Baaba Maal-21st Century Griot

Echo Location: Baaba Maal

To hear an audio version of this blog with Baaba Maal’s music, go here

51q+E8z4DbL._SL500_AA240_Senegalese singer Baaba Maal emerges out of the griot tradition, African story-tellers who usually accompany themselves with the kora.  Legendary griot, Mansour Seck was his childhood friend and mentor, but Baaba Maal is a modern griot.

Baaba Maal:  Of course I think all of the new African musicians are still connected to this old role of playing music but telling the people, the messages are in the African language and they’re trying to change African life on the continent.

Now in his mid-fifties, but looking more like his mid -30s, Baaba Maal has worked with producers like Brian Eno and it was Baaba Maal’s band that inspired the creation of Afro Celt Sound System.  On his new CD, Television, he teams up with singer Sabina Siouba and keyboardist Didi Gutman from the dance group, The Brazilian Girls.

Baaba Maal: What I was looking for was the sound of drum and bass but also the electronic effects that I can’t get from the African instruments sometimes because the African instruments were not built to bring the sound of the wind, the sound of the desert or the sound of anything you hear which is not coming from the music.


Baaba Maal at Echoes

Along with the effects laden guitar of producer Barry Reynolds, Baaba Maal wraps these sounds around gorgeous duets with Sabina Sciubba.

Baaba Maal:   Sabina is a great singer for me because when she sings you can hear a culture, you can hear some pictures you can feel some colors, because she traveled a lot and she speaks like me a lot of different languages.

They sing lyrics that engage in social change and political commentary, but they sing them in several different languages from Pular to Portugese.  But even though the lyrics aren’t understood by western listeners, he feels the voices get the message across.

Baaba Maal:  Yeah, I think the voice can be leading people to an atmosphere where they can feel what I want to talk about.

Baaba Maal didn’t even see a television until he was in his late teens, but it’s a metaphor of social change and communication on his new CD.  Television is out on the Palm Pictures label.  I’ll have an interview with Baaba Maal on Monday’s Echoes.  This has been an Echo Location, soundings for new music.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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