August 18, 2011

a Night at Club Baobab

Since 1960 independance, Dakar nights were livened up mostly by Cuban music. A wealthy clientele of political & economical elites whom lead President Leopold Sedar Senghor’s State used to drink & dance to the beat of the Cuban montuno. But the political will to give national culture an original & modern expression also encouraged autochtonous artistical events.
The Orchestra Baobab repeats a well established formula developped by its West  African predecessors (such as the Bembeya Jazz National from Guinea Conakry, Boncana Maïga’s Marvaillas de Mali from Bamako, the Star Band from Dakar) : the elites of the new nationes were vibrate to the rhythm of musics inspired on local folklores as well as to Caribbean or Black American’s. Folklores are harmonized with orchestral arrangements to delight a public asking for night life that are reinterpretations of childhood or village folklores as much as foreign music fashionable in Western countries.
But contrarily to the Star Band, Baobab’s competitor from the club « Le Miami », the Orchestra Baobab chose not to stick strictly to wolof cultural contribution, the predominant ethnic group in Senegal. This is one of the reasons why the tama, or talking-drum, is almost absent in Orchestra Baobab’s music. The Senegalese roots of the Baobab express themselves mostly in Laye M’boup’s singing, a wolof griot & the first lead singer in the orchestra, as heard on « Yolanda »
Like in Guinea or Congo, Orchestra Baobab perpetuates an old practice in order to reinterpretate Cuban influences according to local ways & sensibilities. In Africa, the Cuban clave, that rhythmic pattern that caracterizes the son, is played not on the piano but with a guitar. It is Ben Geloum’s that gives its very singular accent to the Senegalese montuno : the result is sweeter & less percussive than Cuban clave’s sound and can be heard on « Yolanda » & « Jin ma jin ma » .

« Yolanda » is representative of Orchestra Baobab’s early latin sound. Moussa Kane’s tumba accompanies the orchestra for a version that’s very faithfull to the original Cuban montuno and the griots’ heritage resonates in Laye M’boup’s voice timber. Not exactly Cuban, not totally Senegalese either, the early Orchestra Baobab already carries its gestating originality.
The salsa « Jin ma jin ma » keeps the original montuno’s sweetness. But one can notice ther difference between this composition, recorded in 1978, and the old « Yolanda » from 1972. « Jin ma » drowns the remaining clave in a cross cultural hybridism that stands at the crossroads of wolof, Casamance & afro-cuban cultures.
This fast success can be explained by the band members’ talent of course. But it is also due to the contractors who put up the club. Their succes in gathering together some of Dakar by night’s leading musicians and singers ; their ability to divulgate Baobab’s music to a wider public than the one who could afford going to the Club Baobab ; their willingness to use musical industry’s newest technologies, are very definite contributions.
Much of Dakar musicians & a few orchestras fights for a room under the spotlights, but the capital only has a few clubs and even less customers. The impossibility to turn exclusivity contracts effective resulted in continuous band splits. Whithin less than ten years, Laba Sosseh, Y Oussou Ndour, Balla Sidibe, Idrisa Diop & many others leave their original bands to create new ones. Orchestra Baobab’s musicians are recruited in pre existing bands from other Dakar clubs. Balla Sidibe, Rudy Gomis & Barthélemy Atisso come from the Star Band that used to cheer up Ibrahim Kasse’s club « Le Miami » ; Issa Cissokho from the Vedette Band where he used to play with Laba Sosseh.
The businessmen behind Orchestra Baobab were also keen on creating a decent musical industry and pressing good records. The recordings included here come from the Buur (5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12) and Musicafrique (1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 11) labels ; these show a very distinctive progress compared to « Yolanda » in terms of recording & mixing work and a will to beat the local productions’ technique.

All of the Senegalese discography from that period is quite poor regarding recording & mixing technique. The recording is mostly made live in clubs with mediocre sound systems which results most of the time in staurated mediums & trebles and subdued basses.
In 1973-74, after two recording sessions issued in 1972, the impresari of the Baobab start mixing & pressing in New York and soon release the best recorded, mixed and pressed records ever released in Senegal. The Club Baobab closes in 1979. But the Orchestra Baobab remains active and keeps recording wonderful sessions. Following technical and stylistic changes based on the massified introduction of the audio tape in West Africa (which opens doors to bootlegging), the explosion of Youssou Ndour’s  m'balax music or just the fact Orchestra Baobab stops playing in a club opened only to a few elites, the sound of the orchestra changes into the 80’s.......


so we invite you for
a night at the club  some 35 years later

with thanks to the original

25:plus is a long time so relax ,take it easy  & thanks to world circuit

1 comment:

  1. Yes big thanks a world circuit they did produce some pretty fine albums and still do but times have changed thanks (no thanks) to I-Share-holder...

    Orchestra Baobab muchas gracias :)