ORCHESTRA BAOBAB is a Senegalese Afro-Cuban, Son , Wolof 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
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.
* 1 Formation: 1970
* 2 1970s and 1980s
* 3 Reunion: 2000s
* 4 Discography
* 4.1 Compilations
* 5 Awards
* 6 References
* 7 External links
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
Dakar in 1970, six
players, led by saxophonist Baro N\'Diaye , were lured from Star Band
Orchestra Baobab were born. The club in turn is named for the
Adansonia ) tree.
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 arpeggiated runs became instantly
recognizable. With the saxophone of N'Diaye, this was the first core
of the band.
Issa Cissoko (Saxophone) and Mountage Koite (drums) were
Maninka griot families, from
Mali and eastern Senegal
respectively. The original group was rounded out by the slow groove
Latin styles of Latfi Benjeloum (rhythm guitar), who came from a
Moroccan family exiled to Saint-Louis,
Senegal , and Charlie N\'Diaye
(bass) from Casamance.
1970S AND 1980S
The group played an
Afro-Cuban music fused with distinctly West
African traditions . Unlike other Senegalese bands, they combined the
Casamance harmonies and drumming from southern
Senegal with melodies
Morocco to the Wolof tradition from northern Senegal.
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
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
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 .
After disbanding in 1987 the group came back together in 2001 with
persuasion from Youssou N\'Dour and their record label, World Circuit
. The popularity of
Orchestra Baobab began to decrease during the late
1980s due to the popularization of mbalax, the percussive street style
popularised by Youssou N'Dour. During that same year Orchestra Baobab
re-released their 1989 album Pirates Choice as a double CD with 6
extra rare tracks and completed a world tour including Europe and
America. Most of the original line up reunited to play London’s
Barbican Centre in May 2001. Since then
Orchestra Baobab has released
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
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
World Circuit Records, leading commentators to claim that Baobab had
reclaimed their place as pioneers of African Pop.
In May 2009 the band released "La Belle Epoque," a double-album of
unearthed recordings dating from the 1970s. The package included a
Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale journalist Pierre René-Worms
, focusing on the early years before the group split. Volume 1
comprises recordings made at Club Baobab, Dakar, in 1971, 1973 and
1976; volume 2 includes original recordings made in 1978 for the album
Baobab à Paris, their first European recordings. There are also
original versions of Sibam and El Son te llama, written by Medoune
Diallo, On verra ça by Balla Sidibé.
Ten years on from their last release, after some departures and
Ndiouga Dieng's death in November 2016,