Thursday, June 15, 2017

'Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng' by Orchestra Baobab

15 June 2017

My interest in ‘world music’ stems from reading Robin Denselow’s glowing review, in The Guardian on 6 September 2002, of ‘Specialist in All Styles’ - the spectacular reunion album by the legendary 1970s Senegalese band, Orchestra Baobab (see: Inspired by this five-star review I bought the album and then took the opportunity to see Orchestra Baobab live at the Derngate in Northampton. At that concert I bought a copy of Songlines magazine (which included a major feature on Orchestra Baobab). I soon became a Songlines subscriber and then a regular attender of the annual WOMAD Festival. I owe Orchestra Baobab a huge debt of gratitude for opening up a world of music to me. I have a particular soft spot for their retro fusion, and that of the other great big bands of the 1970s such as the Rail Band of Mali and Bembeya Jazz of Guinea. Their re-appropriation of Cuban salsa – which itself stemmed from an adaptation of traditional West African music – created an infectiously danceable mix. This week I have been listening to the new album from Orchestra Baobab, ‘Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng’, which honours one of the band’s original singers who died last November. This is an interestingly varied album with the classic Orchestra Baobab sound (guitars, percussion, brass) augmented by the inclusion, for the first time, of a kora – the West African 21-string harp-lute. The album also features guest vocals from some other stars of West African music, Cheikh Lo and Thione Seck. It is a confident, assured, laid-back set of songs from one of the great African bands.

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