From: Senegal
On stage: Thu 13 Apr 23:20

Baobab's history, most of Senegalese orchestras of the 1970s, begins with the Star Band and the SAF Mounaden orchestra, one of the many branches of the Star Band through which all of the country's great musicians and singers passed. Club Baobab was founded in the summer of 1970 by a number of well-known businessmen and politicians at 44 rue Jules Ferry, in the center of the Dakar Plateau.

The Casamance vocalists Balla Sidibé and Rudy Gomis, as well as the young Togolese guitarist Barthélémy Attiso, who performs every night to support his legal studies, were enlisted by saxophonist Baro Ndiaye and bassist Sidat Ly to create the new house orchestra. These musicians continue to perform at the renowned Club Miami on Thursdays, but the following night they become Baobabs.

People went out dancing for fun in the absence of television, which was nearly non-existent in Africa at the time. Le Baobab cultivated a clientele that included businessmen, politicians, expatriates, military personnel, and beautiful people of the night. It quickly became the city's most prestigious and popular club, with interiors designed by fashionable artists.

In this cosmopolitan Dakar, brimming with life, the orchestra had to live up to the city's reputation, tirelessly rehearsing and developing a diverse repertoire ranging from the French variety to jazz, passing through tango, the Cuban sound, Cabo Verdean mornas, Congolese rumba, and Arabic melody.

Along with Malian saxophonist Issa Cissoko and Nigerian clarinetist Peter Udo, the rhythm section of the band is completed by bassist Charles Ndiaye and drummer Moustafa Korité. Lafti Ben Jelloun, a Moroccan-born rhythm guitarist, joins Attiso on the guitar, and on vocals, griot Laye Mboup and young salsero Medoune Diallo end up anchoring the group's sound between Senegalese tradition and Afro-Cuban modernity. As Attiso explains, "We had the audacity to play music that was relevant to what was going on internationally while remaining deeply rooted in our Senegalese roots.".

The lineup may have altered since the 1970s, but the ultimate result is still fulfilling and true to its founding ideas. In its most recent record, Orchestra Baobab maintains immaculate harmony, notably in jewels like "Woulinewa," "Douga," or even "Alekouma," the band's final ode to its creator, for which a European tour will be organized this summer. The Baobab Orchestra is still a powerful and cohesive group today.

The Senegalese collective may not be able to match the heights of their iconic record Pirate's Choice from 1982, but they nevertheless use their generous music to unite people of all ages and from many cultural backgrounds, offering a genuine invitation to travel through time and space.

Their Afro-Cuban folk fusion turned them into one of west Africa's most iconic musical acts, and their reissued 1982 album Pirate's Choice and re-formation in 2001 brought them yet greater global fame

The Guardian

It's subtlety and insinuation as much as the actual tick-tick-tock of the percussion and velvety bass guitar that complete the seduction, as the band disguises its achievements with all the skills of a suave lover. Or, in this case, a whole orchestra of them!

Washington Times

If Orchestra Baobab's style is a throwback, it's an invaluable one, all the more appealing now for its tenacity.

The New York Times