Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Orchestra Baobab: Made in Dakar

John Walters reviews Orchestra Baobab's Made in Dakar.
Whoever coined the term "intelligent dance music" was probably thinking of digital basslines and tricky breaks, but the phrase will also do nicely for this set of newly recorded songs by the legendary Senegalese band. Orchestra Baobab, who reformed in 2001 after a 16-year break, are masters of an urban style that pairs rippling, fast-flowing guitar lines with impassioned vocals and sophisticated dance rhythms. These move effortlessly from rumba, reggae and highlife to more indigenous grooves such as mbalax and their own "mbalsa", an infectious salsa hybrid heard on the track Ami Kita Bay. The four vocalists - augmented by Youssou N'Dour for a new version of their 1970s hit Nijaay - are superb. Nick Gold's production and sequencing ensures we are never bored: there is always a new voice or groove around the corner. Star of the show, as always, is musical director and guitarist Barthélemy Attisso, whom I once compared to Hank Marvin and Mark Knopfler; that wasn't hyperbole.

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