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)
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.
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.
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)
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 🙂
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.
‘Tribute To Ndiouga Dieng’, the new album by the iconic Senegalese band Orchestra Baobab has reached the top of the Transglobal World Music Chart. The current lineup features veterans as well as newcomers, including a kora player for the first time, Abdouleye Cissoko.
The band will be on tour in europe this month:
05 May – Het Depot, Leuven, BEL
06 May – Melkweg, Amsterdam, NL
07 May – Lantaren Venster, Rotterdam, NL
11 May – Fabrik, Hamburg, DE
12 May – Gretchen, Berlin, DE
13 May – Jazz Cafe, London, UK
14 May – Jazz Cafe, London, UK
16 May – Cabaret Sauvage, Paris, FR
17 May – Festival Jazzelrault, Chattelerault, FR
19 May – Cosmopolite, Oslo, NOR
Ousseynou Kouyate was a member of the National Ballet of Senegal for seven years before moving to Berkeley with his twin brother Assane and starting their colorful music/dance band Djialy Kunda Kouyate (now known as Sekhou Senegal), using such indigenous instruments as the kora and balafon.
Kouyate is a descendant of griots who carries on age-old traditions. He has performed in various world music collaborations at Ashkenaz music club with such musicians as fellow African star Solo Cissokho and Cajun/zydeco fiddler Tom Rigney.
Cheikh Lô is one of the great trailblazers of African music. A superb singer and songwriter as well as a distinctive guitarist, percussionist and drummer he has personalized a variety of influences from West and Central Africa, to create a style that is uniquely his own.
Lô dedicates both his life and music to Baye Fall, a specifically Senegalese form of Islam and part of the larger Islamic brotherhood of Mouridism. Established by Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba M’Becke at the end of the 19th century, Mouridism emerged from opposition to French colonialism and many fabulous stories are told of Bamba’s struggles with the authorities who feared that the rapid spread of Mouridism would inspire armed insurrection. Bamba’s closest disciple Cheikh Ibra Fall (also known as Lamp Fall) established the Baye Fall movement, and he was the first to wear the patchwork clothes and long dreadlocks that are still Baye Fall trademarks today. Cheikh Lô’s own marabout, Maame Massamba N’Diaye is said to be over 100 years old, and was a disciple of Cheikh Ibra Fall; Cheikh Lô wears his picture in a pendant around his neck.
Cheikh Lô was born in 1955, to Senegalese parents in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, not far from the border with Mali, where he grew up speaking Bambara (language of Mali), Wolof (language of Senegal) and French. His father was from a long line of marabouts. From an early age Lô was only interested in music, running away from school to teach himself guitar and percussion on borrowed instruments.
During his teens he listened to all kinds of music, especially the Congolese rumba which was popular throughout Africa. Cuban music was also all the rage in West Africa at this time, so when his older brothers started up their 78s and danced to ‘El Pancho Bravo’, Cheikh, without understanding a word, would mime exactly to the Spanish lyrics.
At 21 he started singing and playing percussion with Orchestra Volta Jazz in Bobo Dioulasso. The band played a variety of music from Burkina Faso and neighboring countries, as well Cuban and other styles.
In 1981 he moved to Dakar, Senegal where he played drums for the renowned and progressive singer, Ouza, before joining the house band at the Hotel Savana, drumming and singing an international repertoire.
In 1984 he moved to Paris and worked as a studio session drummer. He recalls: ”Studio – sleep – studio for two years. I love Congolese and Cameroonian music and I absorbed a lot of it during this period”. On his return to Senegal he found that his (now very long) dreadlocks made him no longer entirely welcome at the Hotel Savana so he concentrated on his own music.
Cheikh’s first cassette ‘Doxandeme’ (‘Immigrants’), on which he sang about the experience of being Senegalese abroad, came out in 1990. Despite his reservations about the quality of the local production, it sold well and earned him the ‘Nouveau Talent’ award in Dakar. The following year he started to work on the compositions for his album ‘Ne La Thiass’.
Youssou N’Dour first encountered Lô as a session singer in 1989. “Whenever he sang the choruses I was overwhelmed by his voice,” explains N’Dour, “but I really got to know him from his cassette ‘Doxandeme’. I heard his voice and said “wow” – I found something in his voice that’s like a voyage through Burkina, Niger, Mali”.
Lô continued to develop his own repertoire, holding out for better recording conditions for his next production. In August 1995 Youssou N’Dour agreed to produce the next album at his Xippi Studio in Dakar.
On this album ‘Ne La Thiass’, Lô is joined on vocals by Youssou N’Dour (‘Guiss Guiss’ and ‘Set’) and by musicians from N’dour’s Super Etoile de Dakar. Lo’s signature sound – a semi acoustic, Spanish-tinged take on the popular mbalax style – was an instant success in Senegal gaining him a dedicated local following. ‘Set’ – a plea to clean up the streets during a Dakar municipal strike, was broadcast on loudspeakers throughout the country in a campaign by the Ministry of Health.
Ne La Thiass was released internationally on World Circuit in 1996 and followed by a highly successful European tour. His early performances prompted rave reviews.
In 1997 he was awarded Best Newcomer at the Kora All-African Awards in South Africa and the following year he toured the US, as part of the ‘Africa-Fête’ line-up that included Salif Keita and Papa Wemba. In 1999 he received the prestigious ‘Ordre National de Merite de Léon’ from the President of Senegal.
Cheikh’s second album Bambay Gueej (World Circuit) was released in 1999. It was co-produced by Nick Gold and Youssou N’Dour in Dakar with additional recording in Havana and London. Expanding on his previous album, he drew on sounds from Burkina Faso, Mali (with guest Oumou Sangare), and incorporated touches of Cuban son (with Richard Egues on flute) and funk (with Pee Wee Ellis of James Brown fame on saxophone).
His eclectic mix was furthered on Lamp Fall (World Circuit 2005) by his discovery of Brazilian sounds and rhythms and he traveled to Bahia, Brazil to work with acclaimed producer Alê Siqueira (Tribalistas, Omara Portuondo). These Brazilian recordings were coupled on the album with sessions recorded in Dakar and London.
For the next few years Lo withdrew from the international stage and immersed himself in the Dakar scene playing regularly with his own band. This return to home is reflected in his album ‘Jamm,’ His which blends semi-acoustic flavors, including West and Central African, Cuban, and flamenco.
In 2015, Cheikh Lô received the World Music Expo (WOMEX) Artist Award.