Specialist in All Styles

There aren’t any really good explanations as to why Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab disappeared for 15 years but there are plenty of reasons to welcome back Dakar’s finest. Specialist in All Styles may win some prizes as being one of the slowest come-back recordings in history but it also deserves several more in the superlative stakes. Simply stated, this spirited blend of African salsa has no sell-by date.

Formed in 1970, the Baobabs were before their time. Their Latin-based sets may have derived from Cuba but their novel move was to Africanize the music. A Wolof griot was added, local mbalax styles and themes crept in. But Specialist does more than celebrate an extraordinary past. Still featuring founder members Barthelemy Attisso and singers Rudy Gomis, Balla Sidibe and Ndiouga Dieng, the Baobabs have returned to their project with a fine relish. Attisso’s guitar shifts its weight as in a dance and on ‘Jiin Ma, Jiin Ma’, a slow-moving lament sung by Gomis, it’s full of yearning. New singer Assane Mboup makes a great splash with ‘Ndongoy Daara’, a diatribe against corruption in Qur’anic schools.

Maybe the high point is ‘Hommage à Tonton Ferrer’ in which Ibrahim Ferrer, passing through from Cuba, joins the gang. Its passionate verve makes your hair bristle with sheer pleasure.

New Internationalist issue 352 magazine cover This article is from the December 2002 issue of New Internationalist.
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