Orchestra Baobab is a Senegalese Afro-Cuban, Son, and Pachanga band. Organized in 1970, as a multi-ethnic, multi-national club band, Orchestre Baobab adapted the then current craze for Cuban Music (growing out of the Congolese Soukous style) in West Africa to Wolof Griot culture and the Mandinga musical traditions of the Casamance. One of the dominant African bands of the 1970s, they were overshadowed in the 1980s and broke up, only to reform in 2001 after interest in their recordings grew in Europe.Many of the original members were veterans of the famous Star Band, whose alumni later included the Étoile de Dakar, El Hadji Faye and Youssou N’Dour. Star Band were the resident band of the upscale Dakar Miami Club. So when the Baobab Club opened in 1970, six players, led by saxophonist Baro N'Diaye, were lured from Star Band and the Orchestra Baobab were born.
The original frontmen of the band were the Casamance singers Balla Sidibe and Rudy Gomis who came from the melting pot of Casamance musical styles, and most famously Laye Mboup (killed in a 1974 car accident) who provided vocals in the Wolof griot style. His Wolof language lyrics and his soaring, nasal voice defined the sound of Baobab's early hits.
Barthelemy Attisso from Togo was a law student in Dakar, and a self taught musician, whose arpeggioed runs became instantly recognizable. With the smoky saxophone sounds of Baro N'Diaye, this was the first core of the band. Issa Cissoko (Saxophone) and Mountage Koite (drums) were both from Maninka griot families, from Mali and eastern Senegal respectively. The first group was rounded out by the slow groove Latin styles of Latfi Benjeloum (rhythm guitar), who came from a Moroccan family and Charlie N’Diaye (bass) from Casamance.
1970s and 1980s
The group played an Afro-Cuban-Caribbean music fused with distinctly West African traditions. 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.
Ndiouga Dieng took up the Wolof griot vocals after the death of Mboup, but many famous singers sat in. Thione Seck (who left the band for good in 1979 and is today a superstar solo artist), his younger brother Mapenda Seck and Medoune Diallo provided vocals off and on after the death of Mboup. Medoune Diallo is especially known for his Spanish vocals on hits like El son te llama, as a more Latin feel permeated the band's sound in the late 70s. In 1979 the Club Baobab closed its doors, and the band sought new venues.
Orchestra Baobab recorded 20 vinyl albums (mostly released as cassette tapes) between 1970 and 1985. But competition from Mbalax, a new funk inspired sound in the mid 1980s, overwhelmed Orchestra Baobab. By 1987, the band had broken up. Many of the members formed or joined other groups, but Barthelemy Attisso returned to Togo to practice law. In 2001 he hadn't played a guitar in thirteen years.
In 1982, they had recorded what was later to become their most famous album: Pirates Choice. The record was only released in 1989, but garnered much critical acclaim outside Senegal, thanks to its release in Europe by World Circuit records.
This legendary session was re-released in Europe in 2001 as a double CD with 6 extra rare tracks. In Europe, and later in America, Pirates Choice created such interest that most of the original line up reformed to play London’s Barbican Centre in May 2001. With so much interest, they went on to tour Europe and then America. As of 2007, Orchestra Baobab has released two more records, now twenty years since they first disbanded.
In 2002 Orchestra Baobab released Specialist in All Styles which was produced by Senegalese superstar Youssou N'dour with guest appearances by Cuban singer Ibrahim Ferrer and N'dour himself. Ibrahim Ferrer was not an accidental choice: not only had Orchestra Baobab written a song lauding this grand figure of Cuban music (Hommage a Tonton Ferrer), but Ferrer's huge burst of international fame with the Buena Vista Social Club in the 1990s mirrors the resurrection of Baobab. In fact, the original plan for what became the Buena Vista Social Club was organized by British world music producer Nick Gold of World Circuit Records, the same man who re-released Pirates Choice.
Orchestra Baobab gained attention from American media in 2003 when musicians Trey Anastasio and Dave Matthews filmed a documentary named Trey and Dave go to Africa which aired on VH1. The two visited Senegal and performed with Orchestra Baobab during the program.
Orchestra Baobab performed at Live 8 in Johannesburg, a series of concerts to end poverty.
In October 2007 Orchestra Baobab released the album Made in Dakar on World Circuit Records, leading commentators to claim that Baobab had reclaimed their place as pioneers of African Pop.
* Saf Mounadem (1972) JK 3026 As "Star Band de Dakar"
* M'Beugene (1972) Music Afrique / Baobab BAO 1
* Hommage a Lay M'Boop (1974-75?)
* Orchestre Baobab '75' (1975) Disques Buur BRLPO001
* Guy Gu Rey Gi (1975) Disques Buur BRLPO002
* Senegaal Sunugaal (1975) Disques Buur BRLPO003
* Visage Du Senegal (1975) Disques Buur BRLPO004
* Aduna Jarul Naawoo (1975) Disques Buur BRLPO005
* N'Deleng N'Deleng (1977) Music Afrique MSCLP 001
* Une Nuit Aun Jandeer (1978) Musicafrique MSCLP 002
* Baobab à Paris Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 (1978) Abou Ledoux ASL7001/Abou Ledoux ASL7002
* Gouygui Dou Daanou (1979) Disc Afrique/Salsa Musique DARL001
* Mohamadou Bamba (1980) Jambaar JM5000
* Sibou Odia (1980) Jambaar JM5004
* Ken Dou Werente (1982) MCA 307
* On verra Ça: The 1978 Paris Sessions (1992) World Circuit WCD027
* Bamba (1993) Stern's Africa STCD3003
* Pirates Choice (1989 & 2001) World Circuit WCB014 and World Circuit WCDO63
* Specialist in all styles (2002) World Circuit WCDO64
* A night at Club Baobab (2006)
* Made in Dakar (2007) World Circuit WCD078
* N'Wolof (1998, recorded in 1970-71) Dakar Sound DKS 014
* Roots and Fruit - African Dancefloor Classics (1999) Popular African Music PAM ADC 304
* World Circuit Presents… (2005) World Circuit
* Classics Titles (2006) Cantos Records
* BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards 2003.
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