding. For curiosity sake I went and checked. There was no wedding. Luckily my mum wired we money through the Western Union and I could continue my research in Dakar.

I was told the aids infection rate never grew higher than 7% in Senegal . The reason for this is they have a tradition of 'griot'. Griot is the 'music man' who is entrusted with spreading messages of information and education to the people of the community. Thus when word of an aids epidemic broke, there was no hesitation to commission a force of the most well known musicians to share an important message with the people. And so the musicians took to the streets with loud-halers singing songs describing the programme of aids and HIV infection. The people understood the programme and made an immediate choice to live without it. HIV and aids is a choice.

Musicians in Senegal are very proud of their origins and on Senegal Music Day which is the 21st of June all the major artists return home so that they can perform to their music loving public. Senegal has up to a 90% local music played on their radio stations and this is through choice.

Music is the essence of creativity. In the African tradition, musicianship and healing are often synonymous.

The griot is blessed with the community obligations of holding the microphone at welcoming gatherings or in passing information, oral history and singing the mbalax music to summons the spiritual world in the traditional ceremonies like of healing or maturing.

In the more modern society that Dakar embodies, the importance of being a griot has been usurped by the importance of being a musician. All the musicians maintain that essential function in society of passing messages, restoring pride and giving hope.
When this music is expressed it finds itself in harmonic resonance with the all, an energetic whole humming in vibrations of light, life and love. The word ‘heal’ comes from the word ‘whole.’

***

A train line lies between two of West Africa's greatest capitals, the filthy, fast, fickle and fantastical capital of Senegal, Dakar and the dusty, proud and stately capital of Mali, Bamako. It is a journey in excess of 1500 miles and 50 hours. Dogged by the continual possibility of serious delay and theft and infected by the strenuous and soaring temperatures of the desert region, the train ride is an adventure in random interaction with the whimsical elements of a harsh and unusual landscape of vast distances, unmoving baobabs and antique villages with dignified inhabitants.

As the train rocked, hovered, rattled, broke down, rose and made its way to Bamako, the supreme yet chaotic pulse of the city life of Dakar slowly began to fade into a landscape of sublime monotony. In Dakar, virtually incapacitated cripples and polio victims lined the street corners like vultures relying on scraps as their only survival. In the semi-desert emaciated baobab trees stood. In Dakar, traders had prowled selling fruit, socks and bootleg cassettes. In the semi-desert, sands settled. And the hooting and hustling of the panel beaten black and yellow taxis and marvelously conspicuous community busses that congested the city centre was replaced by the meditative chatter of the train. The desperation of Dakar had been forgotten for the deserts dull serenity. For many hours and more miles we travelled through the scorched anguish of the heat and the monotony and there was neither a sign of life nor a sign that life could exist. Nothing. Not until the rain came that is, in sudden, short and intense bursts.

For a moment the sky was dark and angry, for another there was a green belt that parted the desert. The light turned to a vivid orange brown, lightning struck in gold and purple and a fearsome wind thrashed the sand into a fury that rocked our pathetically human train. Outside a tiny village of mud huts waited out the rage of the storm. The old sat in the doorways, balanced in contemplative pose, pointed in their expressionless waiting. The children pressed at a 60 degree angle against the wind and rain with buckets protecting their heads, smiled, loving the temporary inconvenience, laughing in the face of this power and chaos.

And then the rain was gone, and the landscape normalised in an idle neglect of its anger, its power and its consequences. Our train regained its stability and the children of the village returned to the burdens of daily life with an oblivious understanding so dependent on nature's power, but so careless at the same time; almost free.

The train was from a distant era. It was an age that saw colonialism and communism fade into Mali's military government. The plastic seats were uncomfortable and beige, the toilet; no more than a hole in the floor, and the windows steel. The train was filled with bags and sacks overflowing with the colourful clothes and fruit of the weekend traders returning home.

I was bundled into a tiny cabin, filled with such traders. A lady sat opposite me with her hair placed awkwardly on her head, pasted together on her crown like a wedding cake. From behind her ears back to her crown was shaved and at the bottom of her neck perfect braids hung beyond her shoulders. She was dressed in beautifully coloured African robes that flowed so gently off her body, allowing it to relax and move with the comfort and freedom of the colourful material. She was a large lady and had a generous and caring disposition. Her husband sat next to her and by contrast was a little man, with striking features and an infectious laugh. Our communication ebbed between an innovative array of hand languages and a randomness of phonetic syllables. There were many other people; musicians, traders, religious men and travellers, passing the time with chatter, laughter, a little music and a lot of prayer.

I had brought a loaf of bread and two litres of water for the journey, and I offered it to my companions, who generously ate from my modest offerings. Everyone had a little food with them; dried fish and rice, bananas, stale banana cookies; and we ate together, smiling. Lunch faded into afternoon and then nightfall and an uncomfortable night's sleep. I awoke at sunrise in the upright pose I had been before. I looked out the window and the landscape had not changed at all, other than that vivid orange ball of light staring me in the face. A line of passengers stood by the window and smoked, passing the time .

Up ahead the train tracks were broken and the train came to a stop somewhere near the border between Senegal and Mali. Time passed slowly and constantly so I walked across to a nearby village. A few aged men dressed in the traditional flowing robes, dirtied from the dust and faded from the years of wear, sat smoking, staring away the midday heat. Another man whistled quietly to himself, engaging occasionally in amiable interactions and then retreating into his world where only the melodic sound of his whistle was important. It was a lonely sound, but it filled this distant and quiet village with music, reflecting the depth of tradition and vivid expression of the region. The same striking and honest expression I had heard at the night-clubs of Dakar, on the street-corners, in the taxis and every home.

On a train ride as long as this, everything fades and disappears: the music into memory; my loaf of bread into crumbs; the scenery once more into morning; and the severity of the journey into excitement. I could sense the relief. I could hear the vibrant bustle of people, fruit and colour outside. Our destination was upon us. Mali, and a sand coloured kingly palace of rough and intricate Sudanese design rose out of the desert sands, like a baobab that had been growing there for thousands of years.

***

Senegal's African Hip Hop movement

There goes an old Wolof saying, roughly translated as follows. 'You can not sit on someone else's under because you will find it is already taken. You must sit on your own under.' (An under is an urn for herb and insense burning)

June the 27th was music day in Senegal and a day when the musicians in the country get the opportunity to play. Four stages and over 100 acts performed across the city of Dakar from dusk till dawn. A few traditional and mbalax acts did their thing, but it was mainly rap, the honest, expressive and intense Senegalese brand.

Dizzy Gillespie used to say, 'If you talk to me about rap, you are talking about guys like Martin Luther King, Stokey Carmichael, Malcolm X and Mohammed Ali.' Perhaps it is those civil rights routes of poetic free talking and vivid expression that the hip-hop language is born out of. Dizzy Gillespie did also say 'These guys can teach me something about poetry, but nothing about music.'

Hip-hop is about the lyrics, the messages and the language. It's a revolutionary way of thinking.

In the case of Senegal, like with anything in the African Diaspora, the hip-hop has been tropicalised. The distinctive Senegalese culture, style and beliefs have been added to allow them to speak authentically and in their own tongue.

This is Senegalese hip-hop. It's got a touch of the Western flash, but it's mainly African in sound, style and in integrity. They are rapping in Wolof and they are rapping about serious issues. For example the show that night, an artist was singing that the girls mustn't show their bodies, it's not the Muslim way. Tight clothes are for prostitutes, they must wear the traditional clothes!

The hip-hop is everything that is Senegal and everything that is Senegalese youth: by them, about them and for them. There are 3000 hip-hop groups in Senegal and they're all paying respect to tradition.

DJ Awadi of best known Senegalese rap outfit Positive Black Soul says: "The rappers are talking about the streets and everything we live in the society. It's kind of a revolutionary way of thinking. We have a lot to say, we are facing many different things we can express only by the rap. It is all about saying what you haven't heard, what you are facing in your daily life. The struggle. We want to eat, we want to be independent, we don't want mental slavery.

"The kids hope that by rapping they can get out of the crisis because the crisis is very strong. If you have no job, nothing to do, maybe rap is the way to escape this hard reality.

"We put our culture in front of everything. We start with the language - rapping in Wolof. We talk about Senegalese and African realities, and after that we sample African musicians and play with traditional instruments like the kora, the follani flute, the ballophone, the djembe, the saba and the talking drum.”

Khuman of group Pfrois says: "The rappers are talking about the streets, everything we live in the society. This is the reality so we have to find a way to get out of it. If no-one wants to help us we are going to take it by force because it is our thing."

***

On tour with Baaba Maal

Ousman Mbaye, press concierge to Baaba Maal arrives at the hotel to say Baaba Maal is going on tour and there is space for me to travel with them. He took me to the home of Mbasor, the manager of Baaba Maal where we drank some traditional tea and waited for the time to leave to travel to the home compound of Baaba Maal and then depart.

We were about to take a grand journey on the dusty roads that lie between Senegal's new and old capitals, Dakar and Saint Louis. Baaba Maal was performing two free concerts in poverty stricken areas to raise awareness for a polio victim.

From semi-arid to just about completely arid, across a massive green oasis, along tight and dusty roads and past a few desperately obvious villages, Baaba's flash four by four races ahead with a unique energy. Outside, the soccer field is a sandpit, the hairdressing salon a telephone booth, the people poor and the landscape dry. A man stumbles across the road dragging an old goat behind him. He's dirty, worn and haggard, but proudly dressed in a stunning emerald green robe.

Inside, we've got the radio playing. It is mbalax music, a repetitive, chaotic West African rhythm. The band members clap along and there is a round man with thick glasses and a white robe, causing infinite hilarity. He is the comedian.

Regarding the tour we were embarking on, Baaba sais: "This tour is the first fight this band is doing. People need the knowledge, to understand how to take care against disease. And you have to talk it in a language that they can understand, that is near to them. Culture is very near to them, it is their tradition. They know the music, they don't take it like music for the business, they take it like a social music. They understand everything in the songs.”

The red warmth of the desert sands slowly faded across the endless landscape into a dramatic sunset and our first stop and transit, the tiny village of Mboro, and the school office. Baaba takes the bed, the comedian takes the stage and we all share a meal. Without the language it is very difficult to tell exactly what was going on but the comedian would dive into long and deadpan dialogues in Wolof (the local language) punctuated with outbursts of laughter.

Baaba would call me over to show off the South African dance in an imaginary boogie, my friend Ousmane would point, clap and laugh shouting 'Crazy man, he's a crazy man!'

The young dancer for the group placed his mat on the floor to pray. That would be his last moment of silence and rest before midnight's departure for the tract of desert in a tiny village, chosen as the venue for the night's concert.

When Baaba Maal's car arrived at the venue, the rhythmical calls (all in the guttural language of Wolof) of 'Baaba' 'We love you', 'Baaba', 'We're with you forever' rung out filling the dusty desert roads and the large dusty football pitch where the concert was held. This song rung out until the concert finally got underway after 3am.

The village was thrust into darkness, with all the electricity run from the main power line for the sound. The speakers stood on classroom desks, the stage was built using a collection of high jump mats and hundred gallon drums and the early desert morning became very cool. But the tiny village was there, the old, the young, the conservative and the out-going, enjoying the authentic, diverse and interesting Senegalese grooves.

On stage I witnessed two tall lithe lads with long dreads and perfect features rapping in the guttural Wolof language, grooving to these big backing beats, their arms rhythmically flowing like a boxer in a training bout, and their full-length traditional robes looking graceful in the cool desert night.

On the corner of the stage next to the baobab tree, silhouetted by the single stage lamp, there was a musician, seated wearing those big loose pants and baseball cap, playing the kora with all the subtlety of his great grandfather three generations before.

Baaba Maal says: "This is where I take my sound from. I mix it with my traditional background and my experiences of life. It all starts from the African elements. I like to play in the villages to see how they are going to dance, to react, to see what kind of clothes they are going to put on, because this is where I take my inspiration."

Dressed in a purple New York afro-chic suit and elegantly strutting his leather boots through the desert dust, Baaba's demure and refined figure cut a striking contrast amongst the cacophony of fans, jumping, shouting and dancing in the dirt. No flowing African robes that famously brought colour to the Royal Albert, no overted dance steps, big smiles and showmanship, in these villages of Senegal, the music is not about Baaba and his international reputation, it is about the rural Senegal audience and their moral and social needs.

We returned to the school office shortly before sunrise where Baaba enjoyed a couple of cigarettes before setting off on a six hour drive for Saint Louis, the next venue. For the rest of us we chose to rest before the long and difficult drive. Three mattresses lay together on the floor outside the school in the open and cool night sky. No pillows, no blankets, but instead the comedian to hold the floor until our departure. For an hour he talked, for an hour everybody laughed, and with that we were back on the road. At around mid-morning we arrived at our destination, a flush French run hotel just outside the city of Saint Louis. There Baaba stood. Gentle and dignified, dressed in a white Versace tracksuit, leaning over the steaming bonnet of the landcruiser, still in good humour.

The concert that night was performed on the basket-ball courts at the university of Saint Louis. The lighting was no more than a few aptly placed street-lamps, the sound was dismal, but the large student crowd was appreciative, energetic and inspired by Baaba Maal.

After the show and with the sun making a dramatic appearance we stopped off at a roadside shack. No signs, no advertorials, only open steel windows, but the manager, Mbasor, dressed in dramatic flowing purple robes and the pointed shoes to match knocked heavily at the door. A rather startled lady invited us in. Words, money and finally a glorious platter of meat were exchanged and we returned to the pool of the hotel for a tasty dinner and an array of gin and tonics.

On our final evening we all enjoyed the spectacle of giant tortoises copulating. Baaba then took a stroll. He slowly and contemplatedly paced the hotel gardens, occasionally raising his arms to his shoulders and the sky in aerobic fashion and occasionally bending to scrutinise and observe the intricacies and beauties of the flowers that paved the path. His movements were entirely meditative and natural.

Baaba Maal said: "I talk to a lot of musicians and intellectual people in Africa and they see my way as a kind of reference: to be part of the world in general but also deeply African. People got to know how to talk about, how to define Africa. I want people to see Africa in new eyes, to know that it is not dead, it is always alive and people can give confidence to Africa. We have a lot of strong people who really want to do something, who really want to participate in the universal development, but deeply to help Africa to give the place that Africa needs to have."

"I want to be more international and well known. But at the same time I don't want to turn my back to Africa and my roots. I want to make it the same line between here and the rest of the world. Not to work in the international market and then come back here and work in this market. The whole world has to share and when you're talking about sharing you have to forgive. Everything should be connected to one whole project that is more universal."

***

Meeting Ismael Lo:

Ismael Lo said: “The country of Senegal is very difficult. We are a poor country. In Africa we have many problems. I don't have to try and do comparisons between African and Europe. It is not the same. In Europe people are very rich. In Africa we are not very rich. We are poor but we are very rich inside.

“People are good, their mind is good, we have lots of cultural riches. People are always smiling here getting happy. That is our riches. If my name goes around the world, I started here in Africa. I am richer in my country for everything. I have more inspiration. I have a good life.

“Jammu Africa is a song for peace in Africa and the world. colonialisation divided us and that is why we have ethnic violence. This song is for peace, this song is to stop war, and for peace and love. That is what I want to see before the last day of life. Africa Unite.
“Every album, every song I write for Africa, for peace, for love, for children, for women, for Africa. A good future for the unity of Africa. I am an artist, I sing. We have more men singers than women. It is a tradition. We have griot family. It is the same in Mali and Guinea.

“Muslim is Muslim everywhere. We are not living on the same side. Every side has its practice. We have five prayers every day. Before making your prayer you must wash your hands and be spiritual. In Senegal after you pray you go to do your business. The most important thing is to do your prayer on hours. Finished.

“When I started singing my mother did not want me singing. For her, singing is for griot communities. I feel singing, I have to sing. There are many singers in Senegal, like Baaba Maal, who are not griot. I have good relations with all griots n Senegal. I sing my way. I didn't have to sing like griots, griots can sing for someone about big things, it is not my tradition.

I don't have to sing about those things. Griot community is a tradition of family to family. I am a modern singer. I am not a griot. I don't feel a big difference between me and griot. The first music I heard is traditional Senegalese music. It is my culture. The second music on my life is soul music. I feel more the traditional music to help me. Our music is very open around the world. I start in Orifisk, not very far from Dakar. I was six or seven years. I made my own guitar with an old bottle. After that I have to imitate Senegalese music. I am playing real guitar from 1989. I was listening to radio all day. We had all celebrations of my culture.

“I don't like this name star, superstar, but I know I am very popular, but I am a singer. I was very popular very quickly, but I don't have a school. The style I play, playing acoustic guitar, singing and playing harmonica was new for Senegalese community. Everyone came to see me and listen to me. In my mind I never wanted to be popular or an artist I do that just for pleasure. I have my brother bring me on a TV show. I play one time, two time and people like my music. It is coming very naturally. I am a musician, but I feel many other things then singing. I am painting before music. I like building, I like to do something with flowers and trees. I feel I don't have time to do the things in my life. I am always touring.

“Sometime I am surprised. Sometimes it is difficult. Perhaps I go to the market to buy fish and all the people want to touch me, to talk to me, to give me hand. I am an artist. I have to live my life. I don't want to be like the president. You stay only home and anything you want people go outside and get it for you. You don't have a life. I try to live very naturally. Sometimes people don't want me to do something, like going to the market, the beach or building somewhere. I feel to live. I feel to go now to the cinema, I go to the cinema. I feel to play football now, I play football now. I am very simple.

“On the future I have to stop touring and help the now generation with music. Now I am very experienced with music. I do many good and bad things. And all the good things I did I have to give to the new generation coming up. I write songs for other singers. I want to have more time for painting. Sometimes I bring my clothes to paint with me when I have one month tour. I have to help my children, and now my first daughter is 18 or 21. I have to help my family and other musicians.”

***

Meeting Cheikh Lo:

It was a typically dusty, dirty and hot day in Dakar and I had taken a cab out into the suburbs where Cheikh Lo lived. As usual, our directions were poor and we relied again on street knowledge for our arrival. After much pointing, animated explaining and sandy U-turns we arrived at his home. A picture of his tiny son poised behind a massive drum kit hung on the faded back wall of the lounge, another of the prophet Cheikh Ibra Fall, of the Baye Fall, hung framed on the opposite wall. Cheikh was in and amongst all of this, frenetically co-ordinating tours, talking on the 'phone and shouting over the traditional Senegalese music blaring out of the sound system. It sat in the corner of the room in a small oak cabinet, like a shrine surrounded by a few freshly picked flowers and a fascinating collection of disks. His music is just like that, a little bit of everything, Latin, Cuban, African and mbalax, coming together in a sound that is fresh, funky, vibrant. Beating tama-tamas thrash out the chaotic mbalax rhythm, funky basslines, Zairean Rumba and Cuban grooves mixed together with reggae back-beat create an infinitely fashionable dance step, whilst his soaring voice is all conquering and soothing to frenzied emotions. His mix is a unique and beautiful world music mix, a true African voice. This is what Cheikh is about: telling the reality, honestly and fighting the good cause sincerely. As a result of this drive, he has made it to the top.

Cheikh Lo said: "Me, I want to play every music. I want to travel, I want to discover every type of music... All this rhythm is Africa. It is the change of the name. I can feel the rhythm. I feel the rhythm. I know the rhythm is Africa. Today the rhythm is universal. If you do that, you build one music, you create one music, because you can take here, take here, take here."

"Musicians must listen to other musicians to learn what to do and gain influences. Latin music influenced me as a little boy. Latin music is from Africa. My buzz musically is mbalax, but I listen to all music because I am curious, French music, American music, Cuban music, English music. Every music is Africa."

Walking down the crazy hustle of Dakar's streets, you are faced with the daily spirituality of the Allah devotees. They pray five times a day. During Friday lunch hours the streets are lined with people in beautiful flowing African robes, bent over in prayer. There is a small sect of people who hang outside a dingy yet tasty Lebanese take-away called Ado's. They dance about with long dreads and Rastafarian iconography, very happy, very relaxed and tolerant, begging for their money. They are the black Muslims, a small group in Senegal called the Baye Fall.

Cheikh says: "I'm a Baye Fall, the first disciple of Cheikh Amadou Bab. He is the founder of the big temple in Tuba. He put the dreadlocks. If the Rastas came one day to Africa they will know their grandfather is a Baye Fall, because you are the same, the looks in Senegal and Jamaica are the same."

It is not that easy standing out in a conservative country. Lo lost his job playing in the house band at a local hotel for his dreads, and more than a few questions were raised amongst the locals about his ways. Happily, Senegal is very tolerant, people may not agree with his ways, but his intentions are good and that is the main thing.

Cheikh says: "The conflict between all people is not 'Baye Fall'. Today if you see the Arabic it is war war war. Every day on the TV I see Arafat with the military, every year. How many years he do the war? He don't stop the war. Mohammed is spiritual. He tells everybody, Arabian love, love your brother. The Bible say not war, love. The Q'uran say not war, love. Everywhere in the world say the same: not war, peace and love. Yes!

"Everybody has this problem to live somewhere. I never want to go to live in Paris, England or anywhere. I want to live in Senegal because I know if you have peace, you have good in Senegal. The system is not closed, you are free.

"In Europe you can't bring some money for the poor town. One moment you are there, then it is two years, three years you can't come back. You are nothing. You drink alcohol, you have old women, what life do you have? Go home, go in your home man, there is a lot of jobs to do there, to build here in Africa."

***

Meeting Youssou N'Dour:

As it was Senegalese music day all the major artists where back in Dakar to enjoy this time before embarking on their international schedule again. I arranged to meet with Youssou n' Dour at 7pm on the last of his five 'rest' days in Dakar, before a whirlwind tour in Japan and the summer festivals in Europe. He told me to come at 7pm because by then he would have finished his business of recording a new album at his Jololi studios and mixing his sister Vivianne's new music video.

That morning in the local paper, I read an interview where the journalist visibly attacked Youssou, asking him whether he was a billionaire, questioning him on the mystery behind his wife (the mystery in that she is never seen), making suggestions about his relations with leading politicians and his involvement with the media. Youssou's answers were of course appropriately curt and illusive, which brought my attention to this fascinating conflict that exists around him in Senegal: a man so popular, so admired, a man who has contributed so extensively to culture in that country, yet criticised for his arrogance, disrespected for his selfishness and questioned about his success.

By 7pm his business was nowhere near done, by ten he was still in the studio, at midnight downtown for a meeting and by 3am still in the studio. I waited for him at Jololi studios, what used to be his private residence. It was an uncomfortably warm Senegalese morning infected by the continual buzz of mosquitoes and the incredible pace of the city life that went before it. With his brother and label manager Bouba by his side, he was a little irritable and visibly exhausted, but still taking calls, giving out instructions, 'doing business before bed', as they put it.

We talked briefly on the situation of African musicians selling out, wanting to go abroad. 'C'est grave, c'est grave (it is serious) he said. We talked of Vivianne's successes, C'est bien, c'est bien (it is good) he said. He remained as unreceptive and uncommunicative as his earlier interview had suggested, partly to do with the hour, partly to do with the circumstances.

His brother Bouba N'Dour manager of his record label Jololi spoke excellent English. He said: “Youssou started on the same level as everyone, where there wasn't much technically. From day one, people really got into what he was doing musically so he always had a big career in Senegal and a big following that made him really stay here. There is a great career here and it is a great place to live and get inspired the whole time. If an artist with that kind of name stays in a small place like here you have to ensure you have places to develop your career, studios you can work in and stuff like that. Youssou's career is here, it is a part of life in Senegal and around that we try and build new artists.

Youssou N'Dour said: "We have to work twice as hard as Europeans because we have not a lot to work from. We have to have the courage to really say things about politics about what people should be doing even the population has a great responsibility with education and how people should behave, how well people should work and how hard they should work."

"I choose to invest in the press because it is closely related to my profession. Everybody knows the media industry is not yet a money making industry. This is normal because it is one of the first enterprises in the Senegal media. It will be for tomorrow. I am a builder, like if computers become what they are today it is because Bill Gates believed in it. I vote for information on culture because this can get out the tyranny of the politics. Information about culture interests the public."

***

Meeting Coumba Gowlo

It was late on a warm Dakar afternoon and I was meeting Coumba at her nightclub The Jpessie Night just near the market place. Coumba is a great pop-star, with a desire to seriously participate in improving her country, her continent and the lives of all people. With her nightclub and her business initiative 'Dakar Rendez Vous Music' she is actively making the change in the world that she wants to see.

Coumba said: “A change of ideas and styles is a way to be together, everybody worldwide should know the music is universal.
“We are all concerned about what is going through the earth. As an artist I consider myself an ambassador which means that in everything I do I mention what is going on in Africa. I am African and I see every day what is going on around me. It concerns me and it should concern everybody. The more people who are concerned and the more people who have knowledge about it, then it will be easier to find a solution and do something about it.

"We have a huge huge huge, a phenomenal…The youth here have great great talent, but they don't have the opportunity to do anything. I come from a modest family so if I relate it to my past what I had, what I wish I had. It helps me to face the reality and fight and that's why I am fighting today for the young people, they are simply our future. If they don't have education, if they don't have a chance to grow into a good condition and become somebody, the future in Africa will be no better than today. I give them the chance to perform in the night-club. We also have a label Sabar for us to help them to do something and be known worldwide. And why not? It is a matter of ambition. You cannot just sing and that is it. In Africa we need help, we need promotion in terms of music, so, it's a way for me to help our country and our continent go further.

“I was born into a griot family and an ambience of song. My father was a songwriter and my mother a singer, so I learnt the traditional culture and history. And that is very important. From the day you are born to the day you die you know where you are coming from and that everything you are going to do will be with your culture. As an artist you must mention origin for people worldwide to gain that knowledge to know where you are coming from and to understand who is who.

“The griot is still here, the tradition is still here but they are just growing like the world is growing. We are all griots, we are sending messages and we do whatever we can do to keep people positive about what is going on."

Coumba Gowlo recorded a version of Miriam Makeba’s Pata Pata and it was a hit song in Senegal. She said, “I really love Miriam Makeba, she's a huge example for us African artists. I am fond of what she is doing and I think we should follow big stars and try to find a way to make a contribution for the world to know about Africa, and what women are capable of doing. And as a result I feel that I am close to South Africa.”

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Sengal et Mali : Mbalax et Mandingo

Casette collection le grand (archived at ILAM)

Travelling to Senegal and Mali in June 2000 was one long music festival, together with wonderful meetings and learnings. This casette collection is currently being archived for deposit at ILAM.

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Malian Koniba Traore on the album Dankoroba creates the typical mandingo musical style of the region where the vocals lead over a rhythm section of bass guitar and djembe. Female vocals create a delightful texture whilst interesting sounds emanate from the keyboard. The sound is expansive and full of the glorious humanity representative of the people and the culture. On the opening song Djanfa, choirs sing out the refrain. The title track Dankoroba starts out with that rusty sound of the strings of guitar and bass resonating off each other with more texture than tone. The singer speaks out his story with an artistic seriousness that is earnest and relaxed. Mixed voices male and female hum out in refrain and response. Koniba calls back, adding more and more emotion to his lines as slowly he rises from a speaking tone to a singing tone. The male voices respond in a resolute drone. And then the female voices together hum out their response with the soothing melancholy of a bird high in the sky eying its prey. The rustic sounds of bass and guitar are steady throughout and the three sets of voices find a complex counter harmony in this typical story-telling song that contributes to the musical landscape. On ‘Yerewolo', bass and guitar show a Western influence, however it is the complex exchange of voices that grounds it. Koniba is steady at the top of the rhythm like a poet, the male singers settling around him in discussive phrases with the female vocalists. Koniba makes this album with a rather deadpan tone of singing voice whilst his backing vocalists provide the more traditional style of soaring Malian voices. This song is a clear indication of how traditional music remains relevant and crosses over into the youth nightclub and dance. ‘Salimata' the final song on the opening side provides a strong mixed voice chorus, inventive drumming licks amongst Koniba's earnest vocal style. Side B begins with ‘Noniba' a rousing interplay of guitars and vocals creating an overall impression of sound. The guitar playing is jazzy and melodic, the choral lines uplifting and Koniba more humorous in his oratorical singing style. Male and female voices are once more united and in chorus provide the carpet upon which the stringed instruments and the virtuoso djembe stir above. A delightful song. On ‘Yallo,' Koniba comes to life singing seriously in counter harmony with his vigorous vocal ensemble. Guitars, bass and percussion sit on the rhythm like a toad on a stool. Koniba closes the cassette with his most vibrant musical account. Guitar is neat and strong, rocking the ostinato like a reggae champ. Koniba's deep singing tones are enhanced by the female harmonies. Bass and guitar ride out the bridge in unison. Koniba is a story-teller.

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Vieux Marius Seck's album is Ndioukeul, ‘Hommage a son feu grand pere.' It is typically Senegalese with the sounds of various programmed instruments. Yet, Seck is a dynamic guitarist, vocalist and choralist and his singing is punctuated by the lively texture of the talking drum. It is honest and expansive and Seck's singing is in the typical Senegalese tradition of the griot, both soaring and soothing, backed by the sonorous chants of his choristers. On the final track on side a, ‘Antalo', Seck gets into a folk music mood but an international folk sound that is sweet and sensitive, melodic and lyrical. Here we have a fun and freewheeling international sound given humour by the dramatic punctuation of the talking drum. Ndioukeul is a very soft sound, like Ismael Lo, portraying the sweetly spoken, sincere, honest and lovingly musical language of this extraordinary cultural land. The music is visual and transformative as Seck exchanges between deep lines and uplifting choruses. He sings and plays guitar exposing his skill as a composer. The rock influence of an electric guitar and horns in ‘Seey' is evident.

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“Djeliya,” by Babani Kone

Babani Kone opens with the title track singing in unison with her female choristers, including the famous Mamani Keita. Babani Kone however takes to her own on this song as her vocal range is illustrated through soaring lines as the rhythm section back her up. This Malian songstress is pure fire. Her style is enigmatic and her voice expressive. The band is steady. On ‘Badoua Den,' the deeply busy and textured sound of the kora makes a tremendous meeting with the simplistic and solid sound of the bass guitar before Babani Kone's vocals rise and rise again. A monstrous track! Kora is styling in a multiplicity picking whilst bass dips into a one note wonder giving all space for vocals to sing out there all alone like a soaring bird. Guitar enters like a master falling in and out of the spaces in harmonic phrases. Wistful splendor... ‘Kounandi', is bright and brisk with drums and bass setting the pace. Kora adds a distinct voice phrasing in a jazz kind of way. Babani's voice is harmonic in its splendor, phrasing in well spoken intervals. Bass and guitar agree. Kora marches out in front and then falls behind the soaring climaxing voices of Babani on the song ‘Kebali.' The musicians perform in an interwoven tapestry of sound and rhythm. ‘Wale Niouma,' presents a bigger sound with the rhythm section in a slightly funky arrangement and the lead vocals jamming in colourful phrases. ‘Nia o Nia,' closes this album with a delightful array of voicing; the kora busy as always, the bass steady and understated and the voice, leading masterfully.

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“Dikalo” by Priscilla Ngando

This is a popular album with a straight ahead rhythm section and sparse instrumentation. Priscilla's vocal conjunction with the male singer Moussa Haissam has a strong accord that on the opening track momentarily departs from the West African style into a more pulsive and impulsive central African motif. Priscilla's voice is easy and impressive. The backing vocals are soothing, Moussa is comical at times and Priscilla is steady and leading with style, accessibility and optimism. On ‘Nani Bwabongo', a Pan-African sound is heard through the bluesy guitars and the whining keys and steady percussion. The title track Dikala is bursting with light and abundant in expression as it rises and falls with voices in rhythm in a song of international style. Priscilla is incredible urban combining rap and spoken word over a driving rhythm and steady instrumentation to create a fresh and appealing popular sound.

On ‘Pour Mieux T'aimez' we hear lovely trumpet lines programmed on the keyboard and a Carrribbean or island style to this lovely music. ‘Bomane Mba' is a lovely light and breezy standard that takes us back to the lyrical Africanisms Bellafonte and Makeba enjoyed so illustriously. Simplicity is sincerity. Music is for everyone. Priscilla Ngando's singing captures all the moods, styles, weathers and environments of our thrilling African continent. It is truly Pan African music at times taking on a touch of a classical influence as the keyboard rises up the major scale in synthetic sounds. But, accessibility is the key here for Priscilla. On ‘Divine,' piano and rap combine to give a touch of future as the vocalists sing in English again furthering their reach and touch. Priscilla closes out with a lovely gospel sound of lullaby's for our beloved Mother Earth and Mother Land, Afrique!

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Sali Sidibe presents an untitled album on which we enjoy a busy, colourful and adventurous sound. On ‘Gnouman Ke La,' an extraordinary instrumentation provides the visual of an endless landscape marked by a tremendous cultural pride. Sali Sidibe sings in the authentic mbalax style bringing the most out of her backing singers whilst the sounds of flutes and strings create the impression of an endless history lived over an endless landscape. Through the music we feel the dance. Tempo is up front. It is light and enjoyable. On ‘Blon' flute follows lead vocals in a way that shows how jazz phrasing can be used in this dynamic traditional music. On ‘Baman' we feel the presence of the great ocean that brought so many cultures together in the way melody and bass bounce ideas off each other allowing the musical message to bleed into a sound that brings rise to the voices at first Sali and then the choristers. Tight and right, a nice jazz influence.

On ‘Ne Ma Nin Me,' we hear the kora at first and then the rustic sound of the strings, violin perhaps or traditional violin. This is a fantastic allure as Sali's singing warbles at times like a splendid goddess whilst the backing vocals are steady and united like guitar and bass who provide the rhythm. We hear the xylophone landing stunningly in and amongst the rustic melodies of the violin like instrument. Sali and the choristers are absolutely phenomenal. Rigorously rehearsed Djembe leads out the track ‘Diaby' as rustic tempered violin, bass and flute create the rhythmical foundation for Sali to float her musical language over the top. Choristers are united in agreement. This is some kind of musical phenomenon!

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“Djourou” by Dianeba Seck

This begins with an expansive and poetic musical introduction of voice and violin before the band join in and light the douns into the typical Mandingo sound of fun and friendship. Guitar and violin feed off each other in an improvisational imitation. ‘Abidan' offers a lovely bassline chorister interchange whilst lead vocals Dianeba Seck expresses herself out on top. Is Ngomi the same as Kora? There is an intricate string arrangement that provides the ostinato that the bass follows and then enigmatically the violin follows. This is the melody line the singer sings around. The song ‘Mali Dje' is a typical sound of the Sudanese Empire. As violin, Ngomi and guitar strings melt off of each other we feel the rustic simplicity of a cultural kingdom of great antiquity, relevance, beauty and musical enormity. Seck is here spokesperson singing upon the vast sound with the resolve, maturity, restraint and release of a great musical ambassador. Side B is stretched …

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“Prosper” by Wa Flash. Ma Sane leads a popular vocal sound with her wide -range. On track 2 ‘Baay Ndongo' guitar creates the gentle folk sound of Senegal whilst male voices settle upon it in a sweeping heartfelt harmony. Here we have an acoustic folk sound of Senegal that Ma Sane sings over in an emotional arrangement. On ‘Incident' the male singers lead over the multiple percussive effects.

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“Kalifa” by Batoma Sissoko is a lovely Malian Madingo sound with a quickly delivered vocal line sitting over the repetitive rhythmical bassline brought to life by the occasional racing guitar instrumental phrase. Backing vocals enforce the melody. Sisosko's high pitched vocals make for a delightful exchange with female choristers and the relentless guitar ostinato. On ‘Woulabara Djangna', the wonderful sound of the xylophone adds a musical flavor of spontaneity to the Mandingo sound resplendent with the earnest vocals of Sissoko.

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Rokia Traore – the personification of peace. Voice sits alongside guitar and bass in perfect relaxation and harmony as if almost connected by a string to the voice of the heavens itself. Mouneissa is a thrilling breakthrough and a universal breakthrough.

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“Kar Kar” by Boubacar Traore

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“Nakan” by Mamadou Sidibe

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“Saramaya” by Habib Koite

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“Waxonalako” by Tidiane & Le Dief-dieul

Waxonalako : Tidiane and Le Dieuf - Dieul : The young men of Senagelese music bring tradition and urban together in an eternal relevance. Tidiane, the lead singers voice and style is enigmatically Senagelese in all the culture, colour, maturity and expression. Playful, fresh, thoughtful - music loving.

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“Revolution 2000” by Positive Black Soul

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“Woyei” by Oumou Soumare

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“Sarama” by Amy Koite

Kalo 9 is a beautiful song for everyone: The sound strikes a soothing and relaxing tone. At once the mind is still and the music takes over. Amy is a sooth sayer upfront with her deep and wistful tones she leads the listener across the landscape of human existence all the way to their point of release, where we become present in the music and the message. The songstress is pure, personal and powerful. The musicians are present holding onto a backing sound that has the rustic sounds of Senegal but delivered in a universal smooth jazz way. ‘Kandy' takes a different root as kora plays out the cyclical ostinatos for bass and vocals (in call and response) to play in and amongst. Amy Koite has all the range and marking of a great Malian voice as she preaches, soars and sooths in and amongst the adventurous and high tempo kora. Through the kora and bass we come to the polyrhythmic foundation of the dance upon which the lead vocalist may be free to express herself in purity and truth. The backing vocals are choral in their reflective responses to Amy's poetic musical monologues. ‘Fali' is a gentle lullaby led by dexterous kora and solid bass. Amy's enigmatic voice calls as if calling over the great expanse of the Sahara. There is a one-ness with her style and the region. It is contemplative, respectful and deeply reflective of the vast spaces that occupy her land. Yet, through her lead one takes great heart, one feels the great purpose for the depth of tradition and human experience. A Senegalese griot. On ‘Sirata' we hear the n'gomi (bow). Xylophone (balafon) plays alongside the bass and kora in a delightful tapestry of sound. The arrangement and orchestration stand out as supreme as harmonic overtones float off the music as if fluff rising into the atmosphere. And Amy Koite's sound style, energy and purpose is outstanding. Xylophone follows her melodies down the scale as if a virtuoso pianist. Amy has created a unique style of singing. It is deeply musical and sets her voice apart from her choristers whose togetherness appeat to her with power. Her voice together with the instruments protect the rhythmical fabric of the song whilst creating space for virtuoso melody runs. Face A is a journey in itself. Cheerful, forgiving, passionate and resolute beyond belief. Amy Koite is the leader of a group of very keen musicians who hold a sense of humanity that provides the keys to unlock the love in the souls of all mankind.

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“Joko” by Youssou N'Dour

On this album we hear how Youssou has swopped his gorgeous roots for washed out American music. With Wyclef Jean he provides a collaboration where the visual vibrance of Senegals call and response style is converted into a moan and the visual kora ostinata is a simple guitar plug. Youssou's vocals are strained and straining in a slightly depressed song. On ‘don't look back,' he sings in English so as to reach a wider audience. Where ‘don't look back,' is a good message it is delivered in such a retro pace that it is nothing new. It is stunningly produced planting the listener in the so-called ‘soul' music genre. We are looking back. The song fades out. ‘Don't walk away,' is another instruction and probably a bad one. Walk away! It features ‘Sting,' a man whose music captured the sense of soul yearning. This tailors Youssou's lyrical and smooth singing style into a Western popular music. Well produced but musically it does not create a splash in the ocean of West African culture. It is more like a drop, which was evaporated, crossed an ocean, combined with polluted emissions in the atmosphere and then rained itself down in America. On ‘Yama' the sound engineere makes the greatest attempt to hear Senegal as he records the sounds of the fishing boats. Youssou sings as if a prayer at dawn. The ostinato is quick and repetitive in the higher range, creating a counter experience with the rushing djembe percussion. Youssou's voice rises as if with the sun to the hustle and bustle of the middle of the day. But, it is short lived. Bass is strong, holding the patterns together. Youssou returns to the mood of dawn and prayer rises again. We reach the Zenith for the second time. And then it is even paced as we fall into a ride, the choristers perform as a soundscape, not as an instrument. The song is lost in metaphor, well produced though! On the opening of Face A, Youssou presents an upbeat, calypso styled song with his sister Viviane. This was the launch of his sister's career on his label. The rhythmical percussion patterns are messy sounding like the trot of horse at times. The lyrics are mindless. The choristers sing ‘la la.' Vivian sings ‘I am going to wait for you.' Talking drums smother the singers. Here we hear the criticism against Youssou; that he releases different music to his local audiences. He dropped that song in on his local audience. ‘My hope is in you,' takes us back to the Western infused vernacular of this album. You hear from the hip hop influence of the producer, over programming and a somewhat depressed delivery of lyrics that have potential if worded differently. Fake horns give us an interesting bridge. The song fades out with the synthetic horns its only perk. ‘She doesn't need to fall,' is another instruction. It is the top song on this album with Youssou showing his musical touch with the lovely lyrical pace and Wolof lyrics. His English singing is noticeable forced alongside the more natural musical language of Wolof. The producers shine with heavy melodic soundscapes. The keyboard lines are heroic encouraging Youssou to stick to his Wolof. Face A closes with ‘red clay,' heartfelt, sad, soft and R & B.

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“Gis Naa Xalexi” by Mbaye Ndiaye

He opens with the title track, it is percussion and song. Upbeat and repetitive chants in a modern idiom present dance as the focus. There is an attitude of a Central African influence. When lead vocals breaks from backing vocals and fits in and amongst it, a delightful rhythmical exchange is created by the bow n'gomi. They play too, the xalem, an ancestor of the banjo. The percussion is played by Pape Ndiaye. The music is made more memorable by the weird sounds of the talking drums played in orchestra. Powerful, almost trance like. On ‘Njumba', percussion leads with the sound of traditional flutes. Mbiaye's lead vocals are high and fast pitched marrying perfectly with the adventurous percussion and strong arrangement with backing vocals and other instruments. It is a wonderful and wild musical cacophony. One can almost sense the energy of the leader Mbiaye as he takes on a musical sensibility that is striking and repetitive reaching into the spiritual octaves of transformative music. On ‘Yaaq faaxe' percussions and vocal continue their sumptuous interplay. Talking drums provide their lyrical message as bass sits in the front, almost as if tempered by the relentless interplay of vocalists and percussion. Tongues are wagging, fingers are thumping, legs are dancing, this is busy, healing, light and uplifting music. On Face B ‘Xaay baax' begins with a lovely vocal interplay, a chant of modern and ancient and musical sincerity. Talking drums seek out space in its midst, as it supports the continual lyrical lines to stir the emotions of the song from right out front. This is well orchestrated acapella music at times. A simple hand clap leads the song into its second chapter whereby the talking drums are allowed to run free as the voices hold the path they had so actively entrained in the opening acapella chapter. On ‘Win we Mbodni,' percussion lead. Voices are active. Mbiaye sings in his way as if delivered from the fire in the belly via the heart, throat and tongue. The album closes with ‘Onow Neejikweel', a group song, uplifting whimsical and rooted in ancient tradition. The music takes its course as purposefully as a river. Drums and voices, heartbeat and consciousness, rhythm and melody are always friends, expressing beautiful unity.

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Namakoro Fomba

The music is at once deep, real and sensitive. ‘Kolondiougou' expresses a traditional African guitar music as deftly and delicately as any. Childlike vocals back up the melodic tones of the guitar and lovely lines. On ‘N'ganaa Cino' bass plays a prominent role to provide a repetitive rhythmical line for voices to sing over. Fomba presents strong and mature patterns of song backed up by beautiful playing of Koko Dembele. An unpretentious sharing music. ‘Didadi' presents a lovely interplay between guitar and voice. There is a gentle, floating and flowing feminine rhythmic feel, sweetly commentated upon by the open and relaxed vocal style of Nomakora, light and breezy with a scat style. Face A closes with ‘Tile' where guitar illustrates its Western influence and allows the lead vocals to show off his ‘country and western,' singing style. Big bluesy sounds and sultry spoken melodic ostinatos combine with Namakora's voice to create R&B guitar music with a rawness and sincerity garnered from a simple production value. Face B does not play.

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“Beeta Felaa” by Ndeye Marie Ndiaye Gawlo

‘Beeta Feela' begins with the title track and at once establishes its lead singer as a powerful, strong and present voice. Ndiaye Gowlo is backed by a big band and group of choristers as together they create the melodic musical tapestry of Senegalese griot music or mbalax. Papa Ndiaye is leading percussion. The delivery is sound and steady. On ‘Lyeeya Woof' vocals and choristers perform together in a strong interplay whilst guitar takes a Western influenced solo. This is popular mbalax music. Ndiaye Ndeye's vocals are strong as she sings within a smaller vocal range, calling on the various ornamentations evident in Sengalese vocal mbalax. On ‘Ayilo' guitar and programming lead into a calypso inspired mbalax. Vocal and backing settle into a laid back approach and percussion is steady. The album is lacking in improvisational quality. Face B gets off to an upfront start with percussion leading out in a quick paced rhythmical stride. Lead vocals are strained and making way for another Western style guitar solo. It is generic popular mbalax from Jololi studios. The interplay between vocals and choristers is exciting, as is the interplay between percussion and talking drums. Such is the region and the manner in which they dance to mbalax. On ‘Yal Nafi Yal', Ndiaye Marie Ndiaye leads into another rhythmical and enjoyable mbalax resplendent with all the changes, breaks and Western inspired rock guitar solo and then back into the rolling orchestra of percussion. A solid mbalax album.

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“Integration Africaine” by Pape Djiby Ba

Papa Djiby Ba presents an upbeat and modern style in this collaborative album with an international appeal and sensitivity. He combines mbalax with other influences of the great Atlantic Ocean of Senegals' border. ‘Dekendo' is sweet and sultry. ‘Cheikh Khadia' is a sweet and reflective song. The Sabar (traditional mbalax drum) is used alongside the ‘Talma Tamb' or talking drum. The music gently transports one to the essence of the song and the rhythmical interplays. Neither complex, nor generic, this is a thoughtful mbalax album. On the title track ‘Integration Africa' talking drums are upfront providing a rhythmical focal point for guitar to ride around in sweet phrases. Pape Djiby Ba leads in a generous style, ever present, letting the music speak for itself. ‘Winyvieu' has a punctuated beginning before falling into the typical riding mbalax made to stand out by its rustic style of recording. Live in studio this allows the instruments to settle in and amongst each other and produce a holistic and well crafted sound, crafted from the live performances and rehearsals. A strong and exciting mbalax, made explosive by the talking drum and given space by the inventive guitar lines as it talks to the bass over the bridge. Pape Djiby Ba follows up the vocal parts, his choristers are polite and understated.

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“Navetanes” by Omar Pene

Omar Pene presents a dynamic jazz mbalax cross over with his band super Diamano. His choristers are well rehearsed providing the response to his robust musical calls. Talking drum is upfront and the band is steady and easy in the background creating the platform for a musical dynamo to express the full colours of his imagination through arrangement. An array of wonderful live instruments including trumpets, saxophones and flutes create a masterfully orchestrated tapestry of sound that is bright, light, uplifting and delightful to the soul. An extensive line-up of artists is provided in this shining album. ‘Soul' presents an easier tempo with keys played amongst blasting horn lines giving it an international appeal. Omar Pene is in and amongst these phrases with his delectable and lyrical style. The overall sound is live, living, fresh and eternal, as the band plays through the changes as one. Even the growling rock guitsr inspired solo finds freedom and space amongst the dynamic orchestra of different musicians. The band falls into the downbeat of reggae and then back into the driving sounds of African music. Lively virtuoso qualities of vocal harmony present themselves before the song ends with a crash. Punchy brass presents the song ‘Wayo Waye', and the platform for the vocalists to fall into a deeply progressive and purposeful rendition. Horns keep the song both rooted and universal as their bright sounds present a colourful fore-runner for the vocals, lead and choristers, to follow. The band change key as one and then quickly back into the driving theme of this song which expresses the Atlantic culture of Snegall, the port region and the coming and going of many people. This is a deeply urban and authentic music. The rock guitar solo is here too, grinding away in blissful harmony as the power of percussion and talking drum keep it very real indeed. Omar Pene is riding a tidal wave of sound with his honest and expressive vocalizations. Face B begins with ‘Jeanne D'arc' which is a story teller mbalax. Horns are there to back the statements and talking drum to accentuate the point. It is surely a tribute to the power of the human spirit. The choristers response is resounding to the vocal lectures delivered by Pene. An uplifting musical journey. Talking drums follow in a joyous jive landed on the beats of a march. And the brass closes it out powerfully. The final song ‘Yaye Sukhna' is upbeat and delightful with horns providing the melodic refrain before dancing off the keys in a jazzy way. Omar Pene is ever ready leading the song in its direction leaving space for the horns to fall down the scale in thirds and then back him up in united riffs.

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“Jiguen” by Ismael Lo

The title track is at once wistful and sultry, before falling into the soothing and purposeful rhythmical contribution of mbalax music. The horn-line is exciting and the instrumental line-up on this album, quite vast. Ismael Lo is paired up in sound to meet the musical demands of his adoring public at home. An urban influence is felt strongly on this album as Ismael looks over the waters of his seaside home and across the boats and fishermen, beyond the Cape Verde Islands and to Cuba where an exchange of humanity occurs. On ‘Gor Siyam' we hear his sweet and gentle sound brought to life by the falling harmony of the harp. Ismael sings in the softly spoken story-teller style. It is world music. A music of the world, gut wrenching and soul expressive in the way it embodies the truth of its own nature. When he soars in voice, he soars with love and thereby with strength and power.

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“Dagadjo Konee” by Batoma Diallo

Here we hear the full range of Malian music, an ancient tradition made manifest in the modern arena with a delicate musical presentation of many instruments in harmony. Balafon, N'goni (bow) and violin add to the musical sound. Vocals sit in the background as if riding on the wistful waves of the overtones. Bass is very heavy providing the proverbial carpet for guitar to work its magic over with an illustration of origins of Malian blues music. Blues came out of their traditional music. ‘Be kon in di donke' is such a generous and thankful song, the violin cuts a rustic, sincere and natural path in and amongst the lead singer together with her choristers. ‘Saddiouroule' starts with the bass allowing all other instruments to come in. Balafon (Xylophone) ostinato's add a further complexity to the music. Batoma sings in unison with her choristers, and then alone. She has the voice of a young star, staying within her range and delivering the music as it was taught to her, unaffected by perspective or occasion. Dance, healing and love appear to be communal disciplines. This is an effective musical vibration made enjoyable by letting go to the constant intertwining of musical ostinato's. ‘Faso den kala' is a gentle song built around a whimsical riff that could travel into any musical genre so must have its origin in the most ancient people. The riff rises and falls through only a few notes and the singers lines marry it in a lovely proportionate harmony. Batoma's singing is delightful as she tells her sweet tale through music. ‘Bagnogonnou' is a lovely cyclical song as natural to the body as a sufi enjoying a spin. Built upon a lovely bass ostinato, Batoma sings out upbeat and passionate lines met with the response of her choristers. Violin is outstanding for its agreement with the melody. Face B commences with ‘DagadjoKone' which dances forth at a terrific pace bringing the visual splendor of the Malian dance into a musical perspective. ‘Kalambaw' begins with dexterous string ostinato from the kora allowing the other instruments to lace themselves around once more creating a marvelous tapestry of music that pulses with a strong beat and leads with flowing melodies sung by the choristers. The final song ‘Adama' puts a smile on ones face immediately the way in which the instruments tickle the soul with their loveliness and Batoma's singing with the choristers are the perfect accompaniment to the band, allowing the band to grow in complexity and Batoma takes the solo, which is deeply sincere and communicative.

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“La Consolatrice” by Saly Sidibe

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“Ah! Les Hommes” by Betika

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Fatou Laobe

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“Kolondki” by Adama Drame

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“Woyou Talibe” by Tama

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“Ken Bugul Dee Remix” by Selle Diop

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“Les Go” by Dan Gna

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“Atankele” by Kouadic Maurison

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“Manore” by Baladji Gui Mousa

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Best of Gnaore Djimi

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“Sing Hosanna” by Peter Gabriels Muonagor

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“Wusam Amointing” by Peter Gabriels Muonagor

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Cocktail Ivoire

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Audiorama's Best Of

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“Nafigiya” by Zotto Boys

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“Founy Faya” by Kouman

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“Sargal” by Ajah Sy from 7fm

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Ngallu

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“Mirandari” by Micka Gomis from 7fm

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“Touma Sera” by Amadou Sodia from 7fm

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“Door mou danou” by Sama Flavor

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“Moi c'est toi” by Gideon

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“Oridjidji” by RAS

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“Le Vote” by Ouza

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“La Voix du ciel” by Kajeem

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“Come back” by Brighess & le Ziboua Stars

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“Ramde” by Beta Simon

thank you SAA Communications for flight sponsorship and Hotel Lagon 11 for Hotel accommodation in 2000AD

 

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