Barely known to me until I picked up a few of her CDs in NYC's Little Senegal a few weeks ago, Fatou Laobé is a huge star in Senegal, and a welcome addition to the Dakar Divas pantheon.
Fatou got her start as a backup singer and dancer with musicians like Baaba Maal and Ousmane Hamady Diop, and has toured the world with Youssou N'dour and Abou Diouba. Striking out on her own in 2000, she released l'An 2000 with her group le Laobé Gui on N'dour's Jololi label. The recordings have followed fast and furious ever since. Her music is deeply rooted in the folklore of the Laobé, a subset of the Pulaar, or Fulani, people who are known for their craftsmanship.
The six tunes on offer here are taken from three CDs: Hé Laobé Rewmi (Origines, 2004), Bara Mamadou Lamine (Ekla, 2008), and Keysi Bousso (Ekla, 2008). Enjoy!
Fatou Laobé & le Laobé Gui - Gambia Modou
Fatou Laobé & le Laobé Gui - Gawlo
Fatou Laobé & le Laobé Gui - Bara Mamadou Lamine
Fatou Laobé & le Laobé Gui - Doolé
Fatou Laobé & le Laobé Gui - Lambo
Fatou Laobé & le Laobé Gui - Harouma Play-Boy
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Friday, April 4, 2008
You may think that since I write this blog about African music that's all I listen to in my everyday existence. Actually, no. Like most parents of teenagers, the soundtrack of my life is pretty much established by what my two daughters want to hear - R & B, hip-hop and alternative rock. Not that Aku and Ify don't appreciate the sort of music featured on this blog (they're pretty worldly actually), but generally their tastes are similar to those of 95% of North Americans their age. And really, through my kids I've rekindled my love for good old-fashioned "pop music" after wandering for some years through a prairie of more esoteric sounds.
Hip-hop has become the lingua franca of the international youth culture, and all sorts of interesting permutations have arisen, including, of course, in Africa. This isn't the place to get into a survey of all the various artists and sub-styles (mainly because I've only dipped my toes in the water), but I would suggest you drop by African Hip Hop Radio or African Hip Hop if you'd like some up-to-date sound files and information.
Of all the varieties of African hip-hop I've always been most intrigued by the sounds coming out of Senegal. Positive Black Soul was the first local group to achieve international notice, and Daara J soon followed. There is a multitude of other artists, though, many of the best showcased on the release African Underground Vol. 1: Hip-Hop Senegal (Nomad Wax NOM 001, 2004).
The artist who seems most comfortable moving between the "old" world of mbalax, the current hip-hop scene and international pop music is Viviane N'dour. Viviane got started as a singer in le Super Etoile de Dakar, the backup group of Youssou N'dour, and soon married Youssou's brother Boubacar (they've since divorced). She released her first recording, Entre Nous/Between Us/Ci Sunu Biir (Jololi) in 1999 and has issued an album a year ever since, becoming one of the hottest stars in Senegal.
Much as I love the les Grandes Dames of Senegalese music like Kiné Lam and Daro Mbaye, I'll admit their wild, rough-hewn sound might be an acquired taste for some. Viviane, on the other hand, is as sweet as milk, although she's as every bit as uncompromising in her own way as those two great divas. She's clearly the most "accessible" Senegalese singer out there as well as one of the most technically accomplished.
Here are two recordings that show off Viviane's mbalax and "pop" sides respectively. "Dekkore" is from her sophomore release Nature (Jololi JL 2001, 2000), while "Shama Plus," from Le Show (Jololi DJOL01040-2, 2001) is a live version of her hit "Shamalama Ding Dong," also on Nature.
Viviane - Dekkore
Viviane & le Joloff Band - Shama Plus
It's said that the first time Viviane heard Aaliyah's "Are You That Somebody" she thought it was Americans copying Senegalese music. Her remake, "Goor Fit," featured on Entre Nous/Between Us/Ci Sunu Biir, proved to be one of her most memorable and popular songs, so naturally there had to be still another version, "Am Fit," from 2003's Fii Ak Fee (Jololi). I've always liked Aaliyah's original, but Viviane's versions take the song to transcendent new levels.
Viviane - Goor Fit
Viviane & le Joloff Band - Am Fit
Likewise, 50 Cent's "P.I.M.P." comes in for the Viviane treatment, although I hope with more positive lyrics. Remake number one, "Yaye Bagn," from Esprit (Whatawhat Arts, 2004) teams her with PBS Radikal, the successor to Positive Black Soul. Remake number two, "Obibolo," from Man Diarra (Whatawhat Arts, 2005) features Malian rappers King Massassi and Tata Pound.
Viviane w. PBS Radikal - Yaay Bagn
Viviane w. King Massasi & Tata Pound - Obibolo
I love Viviane's collaboration with Jamaican Frankie Paul on "Stress," also from Man Diarra, featuring a cool reference from Bob Marley's "Lively Up Yourself," while "Taximan," with rapper Fou Malade, from Esprit, was one of the most memorable African tunes of 2004. See the video here and read more about Fou Malade here.
Viviane w. Frankie Paul - Stress
Viviane w. Fou Malade - Taximan
"Dafa La Nopp" is from a bootleg compilation, Best of Viviane N'dour 2002 (Wow International), and is not actually by Viviane herself, but is taken from the cassette Teranga (Jololi, 2002) by Alissane Fall. It's a fitting conclusion to this post.
Alissane Fall w. Viviane - Dafa La Nopp
Update: My daughter Ify takes exception to my statement that she and her sister's musical tastes ". . . are similar to those of 95% of North Americans their age." She wants everyone to know that she is a J-Pop fan. Just setting the record straight!
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Like Kiné Lam and Daro Mbaye, Ndeye Mbaye is a veteran of the Ensemble Lyrique Traditionel of Senegal's esteemed Daniel Sorano National Theatre, which she directed from 1987 to 1990. Previously she was a member of the National Ballet of Senegal for seven years starting in 1965.
Mbaye's cassette release Kóllëré (SAPROM, early '90s), a Youssou N'Dour production (he appears on one track), amply displays her expansive voice as well as top-flight work by an ensemble that includes Vieux M. Faye on lead guitar and Mbaye Dieye Faye on percussion. "Liiti Liiti" is a traditional song that has been recorded by numerous artists, including Orchestre Baobab (on A Night at Club Baobab, [Oriki 6129372, 2007]), but Ndeye's version is my favorite by far:
Ndeye Mbaye - Liiti Liiti
Ndeye Mbaye - Saxalaat
Ndeye Mbaye - Serigne Fallou
Ndeye Mbaye with Youssou N'Dour - Damel Fall
The limitations of the cassette format just don't do this music justice. The recording quality of Ndeye's cassette Ndaamal Daaru (Génie Musique, early '90s) is even more restricted, nor does the music reach Kóllëré's exalted level, in my opinion. It still features some notable music, though, including these two tracks:
Ndeye Mbaye - Nelson Mandela
Ndeye Mbaye - Aduna Ack Lici Biram
Friday, February 8, 2008
Liitaal, by Aby Ngana Diop, is one of those recordings that sneaks up behind you, knocks you upside the head with a two-by-four, and leaves you dazed and bleeding on the sidewalk, wondering what hit you.
I know absolutely nothing about this Senegalese chanteuse, nor does anyone else, but that hasn't stopped those who have heard this early '90s cassette (apparently her only recording) from going absolutely bonkers (just Google her name if you don't believe me).
Continuing the sporadic series "Dakar Divas," here is Liital in its two-fisted, glorious, astonishing entirety. Aby Ngana Diop - truly a singer worthy of the name diva!
Aby Ngana Diop - Dieueul-Dieuleul
Aby Ngana Diop - Ndame
Aby Ngana Diop - Yaye Penda Mbaye
Aby Ngana Diop - Liital
Aby Ngana Diop - Sapaly
Aby Ngana Diop - Ndadje
Update: Thanks to Matthew Lavoie from the VOA African Music Treasures blog, for providing some essential background information on Aby Ngana Diop and her music. According to Matt, Mme. Diop was born in the Dakar region and was the area's most famous tassukat (tassu being a form of sung Wolof rhythmic verse that is often used to impart traditional values to children). Matt writes, ". . . She performed in Europe a few times and appeared on stage with Doudou N'Diaye Rose. Most of her performances though were at baptisms and weddings in and around Dakar. Your post sparked my curiosity. I have been trying to learn more about her life. So far, I've come up short. I spoke with Mbaye Gueye, who produced the cassette, and he knew nothing about her. I've also spoken to several music journalists in Dakar. . . nothing. I'll keep you posted." Matt also reports that he's heard that Aby Ngana Diop passed away in the late '90s, between '96 and '98, although he can't confirm this.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Although Kiné Lam is generally acknowledged to be the "queen" of mbalax, if she has one rival for the title, it would probably be Daro Mbaye, who has a vocal style that is even wilder and more over the top than that of the great Kiné. I can't tell you a whole lot about her. She is from the city of Luga in the north of Senegal, and like Kiné Lam has been a member of the Sorano National Theater in Dakar. Daro has toured throughout the world, both on her own and with Doudou Rose Ndiaye's acclaimed percussion company.
Unlike a lot of cheapo Senegalese cassette productions, Daro Mbaye's debut Doylu (Ibou Touré 121056, ca. 1990) was recorded with a full compliment of wind instruments in addition to the requisite guitars, percussion and synthesizer. Unfortunately, it seems my copy is a pirate edition, so in addition to being oddly jerky and sped up all of the instruments sound like synthesizers anyway. No matter: I once drove to Chicago in the middle of a snowstorm with it cranked up full-volume on the sound system - a strange, surrealistic experience! Here are four tracks (out of seven) from Doylu - blow your own mind!
Daro Mbaye - Doylu
Daro Mbate - Diongoma
Daro Mbaye - Ndiabour
Daro Mbaye - Yaw Lay Djin
Like most sequels, Wal Jotna (Génie Music AM 77, 1992) on average doesn't totally measure up to its predecessor, but there are a couple of peaks that surpass it, notably these two tunes:
Daro Mbaye - Wal Jotna
Daro Mbaye - Cheikh Samba Jaara Mbaye
Finally, a couple of tracks from Jongoma (Talla Diagne, 1994), featuring Daro Mbaye in neo-traditional mode. Information on the backing musicians is sketchy; notably, the xalam player is not credited. She's put out a couple of cassettes since this one in the same style, which I unfortunately don't have:
Daro Mbaye - Jongoma Yeewul
Daro Mbaye - Beugue Yaayam
Daro's career seems to have gone on hiatus in the last few years, although she occasionally performs in Spain, where her son Sidy Samb lives. He's a rising musical star in his own right. You can see some videos by him here, here and here.
Discography of Daro Mbaye
Monday, August 27, 2007
One thing that's always irritated me about the whole "World Music™" thing is the tendency to reduce whole genres of music to one or two artists who are supposed to represent whole countries or styles. Thus, Femi Kuti and Sunny Ade represent Nigeria, Tarika stands in for Madagascar, Angelique Kidjo Benin, etc. The artists in this "chosen few" get coveted spots in the chain music stores, tour the U.S. and Europe a lot, and often collaborate in the studio with well-known Western pop stars. After a while the sounds they make, at least for the World Music™ market, bear little resemblance to the music that brought them notice in the first place.
There's a bit of dilettantism behind the desire by the latte-sipping masses for the latest "thing" in World Music™, a touch of condescension, as exemplified by the phrase "Bonnie Raitt thinks that Oliver Mtukudzi is the Otis Redding of Zimbabwe!" Now, just what the hell is that supposed to mean?
I suppose I'm just cynical, or maybe I'm a bit of a snob myself. I certainly can't fault the above-mentioned "Western pop stars" who've done so much to promote World Music™, nor can I blame the African musicians who've benefited from the interest in it. It's just that there's only room in the Best Buy bins for so many World Music™ artists. The real culprit here, if there is one, is "the invisible hand of The Market," and not anybody's malice or greed.
For a number of years Youssou N'Dour, and to a lesser extent Baaba Maal, have been the "officially approved ambassadors" of Senegalese music to the rest of the world. The many other musicians from that country who have toiled away in the local market for years have been pretty much shut out. One of these musicians is the extraordinary female vocalist Kiné Lam. Ms. Lam comes from a great griot family in the Cayor region of Senegal and in 1979 was selected as a featured singer at the Sorano National Theatre in Dakar. Her debut solo recording, Cheickh Anta Mbacke (Syllart 38764-1), was released in 1989 and since then she has issued numerous cassettes in Senegal, all but one unheard outside of the African market.
The one exception was 1996's Praise (Shanachie 64062), which was released in the U.S. to a fair amount of critical acclaim. It coincided with a North American tour that was meant to introduce her to the World Music™ audience. When I heard that she'd be appearing in Chicago with her backup band Le Kaggu, I was of course beside myself, as I'd been following Kiné Lam's career for years and pretty much worshiped the ground she walked on. When I caught her performance at the late Equator Club I wasn't disappointed. The problem was the audience: apart from a very small number of American cognoscenti and Equator Club regulars, it was composed entirely of members of the (small) Chicago Senegalese community. So Kiné Lam has remained, outside of the Senegal diaspora anyway, an obscure quantity in the American music scene. In a way, I'm almost glad that Kiné Lam hasn't been accepted into the World Music™ pantheon; if she'd done a duet with Phil Collins, I would have gone into cardiac arrest!
I would like more people to be aware of the work of this consummate artist, and that is the purpose of this post. Think of it as "Kiné Lam's Greatest Hits." In the future I will be posting work by other great female Senegalese singers.
If I had to make a list of the ten greatest African albums of all time, Kiné Lam's Galass (KSF Productions KSF 03, ca. 1990) would be on it, although technically it's not an "album," having only been released on cassette. Transcendent vocals, knife-sharp guitar work, insane percussion - Galass has it all. The credits list Yahya Fall on rhythm guitar and no-one on lead, but that can't be right - the guitar plays more than a supporting role here: just check out the George Benson-ish licks on "SIDA." Itou Dieng plays bass; Massaër Diagne, El Hadji I. Ndiaye and Ousseynou Mboup are on percussion; Iba Ndiaye on keyboards and Ndiaye Fatou Ndiaye and Chuck Berry Mboup [!] on supporting vocals round things out. The musicians are working here like a well-oiled machine.
Kiné Lam & le Kaggu - Sey
Kiné Lam & le Kaggu - Takko Wade
Kiné Lam & le Kaggu - Darmanko
Kiné Lam & le Kaggu - SIDA
Kiné's next two releases, while perhaps not scaling the same heights as Galass, still have some great moments. "Tabasky Thiam," from Balla Aïssa Boury (KSF 004), and "Dogo," from Leer-Gui (KSF 06), feature the same musical lineup as Galass. The synthesisizer work on "Dogo" reminds me of an R&B hit from some years ago (can't quite place which one).
Kiné Lam & le Kaggu - Tabasky Thiam
Kiné Lam & le Kaggu - Dogo
In the middle of the Nineties, Kiné put out a couple of releases with a more "suave" sound, supplementing the regular members of Le Kaggu with the Paris session musicians Philippe Slominsky, Alain Hatot and J. Bolognesi on horns, and Manu Lima on synthesizer, who have figured in so many Paris-based African recordings. Under no circumstances did this mean she was going "soft" on us, as these two tracks from Noreyni (KSF 15) amply demonstrate:
Kiné Lam - Nimay Doxee
Kiné Lam - Asc Jaraaf
In the last few years, Kiné Lam has made a number of fine recordings with a "neo-traditional" ensemble including the outstanding xalam player Abou Guissé (center, picture below). "Mamé Thierno" and "Sourang M'beri" are from Sunu Thiossane 2, while "Le Retour" and "Térale" are taken from Le Retour (Jololi). The latter features Souriba Kouyaté on kora and "Saraba" on flute, while Youssou N'dour shares vocals on "Le Retour."
Kiné Lam - Mame Thierno
Kiné Lam - Sourang M'beri
Kiné Lam w. Youssou N'Dour - Le Retour
Kiné Lam - Térale
Discography of Kiné Lam