Wednesday, February 26, 2014

add 0771 baobab

Forget about pristine sound quality when you listen to N'Wolof. Recorded in 1970-1971 at the Baobab Club in Dakar that gave the group its name, this is Senegalese music being recorded live and au naturel in its infant stage. It's the only Orchestra Baobab album featuring original lead singer Laye M'Boup, who died in a car accident in 1974, but the rest of the lineup features virtually the entire band that was a major force in Senegalese music for the next 15 years. Overall, the recording balance is pretty good, despite the predictable rough edges, some merely OK material, and occasional tentativeness in the playing. The great guitarist Barthelemy Attisso's crystalline melodic leads grab your attention, and the sax fills by Issa Cissokho support M'Boup's leads on several songs, like "Chéri Takama," show the rhumba roots of Senegalese music. But "N'Diaye" is the key track, the first time you can hear Orchestra Baobab's distinctive future group-sound taking shape. There are hints of the rhythm guitar gallop moving beyond rhumba variants to what would become mbalax and the group's trademark ragged but so human interplay between lead and backing vocals. And then there's Attisso's solo, which literally sounds like he's playing around with a wah-wah pedal and the reverb switch on his amp for the first time. It's kinda one-man dub sound science before your very ears -- just a man, his guitar, and his amp experimenting with sounds -- yet the solo rips and is totally musical. The mournful ballad "Aduna Jarul Naawo" has some serious high harmonies from Thione Seck, a braying tenor sax solo, and kinda points to the future, too. "Yaraf" is an up-tempo rhumba-based tune that rocks out pretty strongly, and the jaunty, buoyant finale sports what's pretty much a ska rhythm guitar skank and another Cissokho sax solo. Is N'Wolof the best introduction to Orchestra Baobab? Not really -- it's a record to get for historical importance, but if you've made the decision to go deeply into early Senegalese pop music, you won't be disappointed by the quality of the music here.


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