fri 22/03/2019

CD: Senegal 70 | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Senegal 70

CD: Senegal 70

Music that surfs the elation of post-colonial freedom

Rarities from post-independence Senegal

There was a magic moment in West Africa when, shortly after independence, in countries like Mali, Guinea and Senegal, the new leaders financed and encouraged new dance bands – telling them to dig deep into their own traditions and no longer feel obliged to imitate the music of their recently departed colonial masters. That exuberant joie de vivre shines through in the extraordinary music of that time, and this new compilation of rare and unreleased material from Senegal, subtitled "Sonic Gems and Previously Unreleased Recordings from the 70s", provides a delightful range of music that evokes the optimism that reigned at this time of new beginnings.

There is plenty of Afro-Cuban material, as one would expect, since this was the "modern" music in which African musicians most recognised themselves and which along with funk, late-60s rock and jazz served as a launching pad for new experiments in musical négritude. There are rippling guitar solos, scintillating improvisations on honey-toned saxophones and several very beautiful moments from the jazzy ace trumpeter Laye Thiam. These musicians know how to build a chorus, sweet-talking away, as in a piece of fine preaching, using notes rather than the spoken word, but always reaching deep into the heart.

The horn sections have a deliciously lax intonation – it’s always been intentional rather than messy, just as the beat is rubbery rather than metronomic – inducing a kind of slow-motion delight that draws its strength from being held back rather than in-your-face, joyfully off-kilter rather than strictly even-keeled.

We are treated to recently unearthed tracks from the famed Orchestra Baobab, with the sweet melancholy voice of Thione Seck – every bit as much of a vocal genius as Youssou N’Dour; the fabulous and anarchic Gëstu de Dakar, whose vocals and horns weave in and out of each other in creative chaos on the album’s standout  track “Ndiourel”, an early manifestation of the glorious mbalax style – later Senegal's polyrhythmic trademark – as well as less well-known groups. Perfect winter fuel, and an irresistible call to the dance floor.

@Rivers47

These musicians know how to build a chorus, sweet-talking away, as in a piece of fine preaching

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