Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Africa Full Circle – a look at African Salsa through the prism of Orchestra Baobab

The Venerable Baobab tree

Baobab Reunion Foto by The Great Jonas Karlsson (as seen in Vanity Fair mag)

Orchestra Baobab

Orchestra Baobab Back in the Day

Orch. Baobab - The Latest - Made In Dakar

Orch. Baobab - Specialists In All Styles

Orch. Baobab - Pirate's Choice (some great older tracks)

Orch. Baobab "Bamba" - Excellent Classic Album (nice cover too)

Orch. Baobab - Recent Compilation of Classic Tracks (with some great AFRO-FUNK!)

Orch. Baobab - The Dakar Sound - "N'Wolof" wild collection of psych-latin-african

The African Record Collector

Malik Sidibe's best known photo of West African Club Dancers (circa 60s-70s)

The Great West African Salsero, Laba Sosseh - Coming to NYC!

Laba Sosseh - singing his heart out!

Laba Sosseh - Super Star (old school)

Laba Sosseh - Salsa Africana

Laba Sosseh on SAR Records

Monguito El Unico on Sacodis Records after his trip to Africa

Monguito El Unico - De Todo Un Poco (cover by Izzy Sanabria)

Monguito on Sacodis - "Something Different" (I believe Chico Alvarez was on this)

Monguito's First Solo Record on Fania

Beautiful Portrait of Monguito El Unico

Putumayo's Excellent Compilation (done with the great DJ-Producer, Mr. Al Angeloro)

Early CD of African Salsa (with the fabulous extended remix of Africando's "Yay Boy" - a must for any salsa DJ!)

Africando - The African Salsa Powerhouse!!!

Early Afrcan Salsa (dispite goofy and racist cover imagery, it's a great record! - Thanx Knox Robinson!)

Nice CD of African Salseros in Habana, Cuba!

This CD has one of the best cross sections of African Rumba and Salsa on it (discussed in blog)

Cubabfrica - sublime collaboration by two giants of sabor - Manu Dibango and Cuarteto Patria

Ricardo Lemvo's latest album - Ricardo is an African Salsa Pioneer and 'all around genius' with a GREAT band, La Makina Loka - Caliente! Don't miss them in concert, and buy all their CDs!

Ricardo lemvo - simply one of the best!

The Great Ricardo Lemvo - words cannot describe this man's talent and super friendly personality!!!!

Señor Pape Fall, fabulous African Salsa Singer

The Great Kekele - don't miss out on their beautiful music...

Las Maravillas de Mali - ultra rare LP - they studied in Havana for many years! Sorry it's sooo small!

Another LP by them - I found it in Brooklyn at this African record shop. Beautiful.

Nicolas Menheim's Super Sabrador Band - another tasty African Salsa/Cuban music hybrid - great cover (gracias Bruce Pollin)!

The Star Band - with both Laba Sosseh and Youssou N'dour - no wonder it was a Star Band!

A 'Shameless Plug' for my CD, The Rough Guide to Salsa, with 2 African Salsa Cuts (buy it now and start dancing)!

Putumayo's "Afro-Latino," a good collection of African & Latin Salsa

Africando - Volume 2

Africando's "Mandali" - one of their best and a really brilliant cover!

The Cuban album "Kinavana" by the Wonderful Kékélé - hot stuff, so buy it!

Rumba Rock - beautiful early 50s Congolese Rumba

Another great Kékélé album with a funky cover...

Tabu Ley In Action!

Essential Rochereau collection - required !

Wow - Rumba On The River - a nice collection in a fab package - a must!

Ah, the sweet M'Bilia Bel - beautiful lady, incredible voice, sublime in concert - and she's on "Kinavana" too!

Orchestra Baobab is a shining example of the positive outcome of negative historical circumstances. The many diverse fruits of a new culture have grown – both in the so-called New World and back in the Motherland – out of the malignant carnivorous flowers of the slave trade, Middle Passage, and wholesale colonial appropriation and exploitation of Africa. The cross-pollination of Africa, Europe, and Indigenous America yields an incredible cornucopia of artistic and religious expression that travels both ways, and it is a testament to the strength and inner light of the human spirit that so much positive energy and healing strategies are the result of such an evil garden of suffering and destruction. The members of the pan-African tribe of Baobab are like the band’s namesake tree: sacred and organic, slow growing and enduring, revealing vital complexities beneath a seemingly placid surface. Like the tree, the band is a graceful temple of bundled sinew, solidly muscular but able to bend in the winds of history. The Baobab is imposing in its longevity, relying on a system of deep roots and natural wisdom to throw off seeming dormancy or death and the vicissitudes of the barren harsh environment that surrounds it.

The Orchestra’s recent award winning album “Specialist In All Styles” is proof that, like the ancient budding baobab tree in the monsoon rains, they are reborn and have brought forth fruit in their due season. Unless you burn away all the Baobab’s roots, you cannot kill the tree. It is said that in the old days the hereditary bardic musicians called griots were buried in the hollowed out centers of the sacred baobab trunk, no doubt infusing the tree with the spirit of music.

First formed in Dakar, Senegal, at the Baobab Club in 1970, out of the ashes of the rival Stars Band from the Miami Club, Orchestra Baobab disbanded in the early1980s and did not record together again until 2001. In a recent performance at Northampton’s Pearl Street Nightclub, the band ably demonstrated that both the ancient spirit of the West African griot was alive and well in the heart of the tree, but also that many other African and European derived elements were active in their eclectic but coherent mix. The full spectrum of African Diaspora musical expression was there on stage, from rock to jazz, with the more naturally similar Cuban song forms of the son montuno and cha-cha-cha dominating, though less obvious Caribbean strains like zouk, merengue, and reggae were in abundance as well. With the affable and talented lead vocalist Rudy Gomis shouting “Thank You” between melismatic nasal strains of Islamic influenced singing, and incredible lead guitarist Barthelemy Attisso sounding like Wes Montgomery channeling both Afro-Cuban tres player Arsenio Rodriguez and Sudanese oud player Hamza el Din, all carried along by the bubbling cross-cultural currents of percussionists Balla Sidibe and Mountaga Koite, the audience was treated to the strains of African music come full circle.

The show ended with saxophonist Issa Sisokho blowing a saucy accapella bop coda, sounding like a jazz player of the 50s, with his tall thin frame topped by a jaunty fedora that brought to mind Dexter Gordon. A listen to their first recordings from 1970 reveals initially surprising nuances, from crazy acid fuzz guitar ala Jimi Hendrix, to dubbed out echoes reminding one of Lee “Scratch” Perry or King Tubby, as well as funky James Brown-isms galloping alongside the arabesque call of the muezzin and the griot twang of the kora. Though the concert had a more up-to-date sound than their freakier 70s recordings, most of the members in effect that night at Pearl Street had played on those early sessions, and it was a thrill to see the whole band together on our soil performing their superb songs for an evening of pure pleasure, taking us home and soothing us. In the space of an hour and a half, we were treated to the history of Black music in a free-flowing stream, a stream that watered the tree’s roots.

In the afterglow of the concert I began thinking back on all the African salsa I had gotten into recently like the utterly fabulous Africando, and before that, the sounds of “World Beat” that Peter Gabriel’s W.O.M.A.D. concerts and albums had introduced me to, and before that, back to my dad’s dusty old LPs of Olatunji, Osibisa, Santana, Fela, and King Sunny Ade. Remembering all that dope afro-goodness made me want to dance the Congolese rumba and write a bit about Africa’s journey full circle.

CDs like “From Dakar to Cuba – Swinging to the Rumba” helped take me on that journey. The Baobab track on there is a killer: “Mana Dem” it’s called (We Are In Vogue) from ‘75 – it’s hard core, very driving – heavy bass, sinuous fuzzy wah-ed out guitar, mesmerizing choruses, the whole thing percolating along like an African train through the steamy jungle. There’s an emphasis on the guitar in all these recordings that, combined with the repetition and lo-fi sound, makes for a feel that is sometimes almost D.I.Y. punk. But the interlocking poly-rhythms of Baobab are at once more sexy and slower – the closest rock equivalent would be the Velvet Underground, with the droning double rhythm guitar attack of Sterling Morrison and Lou Reed always propelled by the rock-steady clocking drum beats of Mo Tucker. Small wonder that Reed hated the cymbals and forbade Tucker to use them; for Mo, it was no big deal jetisoning rock's tinny time keepers; she had learned to bash the tom toms from those same beautiful Olatunji records that turned on Carlos Santana and my dad back in the day.

But let's return to Africa, especially the Congo, where titans like O.K. Jazz, African Jazz, Tabu Ley Rochereau, African Fiesta, Bembeya Jazz, Franco, Rock A Mambo, Les Bantous de la Captiale, Manu Dibango, Messeur Nico, Papa Noël, Pepe Kalle, Tino Baroza, all made sweet sweaty sounds in the 50s and 60s before the revolution called 'l'indépendance,' but none-the-less, fomenting a revolutionary attitude in their synthesis and rediscovery of their lost cousins across the Atlantic. Such deeply swinging music was made on that river (or influenced by it), that sinuous snaking waterway that Conrad had called the Heart of Darkness in the previous century. It continued to be the sound track for Indpendence, though in later years many left the scene or were forced to leave by regimes that followed the first years of idealism and nation building in the post colonial era. That shining Congolese rumba burst forth from the heart of negritude, not the Whiteman’s darkness, but from a soulful blackness that was beginning to awaken and reach for self-determination across the globe from South Africa to the South Bronx in the 50s and 60s and on into the 70s. According to many, the two principal 'schools' of congolese rumba were OK Jazz and African Jazz. My absolute favorite from the 60s is Bantous de capital - be sure to listen to their faulous music, especially "Kumbele Kumbele" - though another tune, "Paquita" by African Fiesta, has laid claim to my heart for it's soothing and trance-inducing tones. Be sure to check out the book "Trois Kilos de Café" (1989) by François Bensignor and the CD "Rumba On The River" for all this good early stuff from the period leading up to and during the first years of 'l'indépendance.'

Returning to the previously mentioned “From Dakar to Cuba – Swinging to the Rumba,” I found that while the collection really captures a lot of the magic of that time covered in "Rumba On The River," it casts a wider net by venturing on into the 70s and beyond as well, and more importantly, the CD travels to other countries influenced by what was happening in the twin cities on the Congo. So, in addition to the requisite Congolese jams, the collection also sports the seminal Senegalese mega-group Star Band de Dakar’s version of the 50s son-pregon “Caramelos,” made famous by Celia Cruz and Sonora Matancera, but this time it gets the sax and guitar treatment of the Congo, and manages to swing mightily. I even love the phonetically pronounced Spanish; half the lyrics to Cuban and Puerto-Rican music are of African origin anyway! The fact that some of this proto-African salsa came from Mali and Senegal, many miles from Kinshasa or Brazzaville, speaks not only for the universal allure of Afro-Cuban music in the Motherland, but also to the fact that many Africans were feeling a burgeoning pan-African consciousness at the time. When you look at the incredible photos of Senegalese music lovers in the 70s taken by the genius photographer Malick Sidibé, you see how the West African disco dancers and record collectors back in the day loved Orquesta Aragon, Johnny Pacheco, Fajardo, Orquesta Broadway, and Monguito “El Unico” – you might say that the charanga (a Cuban flute and violin orchestra) was en vogue in Senegal and Mali. Along side the obvious African records and James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and Sly Stone LPs, you also see the Fania, Tico, and Alegre albums that were also popular at the time in New York, San Juan, and Cali, Colombia. For more info on Sidibé, there are several books, and don’t forget to check out Susan Vogel’s bio pic, “Malick Sidibé - Portrait of the Artist as A Portraitist.”

On a side note, one of those Sidibé photos was used on the excellent Orchestra Baobab “Pirate’s Choice” CD that came out a few years back, and I had used some of Sidibe’s earlier on my home-made African Funk compilations in the mid-90s after I acquired his exciting book, “Malick Sidibé” by Andre Magnin, Alexis Schwarzenbach, and Sidibe, at an exhibit in NYC. Seems my ideas always came just before someone with a label or money decided to do the same thing!

Meditating on Senegal, I thought of vocalist Nicolas Menheim. Nicolas became a member of the above-mentioned Star Band de Dakar, with famed afro-salsero Pap Seck’s encouragement, and he stayed on with them from 1979 through 1981. In the early to mid ‘80s he was a member of Super Etoile de Dakar with Youssou N’ Dour. Then, in 1991, he joined Pap Seck and Medoune Diallo to form the famed Africando, with whom he recorded four CDs. Now that was a baaad band! One that any salsa DJ could play next to the hottest tracks by El Gran Combo, commercial acts like Marc Anthony, or any classic Fania artist. When Africando got big, Menheim started his own band, Super Sabador, in 1999. Since then he’s put out two albums that are available as one CD from Stern’s, “Commandante Ché Guevara: Out Of Africa - Afro-Cuban Music From Senegal.” As my man Bruce Polin of Descarga says, “the warm, deep grooves and soulful vocals make this one a pure pleasure. On a couple of tracks you’ll hear the vocals of Maguette Dione (known by some as the Celia Cruz of Senegal). Super Sabador is Dakar’s only salsa band that includes a female vocalist.” The cover shows a dude on a motor bike in what looks to be La Habana, but hey, it could be in Dakar as well where motor bikes are ubiquitous and Che is not un-known. A Senegalese in Cuba reminded me of Las Maravillas De Mali (Les Merveilles du Mali), a cool trail-blazing orchestra from the 70s formed by musicians who had gone to Cuba to study in the mid-60s and had stayed for 8 years. They were trying to get it right early on, and when they came back to their homeland, with all that learning, the impact was huge. Between the evidence of their records and the photos previously discussed, I figure the charanga and son were popular in not only Senegal but also Mali. I picked up a great LP of theirs at the African Record Centre shop in Brooklyn a few years ago, and aside from that I only have hear one other cut on a cool CD from Ned Sublette’s sadly defunct Qbadisc label back in the 90s.

From Senegal and Mali I started thinking on my friend African salsero extraordinaire Ricardo Lemvo. He has said that he grew up in the Congo listening to records of Arsenio Rodriguez, Orquesa Aragón, and Trio Matamoros, enjoying jazz by Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, New York salsa by Johnny Pacheco and Ray Barretto, and the soul and funk of Otis Redding and James Brown. Like Baobab, Africando, and so many others, Lemvo also brings his own native traditions to his sound, completing the experience with a full circumference of musical references, bringing the electric guitar and African languages to the forefront in many of his tunes. He also relies on the multi-talented Jesús “El Niño” Pérez for his Cuban juice - but Ricardo is so talented, he could hold the show just on the power of his voice and the great songs he does. His latest album, Isabella, is a very ambitious and satisfying effort - well worth buying. Though many people might not realize that modern Afro Pop has at its base a firm foundation of Latin and other Black Diasporic music, ground-breaking African musicians like Ricardo, as well as Fela Kuti, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Youssou N’Dour, Labba Sosseh, Anjelique Kidjo, and Manu Dibango, have been the first to admit it to any one with ears to hear. Mulatu Astatke, the Ethio-jazz pioneer, loved Tito Puente’s music and played in a Latin band in NYC before single-handedly jump-starting the contemporary Ethiopian music scene in the 70s; Ginger Johnson, the Nigerian percussionist based in London in the 50s, cut tunes like “Egyptian Bint Al Cha Cha” with a decidedly Latin flavor; and Fela’s early aggregation, Coola Lobitos, bore a pseudo-Spanish name (‘Cool’ Little Wolves). As Lemvo says, “When Cuban music traveled back to Africa it was instantly recognized and embraced.” Conversely, African artists like Ricardo himself, as well as Olatunji, Fela, Franco, Papa Wemba, and Miriam Makeba, are all well known to many Latinos – in fact it was Latinos who really made Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa” such a big hit in New York in the early 70s, which led to his appearing with the Fania All-Stars at the new Roberto Clemente Stadium in San Juan, P.R., where he jammed on the same hit tune (which first appeared on the 1974 Fania LP “Latin-Soul-Rock”). The trip back to Africa for New York Latinos occurred when the Fania All Stars were invited to appear at the notorious “Rumble In the Jungle” concert in Zaire (1974), where they were received like heroes (much to their surprise and delight) by 80,000 fans. Ray Barretto, a member of the same Fania All Stars, had in fact already played and recorded with quite a few African musicians earlier, cementing an early collaborative atmosphere in the studios of New York. It is all of these historical connections that led me to include several African salsa tunes on my recent compilation “The Rough Guide To Salsa” for the World Music Network label out of London. I put it this way in my notes (this is the original pre-edit version):

If the fruit of the meeting and mixing of various Latinos of many different countries in the Big Mango (NYC) has African seeds at its core, then the best way to pay tribute to the ancestors from the motherland is by dancing to acts like Ricardo Lemvo’s Makina Loca and Kékélé, bands that ably prove African Salsa is still very much alive and thriving, not just at the roots but bearing fruit all over the tree. These groups are also positioned at the very heart of this compilation. Whenever I insert an African tune in my club sets, the change in language and sonic texture serves to lighten things up by distancing the whole heavy Latin vibe. Dancers seem to respond to the less intelligible lyrics and different instrumentation with ever more syncopated movement, and the entranced expressions on their faces make me think their souls have indeed gone back over the ocean to Guinea like in the old slave belief. Lemvo's multi-lingual blend of Cuban/Puerto Rican style salsa, merengue, and pan-African genres (soukous, Congolese rumba, kizomba) is what makes him an interesting and fresh flavor in the mix, and that’s why I always make sure to include one of his tunes every Latin Night. Born in Congo-Kinshasa of Angolan ancestry, Lemvo formed his Los Angeles-based band Makina Loca in 1990, and I had the good fortune to experience the euphoria and pleasant surprise his fresh take on Latin music inspired in NYC when he debuted there soon after. He has toured extensively in Europe, Australia, and Latin America, spreading his special message of peace and tolerance, and has performed in some of the most prestigious venues in North America. In film, Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loca appeared in the 1998 movie Dance With Me starring Vanessa Williams and Chayanne. Always pushing the boundaries, Ricardo is up to his highest standards on his latest offering Isabela which is diverse enough to include even a Turkish tango negro. However it is the more straight forward “Papa Na Bana” (‘Big Daddy’), which tells of a macho man who is tamed by a tough woman, that works best here because it bridges the (albeit small) gap between Africa and Cuba so well.

In addition to the above mentioned Ricardo Lemvo, I also included a fabulous cut off the recent Kékélé album "Kinavana," and this is what I wrote (also pre-edit):

Aiding us on that trip, Kékélé takes the bailadores deep into the Congo with their re-interpretation of the classic Cuban son “Jaleo,” made famous by Guillermo Portables in the last century. Kékélé is a Lingala word for a strong vine that climbs trees in the tropical forests of the Congo River basin. These fibrous vines are still used to build bridges across the raging waters, and the members of this All-Star troupe (among them Manu Dibango, Papa Noel, Mbilia Bell, ‘System’ Bialu, Wuta Mayi, and Syran Mbenza) are surely thinking of their storied musical careers as cords twined together to make a path that is durable and yet natural. With Kékélé they have woven a structure that spans the divisions of time, genere, and place - and allows them to come home full circle, covering the Cuban songs that were the source and inspiration of Congolese Rumba in the 1940s and 50s. Papa on guitar adds the authentic rumba sabor, and Manu goes back to the kind of music he played in his youth. Insistent bell and haunting sax had one dancer come up to me after with goose bumps on his arms, exclaiming: “What was that! It took me out of myself into a spiritual trance!” Now that’s what it’s all about! We dance together, we worship together.

So this so-called “African Salsa” is nothing new; just read Gary Stewart’s fascinating and encyclopedic book “Rumba On The River” for a detailed scoop on how old Cuban 78s made their way up the Congo River and into the hearts and minds of the people of Brazzaville and Kinshasa. Stewart starts with a great quotation from the venerable Manu Dibango that sums it all up: “African Music was and remains a music of encounters; in this lies its attractive power.” Check out the sublime 1998 CD “Cubafrica” on the French label Melodie/Celluloid for a peek into what Manu Dibango and Stuart are referring to here; it is a wonderful exercise in uniting these two musical cousins – a magical collaboration between Dibango and Cuarteto Patria (led by the talented guajiro Eliades Ochoa of Buena Vista fame). Also of great interest in researching CDs of Congolese rumba is the website: congo3.html - check it out!!!

The people of Africa make music that is inclusive and open, a music that recognizes its offspring and welcomes them back to the fold. And, just as the Cuban songs caught on like wildfire in the 40s and 50s in the heart of Africa, so too did African musicians catch on to salsa in the 1970s in the heart of Latin music, New York City. As John Child has pointed out, one need look no further than the catalog of Sacodis and SAR records to see the tradition of African musicians traveling to the Big Mango to record with Latinos. In 1980, the Ivory Coast based Sacodis label issued four fabulous albums of African salsa, showcasing the African singer-songwriters Laba Sosseh and Doh Alberto performing with top-notch New York Latin session musicians (like Mario Rivera on sax) under the direction of the Afro-Cuban sonero Monguito “El Unico” Quian. Laba Sosseh was an early pioneer of this hybridization of African vocals and NYC salsa, though Malian artists Boncana Maïga and Amadou Balaké were also visitors to the studios and stages of New York around the same time. Some of the salsa Africana albums on Sacodis also have tunes that are clearly more African and less Latino, like “Leyi” on the album “Monguito El Unico and Laba Sosseh In U.S.A.” The song treats us to an unprecedentedly unique hybrid of Afro-Cuban and straight African elements, finding Monguito dueting with the charismatic Sosseh. In 1981 and ’82, the Cuban Roberto Torres, one of SAR’s founders and no mean sonero in his own right, produced a couple of albums with Sosseh as well, and some of the fruits of these labors can be enjoyed today in reissues, thankfully. One song from those sessions, “Diamoule Mawo,” was later interpreted as “Yamulemao” by the genius Afro-Colombian Joe Arroyo to great success on his killer 1987 album Pa’Lante. Incidentally, Sacodis also recorded the incredible Afro-Cuban singer Linda Leida, who sang with as much spark and power as Celia Cruz or La Lupe, but never gained the same fame, being tragically murdered in NYC two years after her salsa Africana record came out.

What is exciting about these early endeavors is the cross-pollination and collaboration between Latinos/as and Africans, laying some of the groundwork for the explosion of modern African sounds starting in the 60s and 70s like mblalax, soucous, juju, and afrobeat. If you listen for instance to Sosseh’s SAR records, the Latin musicians are not only playing Cuban-derived grooves; Laba is also leading the Nuyorican and Cuban musicians into the uncharted (but probably strangely familiar) territory of soucous, high life, and Congolese rumba. But again, this is not a phenomenon of the 1980s in New York, it goes back to the very first 78s of not only Cuban music but of Calypso, Ragtime, Jazz, Blues, and Minstrel “race” records that were first brought to the ports of West Africa by sailors in the ‘teens and 20s. The roots of this tree are tangled indeed. I recently picked up a fascinating German produced disk that features the above-mentioned Laba Sosseh (and Pepe Fall, leader of the African Salsa band), this time recorded in the venerable EGREM studios in Centro Habana, 2001. The album is called ”Los Afro-Salseros de Senegal En La Habana” and I especially like the languid funky son montunos “Nampalal da Som” and “Africa,” not to mention the perennial chestnut (or should I say peanut), “El Manisero.” There are also some very interesting tracks that display more of a fusion of African sounds with salsa, melding hints of mbalax, Congolese rumba, and reggae into a heady mix (check out “Teungeuth”). As one member of the all-star band assembled for the date, trumpeter Ali Penda, recalled about his short trip to make the record, “These guys here play our music. Cuban music is what our forefathers brought here.”

Which brings us back to the Baobab tree. As a young singer, Youssou N’Dour had greatly admired Orchestra Baobab back in the day (note that he sang with Laba Sosseh in the Star Band); recently, he jumped at the chance to work on their reunion CD “Specialist In All Styles” with producer Nick Gold of Buena Vista Social Club fame. “They had such a clean sound, and they were pan-African. We’re ready for this to come back. We’ve put up barriers in our music,” N’Dour has said, referring to the dominance of the Wolof sound in Senegalese pop, “and we have to bring the barriers down. All the young kids, they understand now just how important the 70s were for their music, so they’re ready to listen.” If you listen very carefully to the Baobab album, you can hear delicious echoes of those old scratchy 78s and 33s in the background as well as a summing up of more recent West African musical history in the grooves. The band that helped close the circle and usher in a new era for African music has helped turn on a new generation to its holistic approach and its veneration of both classic Cuban music and the forefathers of the river rumba from Kinshasa and Brazzaville.

News flash: Baobab has a new CD out – I am very excited to see – and I plan to get myself a copy soon as I can. For now, here is what their UK label, World Circuit, has to say about it:
Five years on from the GRAMMY nominated 'Specialist in All Styles', Orchestra Baobab return with 'Made in Dakar', an album that celebrates their roots in one of the world's most explosive musical cities - which updates their classic mellow sound with a new edge and a new energy for new times. Beautifully recorded in Dakar's Xippi studios, 'Made in Dakar' builds on Baobab's renewed activity on their home turf, where they've undertaken their first Dakar club residency in nearly 20 years with hugely successful Saturday night sessions at the Just 4 U club. Combining the gritty lo-fi feel of their early recordings with dynamic new arrangements, this is an album that could only have been Made in Dakar.

That’s the buzz on the new album, but back when I met the guys in Baobab a few years ago, recording the next CD was not mentioned as a project – indeed, they were on tour away from their original home of Dakar so I don’t know if the album was even yet in the works.

I was not sure, when I went to the Baobab concert, that bringing my book "Cocinando: 50 Years of Latin Album Cover Art" as a gift would go over that well – kind of pushy I thought, and a long shot that they would be into it. My lack of confidence was washed away when I pulled it out of a bag and presented it to the band. They started flipping through the pages, pointing and excitedly talking about what salsa and Latin Jazz records they had in their own collections, who was the best sonero from Puerto Rico, how Monguito “El Unico” was instrumental in bringing Laba Sosseh to New York, on and on. Phew – they love this music I thought, of course! – how could I have doubted, I heaved a sigh of relief! I ended by saying that my doing an African album art book next was a must – to much hearty laughter and high fives all around. Ideas spread like wildfire when the time is right – from African salsa to a book on African LP cover art – certainly some of Baobab’s covers would have to be included, especially the ones from their recent years with World Circuit! That would be a nice completion to the circle of related events leading up to that magical night at Pearl Street.

After the show, Rudy Gomis (lead vocalist with the Orchestra) commented to me, when I mentioned that my favorite song on the new album was their rollicking version of the old Cuban son standard “El Son Te Llama” (“the son is calling you”), that singing those verses was like coming home for him, that the words were indeed calling him, because it was both a song to the ancestors and an anthem for the future. ¡Que viva la salsa Africana – full circle. Congo to Cuba, Dakar to New York!

©2007 Pablo E. Yglesias

A Very Incomplete African Salsa Discography

Africando – Africando Live: 2-CD Set (2001, Nextmusic 8907)
Africando – Baloba! (1998, Stern's Africa 1082)
Africando – Gombo Salsa (1996, Stern's Africa 1071)
Africando – Ketukuba (2006, Sterns 1103)
Africando – Les Meilleurs Clips - Includes: Martina & Betece DVD (2004, Syllart SYL 002)
Africando – Mandali: Africando All Stars (2000, Stern's Africa 1092)
Africando – Martina (2003, Sterns 1096)
Africando, Vol. 1 — Trovador (1993, Stern's Africa 1045)
Africando, Vol. 2 — Tierra Tradicional (1994, Stern's Africa 1054)
Bembeya Jazz National – African Classics (Sheer Sound)
Cuarteto Patria & Manu Dibango – Cubafrica (1998, Melodie/Celluloid)
African Salsa (Pape Fall &) – Artisanat (2002, Stern’s Africa)
Kékélé – Kinavana (2006, Stern’s 1101)
Angélique Kidjo – Oyaya (2004, Columbia)
Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loka – Mambo Yo Yo (1998, Putumayo)
Ricardo Lemvo & Makina Loka – São Salvador (2000, Putumayo)
Los Afro Salseros de Senegal en La Habana (2002, Pam 407)
Maravillas de Mali – Les Merveilles du Mali (1970, Disco Stock/African Record Centre)
Monguito, From Africa To Cuba - Lassissi Presente Monguito El Unico (Sacodisc LS21; re-Issued 2005)
Monguito, Salsa Africana - Monguito El Unico & Laba Sosseh In U.S.A (Sacodisc LS26; released 1980; re-issued 2005)
Nicolas Menheim & Le Super Sabador - Commandante Ché Guevara: Out Of Africa - Afro-Cuban Music From Senegal (2002, Pam)
Mulatu – Afro Latin Soul (1966, Worthy; reissued on vinyl)
Eliades Ochoa – Cubafrica: Cuarteto Patria & Manu Dibango
(1998, Melodie 79593)
Orchestra Baobab – Made In Dakar (2007, World Circuit)
Orchestra Baobab – Specialist In All Styles (2002, World Circuit/Nonesuch)
Orchestra Baobab – Pirate’s Choice (2002, Nonesuch)
Orchestra Baobab – On Vera Ça (1997, World Circuit/Ledoux-Melodie)
Orchestra Baobab – N’Wolof (1998, Dakar Sound)
Orchestra Baobab – Night at Club Baobab; Senegalese dance music of the 70s (Oriki)
Orchestra Baobab – African Classics (Sheer Sound)
Orchestra Baobab – Bamba (1993, Stern’s Africa)
Gnonnas Pedro - La Compilation (1991, Ledoux France)
Papa Noël – Café Noir (2007, Tumi 141)
Tabu Ley Rochereau – Voice of Lightness – Congo Classics (Sterns)
Pape Seck & Starband Number One – No. 1 de No 1. (1996, Dakar Sound)
Laba Sosseh, Laba Sosseh (SAR/Guajiro 1029)
Carlos “Patato” Valdés – Ritmo y Candela II: African Crossroads (Round World, 1998)
Various Artists – African Pearls Vol.1; Congo/Rumba On The River (Syllart)
Various Artists – African Salsa (1998, Earthworks/ Stern’s Africa)
Various Artists – Afro-Latino (1998, Putumayo)
Various Artists – Congo To Cuba (2002, Putumayo)
Various Artists – Creole Love Calls (2001, Isma’a/RFO Musique)
Various Artists – From Dakar to Cuba – Swinging The Rumba (2006, Sheer Sound)
Various Artists – Roots of Rumba Rock – Congo Classics 1953-55 (Cram World
Various Artists – Salsa Africa: Afro-Cuban Salsa Music (2000, Candela)
Various Artists – Salsa Around The World (2003, Putumayo)