BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

Accessibility help
Text only
BBC Homepage
BBC Music
BBC Radio 3

Radio 3

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

The BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music The BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music
Orchestra Baobab

Artist: Orchestra Baobab

Category: Listeners Award

There are many world music fans who got into Cuban sounds through listening to West African artists. That's a reflection of the ongoing transatlantic love affair between these two great musical hotspots. The band that exemplifies this more than any other is Senegal's Orchestra Baobab.

They came together in 1970, taking their name from the Dakar night-club where they were resident for most of the following decade. Baobab were different because of their multi-ethnic membership which drew in musicians from all over Senegal and even players from Togo and Nigeria. Consequently, their music wasn't based in any one tradition. They sang mostly in Mandinka, Portuguese Creole and Wolof, but also other local tongues, French and even faltering Spanish. Mellow Cuban boleros and sones were favoured musical templates as well as a bewildering array of adapted traditional tunes and Senegalese styles.

Perhaps most distinctive was the flowing guitar of Barthelemy Attisso, whose playing clearly helped them capture an international fan base. At home they reigned supreme until the end of the 1970s, when popular tastes moved away from Latin-influenced music in favour of the more hard edged and percussive mbalax style championed by the young Youssou N'Dour and his band Etoile de Dakar.

Abroad though, classic albums like On Verra Ça, Pirates Choice and Bamba gave them a cult status which endured long after their eventual disintegration in 1987. World Circuit has just re-released alternate takes of the original Pirates Choice album together with a whole extra CD of songs recorded in the same 1982 sessions.

On 5 May 2001, a reformed Baobab performed in London at The Barbican Centre's Urban Beats festival. Though they hadn¹t played together for more than 15 years, fears that the old magic might have been lost were soon banished as they ran through a sublime set of old favourites and fresh material. The group has several new members, but the founding core of Attisso plus singers Rudy Gomis and Balla Sidibe remains. In October they were back for another performance and to continue recording a new album which should include a guest spot from Youssou N'Dour.

Biography by Jon Lusk, November 2001
Back to Awards home

Back to nominations

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy