Djanbutu Thiossane was the group formed by Ass El Hadj Samba N’Diaye and his brothers, Baye Mass and Pap. They are members of a respected family of Senegalese jali (hereditary musician-storytellers) from the small town of Luga, located close to the Mauritanian border.
Ass, Mass, and Pap have the jembe (a large, single-headed, goblet-shaped drum)in their blood. All three are percussionists, as is their father, Demba. The Ass, Mass & Pap album highlights the jembe as well as the distinct tones of the sabar, drums carved from mahogany and played with one hand and a long, whip-like stick. Fellow Senegalese jali Massaba Samba joins in on the dundun (talking drum), adding greater rhythmic variety. Bekai Jobarteh, a Manding kora player born in Gambia, provides the melody.
The lyrics of Djanbutu Thiossane’s songs are rooted in the praise-singing tradition of the jali. Some of the themes are timeless, such as the admonition for young people to honor their parents (Track 3: “Wadiour”, Track 7: “Nanganama”), while others (Track 2: “Immigrés”) address contemporary social pressures. The N’Diaye brothers take their musical heritage very seriously, and their songs are infused with a reverence for the past as well as a strong contemporary sensibility.
Djanbutu Thiossane’s Mbalax sound, a modern, percussive music that blends Senegalese drumming, Afro-Cuban rhythms, and American pop, is second to none. Ass, Mass, and Pap keep very close to tradition, but when they lay down a dance beat they bring the house down.
Baaba Maal was born in Podor, a town with a population of 6,000, on the banks of the river Senegal that separates the country of the same name from Mauritania. Baaba’s family is Hal Pulaar, known in the English speaking world as Fulani. He is not from a jeli family (the hereditary caste of musicians and oral historians).
Music was an integral part of Baaba Maal’s’s childhood. His father worked in the fields but was also given the honor and responsibility of using songs to call the worshippers to the mosque. Baaba’s mother was a musician who sang and wrote her own songs educating her son in the musical forms of the area and encouraging the young Baaba to value intelligent and thoughtful lyrics.
At the same time Baaba was listening to black music coming out of the United States of America, people like James Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Etta James. Later he caught up with Jamaican musicians such as Toots Hibbert, Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff who Baaba later met on a tour of Senegal in the mid-70’s along with band guitarist of the time, Ernest Ranglin.
Baaba went to school in St. Louis, the original French colonial capital and, on winning an Art scholarship, on to Senegal’s modern capital, Dakar. There he joined Asly Fouta a group of 70 musicians and spent his time with the group learning as much as he could about the local musical instruments and how they work.
After leaving college, he toured West Africa with longtime friend, guitarist and jeli, Mansour Seck, soaking up more knowledge, “it’s traditional for young musicians to do that. When you arrive in every village you do a gig. This makes you friendly with all the young people who are in the village. The next day the young people take you to visit the oldest person who knows about the history of the village and the country and about the history of the music”. From there Baaba lived in Paris for several years, studying at the Fine Arts Conservatary, with ears still wide open. On arriving back in Senegal, Baaba formed his band Daande Lenol (Voice of the People).
On his CD, Missing You….Mi Yeewnii, Baaba Maal focused on the acoustic, poetic side of his heritage. The original recording sessions for “Missing You used a mobile studio based in Toubab Dialaw, Senegal, and took place outdoors after dark which accounts for the clicking of crickets which can heard throughout the album. The recording continued at Real World Studios in Wiltshire and the album was mixed at Abbey Road and Real World.
With a dozen solo and collaborative albums behind him, Baaba Maal is a man with a mission beyond his music. In his role as Youth Emissary for the United Nations’ Development Program, Baaba Maal is committed to the concerns of families, young people and the future of his continent. When he tours the world, his role as a representative of the United Nations’ Development Program is never far away. Both elements come together when Baaba features in musical projects such as the Fela Kuti Tribute Red Hot and Riot, put together by HIV/Aids awareness campaign group The Red Hot Organisation.
In February 2005 Baaba was the special guest speaker for a lecture at the British Museum where he gave his views on Africa, speaking passionately and eloquently of the continent?s strengths and its challenges. On April 1st 2005 he sold out a special performance at the UK’s Royal Festival Hall. He was then invited to headline Glastonbury’s Jazz World Stage on June 25th and also to lead a show of solidarity with the Make Poverty History Campaign with Bob Geldof. On July 2nd Baaba made a speech in support of Make Poverty History in Edinburgh, and addressed the rally in advance of the G8 Summit at Gleneagles.
By now an honorary griot, Baaba says, “It strengthens my determination to work harder to contribute more to improving the living conditions of disadvantaged people of the African continent,
especially young people, whose future is seriously threatened by illiteracy, poverty and HIV/AIDS. When I am talking about Africa, it is about how Africa will grow into the new millennium.”
Passion – Sources (Real World Records, 1989) Djam Leelii, with Mansour Seck (Mango Records, 1989) Baayo, with Mansour Seck (Mango Records, 1991) Lam Toro (Mango Records, 1992) Wango (Syllart, 1994) Firin’ in Fouta (Mango Records, 1994) Gorel (4th & Broadway, 1995) Taara (Melodie, 1997) Nomad Soul (Import, 1998) Djam Leelii: The Adventurers (Yoff Productions, 1998) Jombaajo (Sonodisc, 2000) Missing You – Mi Yeewnii (Palm, 2001) The Best of the Early Years, compilation (Wrasse, 2003) Palm World Voices: Baaba Maal, compilation (Palm, 2005) On The Road (Palm, 2008) Television (Palm, 2009) The Traveller (Palm / Marathon Artists, 2016)
Senegalese-French band Guiss Guiss Bou Bess is set to perform a showcase today at the World Music Expo WOMEX today. The concert will take place at Twin Stage A, Plaza de la Música in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain.
Mara Seck and Stephane Costantini talked about this project with World Music Central.
Tell us about your background in music.
Mara Seck: I began music since I was a child, since I was raised in a big family of Senegalese griots, the Sing Sing Family. When I was 16 I played a lot with Garmi Fall, a band mixing jazz funk with Senegalese music (mbalax). With this band we toured during 4 years (from 2006 to 2010) in Senegal and in Europe. After that I focused on my solo act and working with other artists in Senegal, until I met Stephane and decided to work together.
Stephane Costantini: I also learned music quite early in music school in South East France, first guitar then drums and percussion. As a teenager I played in a reggae dub music band, which last for ten years. I also began to produce beats and instrumentals for rappers and local sound systems. This is where my love for Afro and Caribbean music started to grow, as well as more electronic beats and bass music. When I moved to Paris, I played percussions a lot in different bands (jazz, funk, rock, Latin American, music, French chanson, etc), and I started a band playing live electronic hip hop. Then I moved to Dakar…
How did the two of you connect?
Stéphane: We met in Dakar, during a concert in an art place and venue called Les Petites Pierres. This place was a good place to listen to good and unconventional live music and to play jams no matter the genres you’re into. The place is now closed for repair works but it gathered a lot of people from the music scene in Dakar. So our encounter was quite informal and natural. Mara was interested in electronic music and I wanted to get more into the essence of Senegalese mbalax music, which is sabar music. At the time Mara just had his first solo EP out and wanted to do remixes of some of his songs. But then we started to rework the songs together and the musical outcome went to a much different dimension…
What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?
Mara: It’s a mix between traditional and modern music. We’re trying to make use of African instruments like Tama, Sabar and Djembe, but in a rather unconventional way, since the electronic music is thought to integrate the original rhythms, melodies and voicing, and not the other way around. The essential goal is also to value and make the people discover the tradition of Senegalese Sabar percussion and dances, which is far less known as other genres like the Manding percussion in West Africa. We named this encounter ‘electro-sabar’, since there wasn’t a musical genre to coin what we are doing. But what we can say about it is that it is very rhythm led, and bass music influenced African music.
Who can you cite as your main musical influences?
Mara: I listen to a lot of things, from coupé décalé to Senegalese mbalax and electronic music. If I had to cite a few, I’ll say Michael Jackson, Alpha Blondy for African reggae, and speaking of Senegalese music, our own (and unavoidable!) Youssou Ndour, but also Baaba Mall and Cheick Lô.
Stéphane: as a real ‘musicoholic’ I must confess it’s a really hard question! I use to listen to a lot of reggae, dub and hip hop, and a lot of African music too. to say it broad and quickly, black music is essential to my ears and soul. Electronic music wise, Amon Tobin and guys like Dj Vadim or Dj Shadow got me really into making beats. And I also owe a lot to the UK bass music scene since its beginning, being it UK dub, drum and bass or UK garage to dubstep and more darker techno. Artists like Swindle, Joker, TC or Machinedrum are coming to my mind right now, but there a bunch more to be cited!
Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.
Mara, Stéphane: It’s a bit early to answer this question since our first EP is not out yet! It will reach the stores and digital platforms this autumn and gathers the music we were working first hand we met in late ’16 / early ’17.
Right now we are working on a full length record, trying to push further this quite unique collaboration. And creating new bridges between sabar and electronic music.
Can you share some information about the program you’ll present at the WOMEX 2018 in Gran Canaria?
We’re really thrilled to play at WOMEX this year! We’ll try to present an overview of the project as it is since our first European tour this summer. And a new live VJ set will be prepared for the occasion, with Benjamin Richard-Foy, who is also doing visuals for our mate and great artist IBAAKU (go check him out if you haven’t already done so!). So we want it to be an immersive audio-visual experience as well as a participatory live show (don’t forget to bring your dancing shoes to Gran Canaria!).
What musicians will you take to Gran Canaria?
We’ll be 3 musicians, with Senegalese fellow drummer Aba Diop coming with us. And Ben, our VJ like we said earlier 😉
How’s the current world music scene in Senegal?
Mara: Nowadays in Dakar, It’s a lot about hiphop music, with young and talented Senegalese rappers taking over and some events filling the big stadiums. That said, the Mbalax music is not dead, but the scene is kind of saturated, and only a handful of singers can handle making a living from it. And on the side, there’s a lot of acoustic and traditional musicians who are still finding their way, but with a less wider public.
To sum up, the music scene is full of young talents but it severely lacks economic and logistic support to make the things working fully.
If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?
Mara : For our work we already collaborated with a lot of great musicians, mainly Senegalese singers and instrumentalists, and I hope we will keep it that way! That said, why not collaborating with a great American performer like Beyonce or Jay Z, mixing Sabar with their music. If I’m allowed to dream, that could create a really different universe…
Stéphane: for my part, I’d love to do some collabs with Kenyan producers from the East African Wave collective, as their are producing a lot of great music mixing African and urban sounds, I really dig it. More European oriented, the Mancunian guys from Swing Ting are making really groovy productions and dope collabs with Jamaican singers, and their style is quite unique. Maybe for a next remix?
Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?
Not that we have already talked about! New music coming out, and insh’allah a lot of touring 🙂
Celebrated Senegalese artist Pape Cheikh Diouf wil be touring North America in July and August. He derives his music on his family’s guewel (griot) traditions to sing about love, life lessons and the Wolof ideal of “teranga” – mutual respect, acceptance and hospitality.
A member of the Lemzo Diamono Group, Pape Diouf made his solo recording debut in 1998, and, with the help of his band, la Gènèration Conciente, has revitalized Dakar’s classic m’balax sound ever since. His stirring songs, enthralling voice and charismatic stage presence have earned him a string of hits, including 2011’s “Bèguè”, which made him a superstar in West Africa.
His most recent album, Rakkaaju, was released to massive critical and popular acclaim in Senegal in 2014, reinforcing Diouf’s place as a leading artist in Dakar.
Pape Cheikh Diouf 2016 North American Tour Dates:
Sunday, July 9th: The Cultural Building, Harlem, NY
Sunday, July 10th: The Music Haven Concert Series, Schenectady, NY
Friday, July 15th: Detroit, MI — TBA
Saturday, July 16th: Chicago, IL — TBA
Sunday, July 17th: Festival Fete de Marquette, Madison, WI
Monday, July 18th: The Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis, MN
Friday, July 22nd: Cincinnati, OH — TBA
Saturday, July 23rd, Atlanta, GA — TBA
Friday, July 23rd: RI — TBA
Saturday, July 30th: Washington, DC
Saturday, August 6th: Montreal, QC
Sunday, August 7th: ACANA Festival, Philadelphia, PA
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