Showing posts with label Senegal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Senegal. Show all posts

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sabar Attack!




Bonne Année! Sixty-six minutes of red-hot Mbalax from Senegal's master of the sabar, Mbaye Dieye Faye, help us kick off the New Year.

Faye was born in 1960 in the Dakar neighborhood of Medina and was a childhood friend of Youssou N'dour. He joined N'dour in the influential Star Band in 1974, leaving with him to form Etoile de Dakar in 1979 and Super Etoile in 1981. Over the years Faye has been a featured percussionist on recordings by Coumba Gawlo Seck, Omar Pene, Ismael Lô and many other notable Senegalese musicians. He founded his own group, Le Sing-Sing Rythme, in 1990, featuring a battery of sabar drums. 1995's Oupoukay (Xippi) was its second release:


Download Oupoukay as a zipped file here.

1996's Tink's Daye Bondé Biir Thiossane (Jololi) was recorded live in Youssou N'dour's Thiossane night club:

Mbaye Dieye Faye & le Sing-Sing Rythme - Tink's

Download Tink's Daye Bondé Biir Thiossane as a zipped file here.



Sunday, May 9, 2010

More Live Youssou




As promised, here is another "live" recording by Youssou N'Dour & le Super Etoile de Dakar, the cassette Live Olympia (Productions SAPROM), recorded in Paris and released in 1991.

Live Olympia finds Youssou & the band in the more simplified mode they exhibited, at least in the international market, after achieving world fame in the mid '80s. The music is "catchier" and the performances shorter and less complex than in the earlier Jamm La Paix. Still, this is a recording well worth listening to, with a nice rendition of "Immigrés" and interesting alternate versions of some other Super Etoile hits.

Youssou N'Dour & le Super Etoile de Dakar - Sabar

Youssou N'Dour & le Super Etoile de Dakar - Bamako

Youssou N'Dour & le Super Etoile de Dakar - Immigrés

Youssou N'Dour & le Super Etoile de Dakar - Xaley Rew Mi

Youssou N'Dour & le Super Etoile de Dakar - Medina

Youssou N'Dour & le Super Etoile de Dakar - Jaam

Download Live Olympia as a zipped file here.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Live Youssou




Thanks to Aduna for posting Show!!! A Abidjan (1983), a rare live LP by Senegal's Youssou N'Dour. I was inspired to post a couple of live recordings by him myself, starting with the cassette Jamm La Paix (Productions SAPROM).


Toshiya Endo's essential Youssou N'Dour discography lists Jamm La Paix as issued in 1986, and that sounds about right. Recorded live at the Thiossane Night Club in Dakar, it features the jazzy Super Etoile sound that got us hooked back in the '80s, before the depredations of "World Music™" took hold. The band (credited here as "Super Etoile de Dakar I") has never sounded tighter, with inspired performances by all present:







Download Jamm La Paix as a zipped file here. Later I'll be posting Live Olympia, a live recording from 1991.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Best of Thione Seck




This week I'm embarking on yet another Spring Break College Tour, this time with my younger daughter Ify. As you may recall, the last couple of times I did this with my other daughter Aku we were able to pick up some nifty Senegalese sounds from a somewhat disreputable storefront on
116th St. in New York City.

Unfortunately we won't be making it out East this time around (maybe next year), but I did want to pass on something I picked up on one of those earlier trips. Best of Thione Seck is not an "official" pressing, but it should be, gathering as it does some of the best tunes from Seck's cassette releases.

Thione Seck himself is rather well-known to African music aficionados thanks to the release in 2005 of his album Orientation (Sterns STCD 1100). He came to notice in Senegal in the late '70s as a vocalist for the legendary Orchestre Baobab, but soon left to form his own roots-orienteed ensemble Le Raam Daan ("Going Slowly Toward Your Goal"). Today he is considered one of the greatest Senegalese vocalists of all time. I featured a few tracks from
Best of Thione Seck in an earlier post, but I'm sure you'll appreciate it in its entirety.

Thione Seck & le Raam Daan - Dieuleul

Thione Seck & le Raam Daan - Mane Mi Gnoul

Thione Seck & le Raam Daan - Mass Ndiaye

Thione Seck & le Raam Daan - Domou Baye

Thione Seck & le Raam Daan - Khare Bi

Thione Seck & le Raam Daan - Diongoma

Thione Seck & le Raam Daan - Yaye Boy

Thione Seck & le Raam Daan - Sakh Yi

Thione Seck & le Raam Daan - Yeen

Thione Seck & le Raam Daan - Yenn Bi (Mame)

Thione Seck & le Raam Daan - Khalel


Thione Seck & le Raam Daan - Bamba

Thione Seck & le Raam Daan - Rara

Download
Best of Thione Seck as a zipped file here. The picture at the top of this post is by Tom Verhees. It is taken from the LP Le Pouvoir d'un Coeur Pur (Sterns STCD 1023, 1988).


Monday, December 21, 2009

House of Kings




The Casamance region of southern Senegal has been the scene of sporadic fighting over the years between the central government and the separatist Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de Casamance (MFDC). The area was formerly a Portuguese possession and is culturally distinct from the rest of Senegal. The name "Casamance" is said to derive from the Portuguese word for "house" combined with the Mandinka word for "king." An alternative explanation attributes the name to an old kingdom in the region called Kassa.

The music of Casamance also differs from the mainstream Senegalese sound, having more in common with the music of Guinea and Mali, with a distinctive Lusophone flavor. Orchestre Baobab, Toure Kunda and Xalam all have roots in the region, but the foremost musical group in the area has been the Sedhiou Band, variously known as UCAS de Sedhiou or the UCAS Jazz Band.

The Sedhiou Band was founded in 1959 as the musical group of the Union Cultural Association in the town of Sedhiou, and has had a varied lineup over the years. The most recent configuration features Ibrahima Sylla Dia on lead guitar, vocals by Abdoulaye Dandou Diedhiou, Seydou Ndao, Amadou Leye Sarr and Aminata Dieng Ndiaye, and a battery of percussionists and other musicians. The group came to the attention of most African music fans outside of Senegal when Africa Kambeng (Africassette AC9404) was released in 1998, a recording that is still in print and available from Amazon and Sterns.

The Sedhiou Band have released numerous recordings over the years (a 1970s LP is available from Worldservice here). I possess four cassettes by the group released during the 1990s, from which I present selections here. It's a sort of "
Sedhiou Band Best of the '90s," as it were.

The title track of Saaroo, released in 1992, is distinguished by the kora playing of Sirakata Diebaté, who also features prominently on "Kambeng" from the same cassette:

UCAS de Sedhiou - Saaroo

UCAS de Sedhiou - Kambeng



I wish I knew the name of the female singer who graces the lovely song "Nenne Suuxo," permeated with a sense of saudade, that opens A Paris, issued in 1993. "Yaa Musoolu," from the same cassette, definitely kicks things up a notch:

UCAS Band Jazz de Sedhiou - Nenne Suuxo

UCAS Band Jazz de Sedhiou - Yaa Musoolu

In 1997 the Sedhiou Band made several recordings for the Gambia-based label Kerewan Sounds, and these reflect Gambian concerns. Notable is this praise song to the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction, a political party that grew out of a military coup in the Gambia in 1994 and swept the 1997 elections. It continues to rule the country amid charges of intimidation of opposition parties. This is from the cassette Dimbayaa:

Sedhiou Band - A.P.R.C.


Also from Dimbayaa is this lively tune:

Sedhiou Band - Khady Kebe

Africa Kambeng, also released in 1997 by Kerewan Sounds, continues the theme of uptempo dance music combined with political paeans. "22nd July Movement" is a praise song to the 1994 miltary coup:

Sedhiou Band - 22nd July Movement

Here's another praise song, but apparently not a political one. There is a Senegalese professional basketball player named Ndeye Ndiaye, but she would have been 18 when this song was recorded, so it's probably not about her. I wish I knew more:

Sedhiou Band - Ndeye Ndiaye

Download these tracks as a zipped file here. If you enjoy this music, go to this post about Ramiro Naka from Guinea-Bisaau, and see if you don't hear a connection.



Thursday, October 22, 2009

Off the Beaten Track




For all I know, recordings like Simon Sene's Magal (Afrique Dioundioung/KSF) could be as common as dirt in Senegal, so the title of this post may not be completely accurate. Still, the first time it came my way ten years ago, I knew that something set it apart from the general Wolof/Peul axis of modern Senegalese music.

Now, from his My Space Profile, I learn that Mr. Sene is a Serer, the third-largest ethnicity in Senegal (see map below), a people that still retain animistic beliefs, although some members in recent years have converted to Islam or Christianity. As a singer of traditional music at weddings and christenings, he was discovered by Moussa Bopp of Radio Kaolack and encouraged to record. At first his family resisted, objecting that the songs were meant only for the griot caste, but he recorded his first hit, "Ndakaru," in 1993. His first cassette, Magal, with its sparse yet striking arrangements for keyboards and percussion, was released in 1997. With two further releases, Jamm Cassamance in 2001 and Yaye in 2006, Simon Sene has clearly taken his place in the pantheon of modern masters of Senegal music. Enjoy!

Simon Sene - Roi des Arenes

Simon Sene - Magal


Simon Sene - Greve


Simon Sene - O Young


Simon Sene - Fexwe


Simon Sene - A Cang


Simon Sene - Maayaay

Simon Sene - Hommage a Mbissane

You can also download this album as a zipped file here. In the future I will be offering this option for the convenience of Likembe reader/listeners, and I will also try to make it available in older posts as well. As the zipped files use "free" file-hosting services (as opposed to the individual tracks, which I pay to have hosted) I can't assure that they will always be available. Let me know how it works out.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Welcome Back, Matt!




We're all thrilled that Matt Yanchyshyn is back on the scene and posting once more on his blog, Benn Loxo du Taccu, after a long hiatus. Of course, Matt's had pressing business - getting married, for one thing. Congratulations, Matt!

So now that Matt is rested and relaxed he's once again making available the great music we've come to expect from Benn Loxo. Do yourself a favor and check out this post of some of the latest tracks from Dakar. Matt is far more cognizant than I of what's going on in the music scene in Senegal, and writes about the current sensation:

. . . Without a doubt the biggest thing going in Dakar these days is Titi. Ask any mbalax fan in Dakar between the age of 16-30 and you’ll usually get a “Titi, j’aime titi,” which admittedly makes me laugh every time for every immature reason. Titi is a hot little mbalax number - a classically tall, thin and beautiful Dakaroise woman - who gets about as much radio play these days as Youssou’s latest Live at Bercy. I think her voice sounds a lot like Michael Jackson in his child-star, Jackson 5 days. . .

It happens that Titi features prominently in Mbeuguel Da Fa Khew Vol. 19, a "pirate" compilation by DJ Fallou & Beug Sa Reuw Productions that I picked up in Little Senegal in New York a couple of months ago. Apart from Youssou N'dour and Viviane most of the artists are unknown to me, but I see they're well represented on YouTube, for instance Pape Thiopet here, also Assane Mboup, Abdou Guite Seck and, of course, Titi herself here, here, and here.

Here then is Mbeuguel Da Fa Khew Vol. 19. It's not generally my policy to post "new" recordings in their entirety on Likembe, but since this is a pirate pressing, I think I can make an exception. . .

Titi - Tayou Mako


Assane Mboup - Aye Beugueunte La

Titi - Love You

Yousou N'dour & Viviane N'dour - Amitie

Pape Thiopet & Ass Seck - Takkal

Khadim Diaw - Moytoulma Dokhou Mbende Bi

Aida Ndiaye (Ndiole) - Diama Noir

Assane Ndiaye - Diamale

Abdou Guitte Seck - Beuss Bi

Gorgui Ndiaye - Yaaye

Youssou N'dour - Sama Gamou

Titi - Music

Youssou N'dour - Niit

Titi - Boulma Taanal

Abdou Guitte Seck - Jangaro

Outro



Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Fulani Voice




I linked to a video by Senegalese musician Abou Diouba Deh in my last post about Fatou Laobé without realizing that I've had one of his cassettes for some time, and an excellent one it is.

Like Laobé and the well-known Baaba Maal, Abou Diouba Deh is a member of the Fulani ethnic group. The Fulani, traditionally nomadic, have played an outsize role in West African history. From their homeland in the Fouta Tooro region of northern Senegal and southern Mauretania they have spread as far as the Central African Republic and Sudan. The most prominent Fulani in modern history was Usman Dan Fodio, a religious mystic and political reformer who founded the powerful Sokoto Caliphate in the early 19th Century in what is now Northern Nigeria. Numerous other West African leaders are of Fulani descent.

I've been unable to find out much about Abou Diouba Deh, but his cassette Yoo Bele Ndenndu (Tiïtounde) (Talla Diagne), which I post here, is a great example of the popular "neo-traditional" current in Senegalese music, traditional xalaam and percussion brilliantly complemented by the (uncredited) electric guitar. Enjoy!

Abou Diouba Deh - Gidam

Abou Diouba Deh - Ganndo Mayo

Abou Diouba Deh - Uururbe Daakaa

Abou Diouba Deh - Jaaraama Laaba Juude


Abou Diouba Deh - Beeli Seeno

Abou Diouba Deh - Jasar Wuddu Mbodo

Abou Diouba Deh - Taan Seex Aljumaa Bah

Abou Diouba Deh - Teddungal



Here's that YouTube Video. The cars racing by in the background detract a bit from the folkloric mood, I think:


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dakar Divas Pt. 6: Fatou Laobé




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


Friday, April 10, 2009

More Senegal Swag




Aku and I recently returned from a trip out East for Installment Two of the Spring Break College Tour. I'm happy to report that she's been accepted by a number of renowned institutions - the problem now is to figure out how to pay for the school she finally decides on!

Landing in New York of course we had to make a beeline for
Little Senegal, for Thiebou Yaap, Diiby, Mafé, and pirated CDs by the armful! To hear some of the music we picked up, scroll down.

After a tour of Fordham University (we checked out NYU & Columbia last year) it was off to Boston, where we had dinner with Uchenna of With Comb & Razor fame at Asmara, an excellent Eritrean restaurant in Cambridge, and toured Boston University the next morning. Suitably impressed, we departed for Montréal and world-renowned McGill University.

Never having been there, my impressions of Québéc have all been second-hand: following the traumatic events of 1970, when martial law was declared in the province; reading Pierre Vallières' White Niggers of America; the subsequent election of the separatist Parti Québécois and the ensuing "language wars." So, I didn't know what to expect. Unfortunately, Aku's French-language skills weren't put to the test - everybody we met was enthusiastically bilingual, and often multi-lingual.

I should have asked the crew at Masala for some travel advice before the trip. I'm sure they could have steered us to the (so I'm told) happenin' Afro/Latin/Caribbean scene in
Montréal, but as time was at a premium, we had to content ourselves with wandering the streets around our hotel, mainly in the Vieux Montréal area. Rapidly gentrifying, it still retains a scruffy charm and thankfully hasn't yet been turned into a French-Canadian theme park. Towering cathedrals, funky old architecture and restaurants abound.

You may know that I love good food almost as much as I love good music, and it's apparent that Montréal is a serious food town. French food stars, of course, but just about any cuisine can be found easily. Unfortunately, we didn't get to sample poutine, and we missed out on the legendary Au Pied de Cochon restaurant, but we did follow our guidebook's advice and had a lovely meal at Boris Bistro on rue McGill. I had the Duck Magret with cardamom espresso sauce, and Aku had Duck Risotto, both truly delightful, and reasonably priced as well. Finished off with Tarte Tatin and espresso, it was truly a meal for the ages. The staff couldn't have been nicer, and the manager came over and had a friendly chat with us.

Anybody have any suggestions about what to see, do, eat or hear in Montréal? I definitely want to go back again!

Now to the music we obtained in Little Senegal. I'd wanted to showcase selections from a number of musicians, but one stood out: multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Ousmane Diallo, better known as Ouza, is a "musician's musician" who has achieved cult status in Senegal, not only for his fine music but for his socially-conscious lyrics and his run-ins with the authorities. Over the years he has associated with a series of female backup groups - Les Brancheés, Les Ouzettes and Les 4 Femmes dans le Vent, as well as the Ballet Nationale and the Orchestre Nationale du Senegal. He remained mostly unknown outside of Senegal until 2001 & 2002, when two compilation CDs, Ouza & ses Ouzettes 1975-1990 (Popular African Music PAM OA 208) and Best of Ouza (Africa Productions 01028-2) were released.

The tunes I've chosen here well display his unique blend of mbalax, funk, r&b and jazz.

Here are two tracks from 1975-1990. "Guajira," of course, is an old Cuban song, while "Diriyankee," which originally appeared on the cassette
Nakhe M'Baye (GDL 001, 1982) addresses the exploitation of African resources by the Western world:

Ouza et ses Ouzettes - Guajira

Ouza et le Nobel - Diriyankee


Best of Ouza features music from the latter part of the maestro's career. "La Sante" originally appeared on the 2000 cassette Le Vote (Origines), while "Tamboulaye" is from Sen Sougnou Sama (Talla Digne), which was issued in 1997:

Ouza - La Sante


Ouza ack Ndiaguamarees - Tamboulaye




Diapason Ouza (Keur Serigne Fall) is a live recording released in 1996:

Ouza - Gouye Gui

Ouza - Xadimo

20 Ans?, about which I've been unable to find any recording information, is also apparently a live recording:

Ouza - SIDA Retro

Ouza - Boul Teury

The picture at the top of this post is taken from
Ouza & ses Ouzettes 1975-1990. More Senegal swag in a future post. More non-Senegal music too!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Africa Roots Vol. 4




I'll be out of town for a week and don't expect to be able to blog, but I wanted to get something in, so this one's a quickie.

I never managed to snag Vols. 1-3 of the legendary Africa Roots series, recorded at the Melkweg in Amsterdam in the early '80s. I did get hold of the fourth and final (?) installment, and what a wonderful recording it is!

Click on the picture below to read about the artists and the songs. The standout here is Mali's legendary Salif Keita along with the equally fabled Kante Manfila and Ousmane Kouyate, who deliver a scorching rendition of the Ambassadeurs classic "Primpin." Senegal's Baaba Maal, Algeria's Cheb Mami, Angola's Bonga and A.B. Crentsil from Ghana don't disappoint either with inspired renditions of some of their greatest songs. It's all good!

Listening to these tracks will take some of you back to the exciting days of the '80s when every day brought a new revelation for us African music fans and World Music™ had yet to be conceived. Enjoy!

Salif Keita & Les Ambassadeurs - Primpin

Baaba Maal & l'Orchestre - Dental

Baaba Maal & l'Orchestre - Yela

Baaba Maal & l'Orchestre - Lomtoro

Cheb Mami - Sanlou Ala Enabi

Bonga - Kua' Sanzala

Bonga - Camin Longe

A.B. Crentsil - Osokoo

A.B. Crentsil - Atia


A.B. Crentsil - Ahurusi




Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Racines Africaines et Feeling Jazzy




Idrissa Diop's LP Femme Noire (Volume LK 0188, 1987) is complimentary, and a companion of sorts, to Seydina Insa Wade's Yoff (Disques Esperance ESP 8415, 1985), featured in my last post.

Superficially, of course, Diop's electronic explorations couldn't sound more different from Yoff's mellow groove. But Diop was the featured percussionist on Yoff, and both discs share a willingness to push the boundaries of the mainstream Senegal sound. According to the profile on Diop's MySpace page, Diop and Wade pursued parallel careers, both playing in the Rio Sextet and Calypso Jazz in Dakar besides collaborating in the folk group Tabala. Since parting way with Wade in the '80s Diop has pursued an adventurous career in Paris, founding the jazz group Sixun and performing with the likes of Harry Belafonte, Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter and other musical luminaries.

The musicians on Femme Noire are unfortunately uncredited, although Diop gives thanks on the album sleeve to Xalam and French musician Jean-Philippe Rykiel.

Idrissa Diop - Yaracodo

Idrissa Diop - M'bidane (La Bonne)


Idrissa Diop - Gueule Tapée


Idrissa Diop - Worunana


Idrissa Diop - Kawele Ciosane (Ouverture)


Idrissa Diop - Djiguene Diou Nioule (Femme Noire)


Idrissa Diop - Sahel




Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Senegalese Auteur




I ordered Seydina Insa Wade's LP Yoff (Disques Esperance ESP 8415, 1985) from Sterns many years ago not knowing anything about the album or the artist, and it was a revelation.
The LP achieves a magical blend of acoustic and electric sounds that stands out even among the many great Senegalese recordings of the '80s.

I had always thought that Yoff was a one-off effort by an otherwise obscure musician, but in researching this post I discovered that Seydina Insa Wade is anything but a flash in the pan. He is a highly accomplished auteur and composer whose work is greatly respected by all the giants of Senegalese music.

Wade was born in Dakar in 1948 and began his musical career in the Rio Sextet, later moving on to Calypso Jazz, with whom he performed in the first Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres (FESTAC I) in 1966. A sympathizer of the political Left in Senegal, Wade's compositions took on many of the social issues of the day. In the late '60s he briefly joined the first incarnation of Xalam, moving on to the Negro Stars, La Plantation and the Sahel Band.

It was in the early 1980s that Wade achieved what many consider the apotheosis of modern Senegalese folk music with the formation of the acoustic group Tabala, featuring percussionist Idrissa Diop and multi-instrumentalist Oumar Sow. These were the musicians with whom Wade recorded Yoff, which brought him a measure of renown and a tour of several European countries. The musicians subsequently went their separate ways, Sow returning to Senegal to join Youssou N'dour's Super Etoile, Diop forming the jazz-fusion group Sixun, and Wade rejoining the reconstituted Xalam.

In 2003 Seydina Insa Wade returned to Senegal to reunite with Oumar Sow and record the CD Xalima, the subject of a documentary by filmmaker Ousmane William Mbaye, "Xalima-La Plume."

Click on the pictures to read the liner notes (in French).



Seydina Insa Wade - Ciat

Seydina Insa Wade - Fama Re

Seydina Insa Wade - Yoff

Seydina Insa Wade - So Bugge

Seydina Insa Wade - Beure Bouki Ak M'Bam

Seydina Insa Wade - Seni Dom

Seydina Insa Wade - Taaruna

Seydina Insa Wade - Len Dem



Download Yoff as a zipped file here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Forty Years of Xalam




Remember back in the early '80s when King Sunny Adé hit the scene in America? Not only was he said to be the next Bob Marley, the record companies were falling all over themselves to find the next "Big Thing" out of Africa. In short order Sonny Okosun and Tabu Ley Rochereau were launched on US tours, and there was a sprinkling of record releases by various artists. None of this had much impact - the "African Music Explosion" of the early '80s turned out to be a bit of a dud, although it paved the way for World Music™ a few years later. Whoopdy-doo!

One group that had more of an impact than most during this time was Touré Kunda, a Paris-based combo founded by a group of brothers from the Casamance region of southern Senegal. Touré Kunda didn't get a lot of respect from the more hard-core African music fans. A friend of mine came back from one of their concerts in Madison sneering at their "African bubble-gum music."

I've always thought Touré Kunda got a bum rap. Behind the slick production values their sound was always true to the music of their native region, which has never been as "angular" as that of Senegal's North.

Popular around the same time, although not so much in the US, was the Paris-based "Afro-Jazz" group Xalam, which if I am not mistaken, also has its roots in the Casamance. The group was founded in 1969 by percussionist Abdoulaye Prosper Niang. Xalam achieved a level of "mainstream" success that most African musicians can only dream of: recording with the Rolling Stones, opening for Crosby, Stills & Nash and Robert Plant, soundtrack gigs and innumerable world tours over the years. After a few rough years following the death of Niang in 1988 and the replacement of most of the original members, Xalam is this year celebrating its fortieth anniversary!

I've always loved Xalam's LP Gorée, released in 1983 by the French label Celluloid (CEL 6656). The album updates Senegalese folkloric themes to great effect, highlighted by spot-on percussion and the brilliant trombone work of Yoro Gueye. If you like this one, be sure to check out some of Xalam's other recordings, some of which are newly available after many years out of print.

Here's the music, along with song descriptions from the liner notes:

Derived from Mandingo folklore, "Sidy Yella" was also a hit for Touré Kunda. "A Mandingo son, a brave humanitarian warrior, defended his people against the invader with dignity, and died on the battleground":

Xalam - Sidy Yella

"A song about motherly love. A child sings for her mother at the first rooster call. 'When the rooster announces the start of the day, when the girls sing and the boys dance. . . ,' the child sings to her mother. Serere song. N'diouf rhythm":

Xalam - Ade 2

"Gorée is an island located 3 kms from Dakar. An important place, it was made a Portuguese, Dutch, English and French trading post. Thousands of Africans were 'exported' to the USA, the West Indies, Brazil, Haiti & Cuba, transporting a whole culture and civilization. Diola rhythm (Saw Ruba)":

Xalam - Gorée

"Song of the struggle. An old champion recounts his feats and speaks of struggle, of the life which demands sacrifice, courage, patience, willpower and faith: 'There where we pass, the one that passes collects mud.' Life is an eternal struggle. Wolof song. Saban rhythm":

Xalam - Kanu 2

"The story of a woman who prays to the god Djisalbero for a child. Her prayers go unanswered and she sees that around her the other women who have children hardly spend their time caring for them or simply abandon them. Diola song. Boncarabon rhythm":

Xalam - Djisalbero

"The struggle for the liberation of oppressed black people and of man in his home and birthplace. The struggle for the unification of African people. the struggle against racism and apartheid":

Xalam - Soweto

Many thanks to my daughter Aku for translating these liner notes. Click on the pictures at the top of the post and below to reveal the album sleeve in full. Download Gorée as a zipped file here, and thanks to reader/listener Soulsalaam for making the Xalam LP "Ade" Live at Festival Horizonte Berlin available here.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

African Divas Vol. 2




As promised, here is African Divas Vol. 2, originally posted last year as African Serenades Vol. 47b at Matsuli Music.

I apologize for the brevity of this post. Perhaps in the future when I have more time I will update it to include background information about these wonderful singers:

1. Abidjan Adja - Antoinette Konan (Côte d'Ivoire)
2. Barika Barika - Djeneba Seck (Mali)
3. Meta Meta - Martha Ashagari (Ethiopia)
4. Ami - Bebe Manga (Cameroun)
5. Ekwe - Onyeka Onwenu (Nigeria)
6. Medim Me Yom - Tity Edima (Cameroun)
7. La Paille et la Poutre - Nimon Toki Lala (Togo)
8. Mundeke - Afrigo Band featuring Rachael Magoola (Uganda)
9. Takko Wade - Kiné Lam (Senegal)
10. Keffa - Abonesh Adnew (Ethiopia)
11. Nyu Madin - Marthe Zambo (Cameroun)
12. Don't Let Me Go - Hindirah (Côte d'Ivoire)
13. Pare Chocs - Vonga Aye (Congo)
14. Dieleul-Dieuleul - Aby Ngana Diop (Senegal)
African Divas Vol. 2

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Two Giants of Senegal Music




What is the deal with Moos, over at Global Groove? Can he read my mind? As I noted here, I had wanted to post the LP Somo Somo, but Moos posted it first. I've been wanting to post another great LP, Super Diamono de Dakar's classic People (Feel One DK015, 1987) for some time, and once again Global Groove beats me to the punch! Seriously, Moos' blog, having been online only a short while, is a "must go to" site featuring all kinds of rarieties from Africa and the diaspora. So, check it out.

I have a trump card, though: Euleuk Sibir! (Xippi), the mid-'90s collaboration between Senegal's top two stars of mbalax, Youssou N'Dour and Omar Pene, lead vocalist of Super Diamono de Dakar.

In an earlier post I wrote, ". . .I think most people in the know would agree that the three top male vocalists in Senegal are Youssou N'dour, Thione Seck and Omar Pene. To say one of these is 'the greatest' is to miss the point; that's like comparing apples, oranges and kiwis." On reflection Baaba Maal should probably be added to that pantheon also, not that there isn't a flock of other great Senegalese vocalists as well!

If you're reading this, I assume you have at least a cursory knowledge of Youssou N'dour and his Super Etoile de Dakar (and if you don't, go here). Omar Pène is a lot less well-known outside of Senegal, but he easily approaches N'dour in terms of popularity and sales in that country. He founded Super Diamono in 1975, and has had a number of smash hits with the group in the years since. Pène's lyrics are notable for their concentration on social issues as opposed to the praise singing that characterizes much African music.

Youssou and Omar are friendly competitors who each have rabid followings. The Super Diamono sound could be characterized as "darker" and "bluesier" that that of Super Etoile. To my knowledge, the cassette Eueleuk Sibir! is their only recording together, and it's a certifiable classic. But don't take my word for it - hear for yourself!

Omar Pène & Youssou N'dour - Euleuk Sibir!

Youssou N'dour & Omar Pène - Silmaxa

Omar Pène - Tongo

Youssou N'dour & Omar Pène - Warougar

Omar Pène & Youssou N'dour - Indépendance

Youssou N'dour - Ndanane

Discography of Youssou N'dour & le Super Etoile de Dakar

Discography of Omar Pène & Super Diamono de Dakar

You can download Euleuk Sibir! as a zipped file here.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Dakar Divas Pt. 5: Viviane N'dour




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!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Culinary Adventures, Senegalese Pirates


I've recently returned from something that's become a ritual for many parents of high school juniors: The Spring Break College Tour! My daughter Aku and I visited a number of esteemed institutions out East this past week, and were suitably impressed. It's going to take us a while to process everything and decide on a place where she can best pursue her studies in the years to come.

Enough of that, though.
Some of you may be familiar with Chris Meserve from his frequent auctions of African vinyl on Ebay. Chris gave us some excellent advice on where to stay in New York City (just a couple of blocks from his house in Woodside, Queens), and Aku and I spent an hour or so with him and his delightful two-year-old daughter Koko at Sri Pra Phai, a wonderful Thai restaurant in the neighborhood.

I was first introduced to Thai food 35 years ago when I lived in Los Angeles. The cuisine then was almost completely unknown to the general public and L.A.'s Thai restaurants were patronized pretty much exclusively by immigrants. The food was fresh, uncompromising and usually fiery hot. Over the years as Thai food has become more popular in the US the inevitable bastardization has occurred. Every one-horse town now has its Thai joint dishing out mountains of sickly-sweet Pad Thai and "Volcano Chicken." There are a few standouts, notably Sticky Rice and Spoon Thai in Chicago, but I've generally despaired of finding the Thai food that I came to know and love in California. I'm happy to report that Sri Pra Phai is the real deal, and it's been acclaimed as such by just about every restaurant critic in New York City. So, check it out the next time you're there.

Unfortunately there wasn't time to explore Chris's legendary African music collection. But no matter - Monday, after visiting NYU and Columbia, Aku and I paid a visit to Manhattan's Little Senegal along 116th St., and just steps from the subway discovered Africa Kiné, the most impressive of the neighborhood's many Senegalese restaurants. Here we enjoyed a repast of Thiebou Yapp and Dibi, washed down with homemade ginger beer, and while I don't think Africa Kiné reaches the exalted heights of San Francisco's Bissap Baobab, it's certainly highly recommended.
I regret that we weren't able to visit more of New York City's African restaurants, which cover a wide swath of territory: Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Nigeria, Guinea and Ethiopia, as well as Senegal. Another day, perhaps!

The most serendipitous discovery in Little Senegal, though, was a storefront offering hundreds of pirated Senegalese CDs at $3 a pop.
All of the big names were represented, and lots of the little ones, too. In the back room we could see people busily copying CDs and stuffing them into slim-line cases along with crudely-copied liner notes. My reservations about contributing to this dubious enterprise were offset by the chance to obtain hard-to-find music at hard-to-beat prices. How could I resist? To hear some of the music I copped scroll down to the bottom of this post.

Having heard much of Caffe Adulis, a legendary "Eritrean/Mediterranean" restaurant in New Haven, I was looking forward to a visit. The chef here has aspirations to broaden the parameters of Eritrean cuisine by incorporating influences from the Middle East and the Mediterranean, certainly a noble endeavor. Aku and I both enjoyed the "Adulis Appetizer," described as "seared shrimp sauteed with tomato, scallions, cabbage and garlic, served in a spicy, light cream, parmesan, basmati rice sauce." Perhaps to get a better feel for what Adulis is all about, we should have ordered a couple of the more adventurous entrees, but we wanted to sample the "Traditional Eritrean Dishes," lamb and chicken Tsebhe. What a disappointment! Both featured bland chunks of meat in an insipid, watery sauce, like Eritrean food from a can, if such a thing exists. I certainly can't claim to have tried every Ethiopian or Eritrean restaurant in the US (the two cuisines are almost identical), but judged by its execution of the standards, Adulis doesn't even make the top ten. For what it's worth, my favorite Ethiopian restaurant of all time continues to be Chicago's Ras Dashen.
Here's some of the music I picked up from the aforementioned pirate shack. I also obtained an almost-complete collection of the recordings of Viviane N'dour, who will be the subject of a future Dakar Divas.

I confesss that I tuned Youssou N'dour (Viviane's former brother-in-law) out about twenty years ago, but he continues to make good music, if you're willing to explore beyond the World Music
™ ghetto at the local Best Buy. Here's a track from his live release Bercy 2004 Vol. 2 (Jololi, 2004):

Youssou N'dour & le Super Etoile - 4.4.44

Here's another tune by Youssou taken from a bootleg compilation, Mbalax Supreme 13 by DJ Zacharia:

Youssou N'dour & le Super Etoile - Boolo Leen


I think most people in the know would agree that the three top male vocalists in Senegal are Youssou N'dour, Thione Seck and Omar Pene. To say one of these is "the greatest" is to miss the point; that's like comparing apples, oranges and kiwis. Still, I've always had a soft spot for Thione Seck, veteran of Orchestre Baobab, whose soulful voice thrills me like no other. From another bootleg release, Best of Thione Seck, here are a few representative tunes:

Thione Seck & le Raam Daan - Mane Mi Gnoul


Thione Seck & le Raam Daan - Yaye Boye

Thione Seck & le Raam Daan - Yeen

Didier Awadi was a founder of Senegalese hip-hop group Positive Black Soul and has been a solo artist since 2002. Here's a selection from his second CD, Sunugaal (Studio Sankara,
2006):

Awadi - Djow Sa Gaal

If you've been around here long you know I'm just crazy about Kiné Lam. Unfortunately I'm not aware of anything she's put out since 2003's Cey Geer (Jololi) but I'm happy to report that I've obtained a CD rip of that cassette, from which the following two songs are taken:

Kiné Lam - Jullig Geejgi

Kiné Lam - Nafissatou

Finally, here's a tune from one of Senegal's new crop of female vocalists, the lovely and talented Ami Collé. This is from her CD Defar Ba Mou Baax. Click here for a video:

Ami Collé - Dieng Salla

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Dakar Divas Pt. 4: Ndeye Mbaye




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

Dakar Divas Pt. 3: Aby Ngana Diop




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.