Recorded locally in Moussa X’s Dakar studio, the new recordings sound fresh and yet reassuringly familiar, retaining the ripeness of the sound that made Orchestra Baobab a legend but interpreted with a vigour and vibrancy, and with a few twists, that are vital and captivating.
As enduring as the mighty African Baobab tree from which the group derives its name, the veteran core of the band remains as strong and sturdy as ever. Vocalists Balla Sidibe and Rudy Gomis, saxophonists Issa Sissoko and Thierno Koite and the long-serving, rock steady rhythm section of Balla Sidibe, timbales, Charlie Ndiaye bass and Mountaga Koite on congas.
Alongside this impressive continuity there have been changes in the ten years since Baobab’s last World Circuit album, ‘Made in Dakar’ - but they have been executed seamlessly. Guitarist Barthelemy Attisso, now a lawyer in Togo, is absent due to the demands of his day job but kora player Abdouleye Cissoko from the Cassamance region in southern Senegal is a welcome addition. It’s the first time Baobab has numbered a kora player in its permanent ranks but Cissoko’s rippling strings have blended seamlessly into the sound and lent a fresh dynamic. Elsewhere Baobab’s distinctive two saxophone attack - which combines the vibrato laden declamatory style of Issa Cissoko with the softer more lyrical playing of Thierno Koite – has been bolstered by trombonist Wilfried Zinzou and the young virtuosic guitarist Rene Sowatche, both from the fertile musical pastures of Benin.
‘Tribute To Ndiouga Dieng’ is dedicated to one of the bands original vocalists who sadly died in November 2016. His songs will continue to be sung with the band by his son Alpha. It represents the latest chapter in a long and storied career that started in 1970 when the newly-formed Orchestra Baobab helped forge Dakar into one of the world’s most vital musical cities. Over the next decade the group dominated the local scene and produced countless hits before disbanding in the early eighties.
RIYL Cheikh Lô, Ali Farka Toure
- Douga Alekouma