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A quick rumble of drums and we’re into the confident chords and skittish melodies that launches ‘Conie’, the opening song on Jamm, the first album in half a decade from Senegal’s Cheikh Lô. One of the strengths of Jamm (meaning ‘peace’ in Wolof) is its unfussy immediacy and its confident sense of self and spirituality. Songs such as ‘Sankara’ (for Burkina Faso’s assassinated president) and the compassionate ‘Il n’est jamais trop tard’, about Africans seeking new life in Europe, stem from a deep engagement with regional cares.

Originating from Burkina Faso, Lô’s musical journey has been a long one, starting in the Afro-Cuban bands of his homeland before moving to Senegal, then Paris, then Dakar, where Youssou N’Dour first heard the young singer.

Jamm is dominated by the jazz and Latin-infused mbalax rhythms of Senegal – listen to ‘Dieuf Dieul’ to hear them – but the album’s overall feel is far broader than this. At heart, it’s a recapitulation of the sounds that made him – such as ‘Warico’ from Amadou Balake or Doh Albert’s ‘Ne parti pas’ – but in restating and adapting, Lô’s going back to look forward.


New Internationalist issue 436 magazine cover This article is from the October 2010 issue of New Internationalist.
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