Tag Archives: Senegal

Artist Profiles: Seckou Keita

Seckou Keita – Photo by Andy Morgan

Seckou Keita was born in 1977 in the green region of Casamance (south of Senegal),. He is a descendant of the Keita family of Kings from Mali.

Seckou’s lineage would normally not allow him to become a jeli (griot), but he was raised by his mother’s family, the Cissokho’s [also known as Sissoko], a well-established griot family in Senegal.

Although a kora player through the jeli tradition, his thirst for music has also made him an outstanding drummer and percussionist.

Seckou started to perform professionally at festivals in Senegal at the age of seven, supporting his famous uncle Solo Cissokho. By the age of 12, he had formed his own group, Coute Diomboulou and was performing throughout the country.

His international career took off in 1996 under the guidance of his uncle Solo Cissokho, living in Scandinavia.

Seckou performed at the Forde festival in Norway with musicians from Norway, India and Cuba. The group combined the traditional music from each of the countries represented to create a new musical style. This led to a tour for the group the following year at the Global Music Festival in India where they performed with Dr L. Subramanian, an internationally renowned violinist and composer.

In 1998, Seckou relocated to the UK where he became a member of Baka Beyond. He performed around Europe (the Czech Republic, Spain, France, Portugal, Greece and of course the UK) in festivals such as Womad and Glastonbury.

He became an indispensable element of most of the African festivals such as Drum Camp, Ace and Tribe of Doris. And has also been greatly in demand for private parties, weddings and first night openings of musicals such as the Lion King in Covent Garden.

In the middle of 2000, Seckou started recording his first album “Baiyo” (meaning Orphan). The album was finally released on June 20t, 2001. Baiyo represents Seckou’s journey from Africa to Europe via India.

He also participated in the ETE project, which released an album in November 2001 and led to a UK tour on March 2002.

In 2001, he impressed audiences as a solo performer at WOMAD Las Palmas (Spain), the Sacred Music Festival (Ireland) and at the Jazz Café (London) for the Africa night broadcasted by BBC Radio 3. This wassuch a success that he was nominated by the listeners of Radio 3 for the World Music Award 2001.

Seckou also created Jamoral, which was the first step to modernizing kora music with a groove dance approach. The band performed at different festivals such as WOMAD Reading, the Edinburgh Festival and the Epicuriales (France).

As a musicians family, the Cissokhos have always dreamt of being united to carry on the powerful tradition throughout the world and to introduce in its modern form. This dream was first mentioned by Solo the patriarch of the family Solo Cissokho and was called Jalikunda (the House of Griots).

In 2002, Seckou carried on this idea by inviting 4 members of his family to tour all over UK in renowned festivals such as Glastonbury (Jazz/World Stage), Womad festival and Window of the World where the band performed alongside Cheikh Lo and Papa Wemba.

This was such a success that Seckou decided to produce the first family album, <a

href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00009AQMW/105-2850599-3152441?ie=UTF8&amp;tag=musidelmund-20&amp;linkCode=xm2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creativeASIN=B00009AQMW”>Lindiane</a>, which was released in February 2003.

In 2004, he began working with Juldeh Camara, the monocord fiddle or riti player from The Gambia who later hit the big time with Justin Adams and Robert Plant.

A new ‘quintet’ began to form around Seckou which included the bassist Davide Mantonvani, Seckou’s 17-year-old brother Surhata Susso and the classically-trained violinist Samy Bishai. Mandé, Arab, Indian, pan-African, jazzy – a wonderful mix of sounds was present on the group’s first album Tama Silo: Afro-Mandinka Soul, released in 2006. Seckou then took the quintet back home to showcase this new blend to family and friends in Senegal, where they were joined by his sister Binta Susso.

Their next album, The Silimbo Passage released in 2008. The Seckou Keita Quintet toured incessantly during this period, notching up more than 200 concerts in over 40 countries.

Seckou also became involved with the WOMAD festival as a performer and a workshop host, traveling to Singapore, Australia and the Canary Islands, and played at WOMAD UK with Catrin Finch in 2014.

He is a regular performer in Do You Speak Djembe?, an ambitious percussion extravangaza series in France and Switzerland created by Sewabeats founder Doug Manuel, and French composer Philip Fournier, the lead conductor of the Lyons Symphony Orchestra.

His previous albums Miro and The Silimbo Passage hit No.1 in the European world music charts. The collaboration has since given over 130 performances throughout Europe, the US and Canada and garnered huge critical acclaim from fans and critics alike.

His solo album, 22 Strings, was released in May 2015.

In 2016, Seckou was invited to play with Damon Albarn’s African Express with the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians.

Seckou Keita and Catrin Finch

The second collaboration with Catrin Finch was SOAR, released in 2018.

In 2018, Keita formed AKA Trio, together with Italian guitarist Antonio Forcione and Brazilian percussionist Adriano Adewale. The group released an album titled Joy in 2018.


Baka Beyond Presents Eté ‎(March Hare Music, 2001)
Mali (ARC Music, 2003)
Afro Mandinka Soul: Tama Silo (ARC Music, 2006)
The Silimbo Passage (World ArtVentures, 2009)
Miro (Astar Artes Recordings, 2012)
Clychau Dibon, with Catrin Finch (Astar Artes/Mwldan, 2013)
22 Strings – 22 Cordes (ARC Music, 2015)
Transparent Water, with Omar Sosa (Otá Records, 2017)
Soar, with Catrin Finch (Bendigedig, 2018)
Joy ( Bendigedig, 2018)


Artist Profiles: Doudou N’Diaye Rose

Doudou Ndiaye Rose

Mamadou Ndiaye, etter known as Doudou Ndiaye Rose, was born July 28, 1930 in Senegal. A true cultural ambassador for his country, Doudou N’Diaye Rose was considered as one of the great musician of the 20th century. Guardian of the tradition, but also an untiring innovator, this virtuoso of percussion was perceived as a true conductor, just as the great conductors of symphony orchestras (he conducted bands from 20 to 100 drummers).

He had a passion for sounds and for harmonies, he loved to make his group reverberate like a tremendous rhythmical machine, which he controled with the hands of a master, using his baton to guide the musicians with an irresistible authority and natural charisma. He weaved together an unbelievable number of rhythmical phrases, superimposing them in a complex and elusive pattern, which reached ears as a kind of fabulous melody. He created real symphonies of drums. He enjoyed an international career, traveled the planet, gave fantastic concerts, and composed and collaborated with various famous artists.

Doudou Ndiaye Rose

Doudou Ndiaye Rose died on August 19, 2015 in Dakar, Senegal.


Sabar (Encore!, 1986)
Djabote (Real World, 1992)
Dakar, with Bagad Men Ha Tan (L’Oz Production, Naïve, 2000)
Mix, Live (Ornorm Production, 2004)


Artist Profiles: Djimo Kouyate

Djimo Kouyate

Djimo Kouyate (kora, voice) was from the Malinke ethnic group, a sub-group of the Manding people. Born in Tamba Counda, Senegal, he was part of a family of jelis (oral historians) who trace their ancestry to the thirteenth century.

An excellent kora player, Djimo was also a drummer and dancer. He worked with the Senegalese National Ballet, and was a founding member of the National Instrumental Ensemble of Senegal. He performed extensively throughout Europe and the United States, and headed the educational organization Memory of African Culture.

Kouyate had 7 recordings, Djimo: West African Kora Music,
African Odyssey Vol. 2 (Music Of The World 1989) , Fa Kae – Djimo Kouyate/Manding Kora Music, (Music Of The World 1987) , Yankadi – Djimo Kouyate/Manding Drum Rhythms, Goree, featuring Mamaya African Jazz; and Diali Djimo Kouyate:Khabila (Family Lineage) and features traditional Manding Griot Ensemble music. His last CD released in December2003 is titled Wato Sita: This is the Time…for Peace and was a blending of the traditional with the contemporary. On this instrumental recording Kouyate was joined by guest artists Bouba Sacko (Mali) on guitar, Balla Kouyate (Mali) on bala and Pepe Gonzalez (Spain) on upright bass.

Djimo Kouyate died on August 1, 2004. (read the obituary)


Artist Profiles: Cheikh M’Baye and Sing Sing Rhythm

Cheikh M’Baye and Sing Sing Rhythm

Cheikh M’Baye and Sing Sing Rhythm is a drum and dance company of Wolof griots from Medina, Senegal. Founded in 1987, the group is named for their ancestor, Sing Sing Faye, the first master drummer of the Cape Verde peninsula.

They have performed and toured extensively in Africa, Europe, Canada, the Virgin Islands, and the U.S., and have recorded with such luminaries as Peter Gabriel, Youssou N’Dour, Randy Weston, Jack DeJohnette, Angelique Kidjo, and Craig Harris. Their CD, Mame Bouna, is a true representation of the traditional rhythms of the Wolof people of Senegal.


Mame Bouna: Cheikh Taîrou M’baye And Sing Sing Rhythm (Mame Bouna Productions 2003)


Artist Profiles: Daby Balde

Daby Balde in 2007 – Photo by Sandy Haessner

Daby Balde’s arrangements are based on his Fula traditions from the south of Senegal. They feature the fiddle, accordion and flute alongside the more familiar West African sounds of the kora, acoustic guitar and percussion. With strikingly rich and beautiful melodies, captivating vocals and a repertoire that ranges from euphoric to melancholic, Daby Balde is a West African star on the rise.

Moutarou ‘Daby’ Balde was born on 26 April 1969 in the city of Kolda, Fouladou (an area of the Cassamance region), in south Senegal. Growing up in the Cassamance region, a lush area famous for its deep roots in ancestral values and customs, Daby attended the Koranic School in Kolda.

Born into a noble family, Daby’s decision to pursue music was greeted with numerous objections and, in 1987 he left school and decided to go into exile. Following six months in Guinea and six years in the Gambia (where he began learning the guitar), he returned to his hometown in 1994 and became the lead vocalist for the Kolda Regional Orchestra.

After performing with them for nine months, he began performing regularly in Dakar and Kolda. Subsequently, he played in a large concert organized by the Belgian NGO Vredensaleiden that led to
performances at Flanders Ethno festival and Draunter festival in Belgium.

He now lives in a suburb of Dakar, performing weekly at several city venues and every few months in Kolda, at festivals, weddings and cultural events.

Musically, Daby is influenced by his various travels and experiences and his Fouladou culture. Ethnically diverse, Cassamance has a rich heritage, is geographically placed between Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, and is cut off from the north of Senegal. From the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries, the Portuguese were the only Europeans to have settled and have dealings in the region, and subsequently the music from Cassamance has a particular rhythm (quite different to that of the Dakar sound), which resonates throughout Daby’s music.


Introducing Daby Balde (World Music Network, 2005)
Le Marigot Club Dakar (Riverboat Records, 2009)


Artist Profiles: Djanbutu Thiossane

Djanbutu Thiossane

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.


Ass, Mass & Pap (Nubenegra, 1999)
Fass (Nubenegra, 2002)


Artist Profiles: Alioune Kassé

Alioune Kassé

Alioune Kassé was born in Dakar, Senegal. He belongs to the Tukulor ethnic group and is a writer, composer and player.

In 1960 Alioune’s father, Ibra Kassé, formed the Star Band du Dakar with singers Labah Sosseh and Pape Seck. The careers of many Senegalese musicians were launched by the Star Band, including later members of Star Number One (which became Orchestra Number One and Number One de Senegal), Etoile 2000, Orchestra Baobab, and Etoile de Dakar.

Ibra Kassé also founded the legendary Miami Club in Dakar where Alioune first found himself on stage at the age of 16. It was also at a young age that Alioune found himself confronted by a soldier’s rifle as he tried to cross a strike line to go to school. In his music he addresses suffering, racism, and other issues confronting his country, Africa and the world. He writes about self respect, the uselessness of wars, destructiveness of drugs, immigration, and the prophet.

Alioune recognized African music as the mother of all music, and seeks to stay close to his roots while exploring new frontiers. “…What really inspires me is the leumbeul, the dance of the laobe, the lumberers who dance in a circle and who express themselves by moving their buttocks and backs. I would define my music as African waltz.”

Driven by rhythms of jazz, zouk, and reggae, he reaches out to heal with the passion he learned from his father. Alioune likes to mix traditional African music with other musical influences. He combines keyboards, bass, guitar and drums with traditional African percussion such as tama, sabar and bugarubu.


Thiabi Bi (PCS, 1994)
Kara Vol. 1 (PCS, 1995)
Waw Coumba (Studio 2000, 1996)
Memorial Ibra Kassé (KSF, 1996)
Exsina ‎(Blue Silver/Tinder Records, 1999)
Diapason (KSF, 1999)
Ma Cherie (2001)


Artist Profiles: Baaba Maal

Baaba Maal live in 2010

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)


Artist Profiles: Boy Ge Mendes

Boy Ge Mendes

Back in 1990, before the great success of Cesaria Evora, Boy Ge Mendes put the music of Cape Verde on the map with his hit song “Grito de Bo Fidge.”

Born in 1952 as Gerard Mendes, Boy Ge Mendes’ adventure began in Dakar, Senegal. His father was a punch card operator and his mother a seamstress. They were living in Dakar like many Cape Verdeans. In Felix Faure Street, downtown, Gerard Mendes grew up among friends from Mali, Senegal, Guinea and Cape Verde. He developed a taste for singing in his Catholic school choir, and at parties and fairs. Later, Mendes started to perform at seedy piano bars like the Marseille, the Black & White and the Alhabama. In those days he sang cover songs by the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, rhythm and blues and salsa, in French and phonetically in English or Spanish.

In 1967 Mendes put together his first group, the Beryls, with one of his brothers. This marked the start of a hectic life of concerts and festivals throughout Senegal. Mendes began to build a very good reputation. At the end of the 60s he left for France where he joined another one of his brothers. It was a false start. Two years later, he was happy to return to his favorite hangouts in Dakar. But the return was temporary. In 1976 he set off again for France. The following year his brother Jean-Claude, Luis Silva and Emmanuel Lima asked him to join them in forming an exclusively Cape Verdean group. Created in Joinville in the Paris region, the Cabo Verde Show became the star group of the expatriate communities in Paris and Holland where they played regularly.

For Gerard Mendes this was a crucial period. Suddenly an irresistible urge began to grow in him. Until then his native music had not been a priority but he now felt the need to compose and write as a Cape Verdean. He contributed three original songs to the group’s second album and they proved popular with the community. This success encouraged him to go further. Leaving the Cabo Verde Show, he and his brother launched a new project: Mendes and Mendes. Three albums later he put Paris behind him. Ten years in the gray north was enough. Missing the sea and sun, he moved to Nice in 1983.

Mendes formed a new group called O’asah, the name of a legendary bird. With O’asah he recorded an album and played as opening act at Joao Bosco’s concerts in France. In 1990 Mendes recorded the hit song “Grito de Bo Fidge. He became Boy Ge Mendes, which is an allusion to his childhood nickname. After touring France and the United States Boy Ge Mendes decided to take a break. He traveled with his guitar to Brazil, the United States, Senegal and Cape Verde. In 1996, at the Baia des Galas festival, in Sao Vicente, the native island of his mother and girlfriend, he met up with Emmanuel Lima, who had now made his mark as Manu Lima, a key arranger and composer of African music. It was a fresh start. Boy Ge recorded the album “Di 0ro” with Manu, then chased off after yet another dream.


Sururu (1995)
Di oro (1996)
Lagoa – Lagoon (Tinder, 1997)
Noite de morabeza – Morabeza Night (Lusafrica, 1999)


Passionate Songs and Infectious Afro-Cuban and Senegalese Rhythms

Orchestra Baobab – Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng (Word Circuit WC092, 2017)

It’s no surprise that ‘Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng’, the new album by Senegalese band Orchestra Baobab is one of the highest rated recording in the past weeks by the two leading world music charts: the Transglobal World Music Chart and the World Music Charts Europe.

‘Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng’ brings back the captivating mix of traditional Cuban and Senegalese dance music along with some innovations. For the first time, Orchestra Baobab has added a permanent kora (West African harp) player, augmenting even more the Senegalese flavor of the band.

The title of the album makes reference to Ndiouga Dieng, the longtime vocalist for Orchestra Baobab, who passed away in November 2016.

The lineup features Balla Sidibe on vocals and timbales; Rudy Gomis on vocals; Issa Sissoko on tenor saxophone; Thierno Koite on tenor and alto saxophone; Charlie Ndiaye on bass; Mountaga Koite on congas; Abdouleye Cissoko on kora; Oumar Sow on guitar; Yahya Fall on rhythm guitar; and Beninese musicians Wilfried Zinzou on trombone and rising guitarist Rene Sowatche.

Two special guests participated in the recording sessions, world music star Cheikh Lo who appears in the song ‘Magno Kouto’ and former Baobab vocalist Thione Seck, who recreates the hit ‘Sey’.

The physical version of the album comes in a very nicely-packaged format, as a hard cover book with song descriptions, photos and illustrations.

On Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng, the extraordinary Orchestra Baobab treats the listener to a beautiful set of passionate songs and infectious Afro-Cuban and Senegalese beats.

Buy Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng in the Americas and rest of the world

Buy Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng in Europe