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Music in West Africa: Senegal Part II

Previously, Mali: Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

Senegal: Part I

More jams from Senegal. Some really good ones in fact. Nothing groundbreaking in rhythm, instrumentation or arrangement, but vocal abilities bordering on inhuman.

Before I get into it, a quick stop in Ghana for Okyeame Kwame’s latest hiplife tune: “faithful”

The song and video are both a lot of fun. Props to Okyeame Kwame for innovation in a genre that could use more of it.

Baaba Maal

Along with Youssou N’Dour, Baaba Maal is a star on the world music scene. He is an accomplished guitar player, but most well known for his soaring vocals. One of the few Senegalese artists that sings mostly in Pulaar, a Fula language.

“Bouyel” – A relaxed rhythm, a Malinké melody, and Baaba Maal’s voice, subdued and piercing at all the right moments.

“Allah Adu Jam” – This song starts with simple strumming on a gnoni and Baaba Maal’s voice somewhere in the stratosphere. The rest of the band meets him there about 20 seconds in. Unfortunately, this is not the full version, but it was all I could find on youtube.

Ismaël Lô

Ismaël Lô made his first guitar with a can of cooking oil and he learned to play harmonica and guitar simultaneously by nailing his harmonica to the wall (this is what you do when you don’t have a Bob Dylan-like harmonica contraption). His fame took off with “Tajabone,” a single that made waves in Senegal and Europe.

I don’t know if “Tajabone” falls into the category of “overplayed African tune” (I’m thinking Miriam Makeba’s “Pata Pata,” which is one of continent’s anthems, but also a song that has been used in a Honda commercial) but sheeeit, it is easy to listen to.

Dig the mbalax rhythm, but it’s Ismaël’s voice that is rightfully in the spotlight.

Ndongo Lo

Hadji brought Ndongo Lo to my attention in the comments to the first Senegal music post. I’m glad he did because Ndongo Lo has a voice that could derail a train. He recently (and very sadly) passed away at the age of 30.

This one’s for all the moms.

It ends abruptly, a big tease, but you can still hear Ndongo reach lift off, around two and a half minutes in. Powerful stuff.

Dakar in 12 days.

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{ 2 comments… add one }

  • El Hadji April 29, 2011, 3:34 pm

    Great post!

    Nice videos you picked…Baba Maal and Ismael Lo are veterans and stars of Senegalese Music.
    And Ndongo Lo is my favorite singer personally, although Pape Diouf is pretty talented too.
    It is really sad that Ndongo Lo passed so young!(the worst thing is that it was just a stomach flu…can you believe that?).

    Enjoy your trip in Dakar…before you leave I can get you some contact numbers so you can get invited to lunches and get introduced to local specialy meals from Senegal.

    Take care!

    • phil May 3, 2011, 1:00 pm

      Hey Hadji,
      Can’t thank you enough for Ndongo Lo rec. He’s great! And yes, truly a tragedy his passing, especially from stomach flu! Yeah that would be great if you want to pass any numbers along 🙂 My email is phil dot paoletta at gmail. I think you have it already… I won’t be in Dakar very long on the way there (only a day or two), but I also fly out of Dakar when I return to the states and I plan on having a longer stay that time around.
      Be well,

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