Showing posts with label Wolof. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wolof. 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).


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



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


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, 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.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dakar Divas Pt. 2: Daro Mbaye




Although I love the new generation of female vocalists out of Senegal - ladies like Viviane and Aby Ndour - there's still a special place in my heart for the "first generation" of singers to break into the masculine world of mbalax back in the late '80s and early '90s.

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

Dakar Divas Pt. 1: Kiné Lam




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