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Orchestra Baobab

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Dakar, Senegal (1970 – present)

Orchestre Baobab is a Senegalese band formed in 1970 in Dakar, Senegal as a multi-ethnic, multi-national club band.

Put together by saxophonist Baro N’Diaye, original members included singers Balla Sidibe, Rudy Gomis, and Laye Mboup; guitarists Barthelemy Attisso and Latfi Ben Geloune; bassist Charlie N’Diaye; drummer Mountaga Koite; and saxophonist Issa Cissokho. Ndiouga Dieng and Medoune Diallo sometimes sat in with the band, and personnel changed frequently. Later, singer Thione Seck and his younger brother Mapenda Seck joined the band.

The group played an Afro-Cuban-Caribbean fusion. Unlike other Senegalese bands, they added Casamance harmonies and drumming (from southern Senegal), melodies from Togo and Morocco to the more common Wolof (from northern Senegal) influences. They recorded 20 vinyl albums between 1970 and 1985. In 1982, they released possibly their most famous album, Pirates Choice to much critical acclaim. This legendary session was re-released in a double CD format with 6 extra rare tracks, and the second disc is regarded as arguably better than the first. Competition from mbalax, a new sound in the mid 1980s, overwhelmed Orchestre Baobab. By 1987, the band had broken up.

Reissues of their old recordings in Europe led to the reformation of the band in 2001. Orchestre Baobab toured Europe and made a new recording with guest appearances by Cuban superstar Ibrahim Ferrer and Senegalese star Youssou N’dour.

In 2002 Orchestra Baobab released Specialist in All Styles which was produced by Youssou N’dour.

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