Tuesday, March 16, 2004

glisten globally: week one
I'm still smarting over the lack of unearthable info on Nakano, but here's WAY more linkage and info than you ever needed about one of my alltimefavorite artists, "The West African Nightengale," Baaba Maal.

Baaba is a rarity in that he has chosen not to conform to his birthland's caste divisions. Traditionally, only those born into the "griot" caste become musicians; Baaba was destined for a life of fishing but his tremendous success has brought with it acceptance and respect from his native Senegalese people.

Maal is making genuine world music here; his influences are varied: American soul, Cuban percussion and rhythm, Jamaican ska, Senegal traditional. The result is something new that sounds very old and very right. While he continues to diversify (some would argue "water down") his sound to appeal to an evergrowing international audience, he never loses track of his roots; Baaba has been extremely outspoken about AIDS awareness and the necessity of global acknowledgement of both the culture and hardships of West Africa.

With the highest possible recommendation: Baaba Maal.


Baaba Maal - "Lam Tooro"

My favorite track from one of my favorite albums by one of my favorite artists. SQUEEEEEEE!

No, seriously; this is fucking amazing: otherworldly and insistent strings and Baaba's beautiful voice floating atop each plucked note. Sounds like a long mountain journey.

This whole album is a joy; entirely acoustic and free of the aforementioned "watering down", this is the least complicated and most beautiful of Baaba's mainstream releases.

Purchase "Djam Leelii" direct from Amazon.
That wasn't a suggestion; it was an imperative.

Please bear in mind that this is a REISSUE of the now out of print original, that contains a few new songs to sweeten the pot. Don't get confused if you see different versions floating around.
Learn more about the guitarist on this piece: Mansour Seck.
Baaba's official homepage
An extensive discography, dipping back to 1981 or you could try a more manageable listing comprised only of Baaba's post 1990 work.


Baaba Maal - "Mbolo"

I think it was Spiderman who said "With great production comes lack of clarity", but Baaba handles the tightrope walking pretty well here. Definitely slicker, but still heartfelt.

Bass heavy and awfully contemporary.

Purchase the album this track hails from, "Nomad Soul", from Amazon.
Great album; it's only a tetch too NewAge-y/BabyBoomerFriendly on some of the tracks for my taste.
Purchase the circa-"Nomad Soul" concert video "Baaba Maal: Live at Royal Festival Hall" for sixteen bucks.
1995 Interview
This quote from Michael Stipe cracks me up: "Baaba Maal opened his mouth and beautiful pearls and lilies and songbirds came flying out. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen."

I know what he's getting at, but still. Aw, heck; who'm I kiddin'? I've probably written dumber stuff on this blog. This week.
An interesting site about Senegal and the Gambia, featuring a selection of songs by a considerable array of Senegalese artists. I suppose I am now obliged to go find a realplayer knockoff. PENNYARCADE has recommended this (scroll down to "realalternative").
I'll test drive the next time I'm feelin' especially frisky and report back.


Baaba Maal - "Gidelam"

Geeknote: the opening here puts me in mind of a Monkey Island game, but once it gets goin', "Gidelam" proves itself pretty funky.

This flirts with Paul Simon/David Byrne style production but manages to hold its own.

One of the better tracks off the album.

Purchase "Lam Tooro" from Amazon.
This was Baaba's first release to the international market and is, I think, better than his breakthrough to the global scene, "Firin' In Fouta".
Rockpaperscissors offers (among other things) this handydandy US tour info.

All my New York peeps should TOTALLY check Baaba out at SOB's on the 21st and 22nd of this month; I know _I_ would. If anybody DOES go, please contact me; I'd love to hear how it was. And hey: if you write a review, I'd be happy to host.
A recent interview
Lonely Planet offers a fairly good outsider's-view-in of Baaba's homeland or if you're feeling spunky, you could learn more than you ever needed to know about Senegal.


Baaba Maal - "Senegale Ngumee"

Baaba's most recent album, "Missing You", finds him working with mainstream producer John Leckie (prior of Radiohead's "The Bends") and settling into a style more akin to "Djam Leelii" than "Nomad Soul". "Missing You" was recorded in the Senegal village of Nbunk and there's a lot of site specific noise that creeps into the tracks; in this case, you can hear children playing and a rooster crowing in the background. There's a patina of what's obviously intended as "authenticity" on the album, but it's not overstated enough to be annoying.

Epitonic offers another "Missing You" track for download, if you can get around that goddamn Diesel ad.
Site hosted popups are becoming steadily more sneaky and shitty by the hour.
Or is it just me?
Stream the entire "Missing You" album. Try before you buy.

Incidentally, Amazon also offers this import-only limited edition version of "Missing You" packed with a three track EP of dance remixes. The market savvy Baaba allows a great deal of his work to be remade a'la club, but the results are mixed; I thought the Thievery Corporation remixes were great, the Karsh Kale jungl-ishous somewhat less so (Baaba seemed more of an afterthought than a centerpiece).

I haven't heard these versions; you pays your money, you takes your chances.
Vitamin C is hosting over an albums worth of Maal BUT in realmedia format, AGAIN. Ick.
A brief overview of the musical traditions of Senegal, Baaba Maal included.