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Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng
LP (12" album, 33 rpm), Import
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Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng
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Vinyl LP pressing. 2017 release. West Africa's most iconic dance-band is back. A decade on from their last album and almost half a century since their formation, Senegal's Orchestra Baobab return with a timeless set of classic, swaying tunes fusing Afro-Cuban rhythms and African tradition in the group's trademark style. Recorded locally in Moussa X's Dakar studio, the new recordings sound fresh and yet reassuringly familiar, retaining the ripeness of the sound that made Orchestra Baobab a legend but interpreted with a vigor and vibrancy, and with a few twists, that are vital and captivating. As enduring as the mighty African Baobab tree from which the group derives it's name, the veteran core of the band remains as strong and sturdy as ever. Vocalists Balla Sidibe and Rudy Gomis, saxophonists Issa Sissoko and Thierno Koite and the long-serving, rock steady rhythm section of Balla Sidibe, timbales, Charlie Ndiaye bass and Mountaga Koite on congas. Tribute To Ndiouga Dieng is dedicated to one of the bands original vocalists who sadly died in November 2016. His songs will continue to be sung with the band by his son Alpha. It represents the latest chapter in a long and storied career that started in 1970 when the newly-formed Orchestra Baobab helped forge Dakar into one of the world's most vital musical cities. Over the next decade the group dominated the local scene and produced countless hits before disbanding in the early '80s.
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The addition of Abdouleye Cissoko’s kora perfectly fills the void left by Attisso’s guitar. The timbre of Thione Seck’s voice is so reminiscent of his brother Mapenda's which is a beautiful nod to the past. The familiar voices of Balla Sidibe and Rudy Gomis are there as well as the infectious energy of Issa Cissoko’s tenor saxophone and Charlie Ndiaye’s billowy bass. All the players, old and new, have created a masterpiece with the wisdom of the original members and vitality of the new additions.
Ndiouga Dieng couldn’t have asked for a more perfect tribute. Everything about it from the arrangements and performances to the recording and mastering engineering is at the highest level. Even the artwork is elegant and reminds me of the hand painted salon signs that you see in Africa. I had the honour of seeing them live and meeting the band during the ‘Specialist in All Styles’ tour and if you ever have a chance to see them live do not miss it!
Also, the UK made vinyl record is quite possibly the finest, clearest record I’ve ever purchased. When I had trouble downloading the CD quality .wav digital copy that comes with the vinyl the people at World Circuit records were quick to solve the problem. I don’t know which pressing plant World Circuit uses but their vinyl is flawless.
But it still worth the buy.
If you are a Baobab fan it will take about 2.5 seconds and you'll notice the difference. But if you're not, let me explain better. Baobab was known for Latin percussion, saxes, and guitars. In particular the departure of B. Atisso as lead guitarist, one of Africa's best with that instrument, would change the sound of the band regardless of the quality of his replacement. The other notable departure is due to singer N. Dieng, who died in 2016 prompting this tribute album. So the band could have tried to continue with the same, but it would have in all likelihood produced lesser results than the last two albums, as I have experienced with many bands who try to keep the same sound with new members, rather than adapt to the new members' talents.
While they did replace the singer and guitarist, the big change comes with the addition of a Kora. In some tracks it fills in where Atisso would have placed his guitar lines, in others it makes the band sound more rustic and relaxed. Natalia and Magnokouto also add a Balafon, further transforming the band's sound with Africa's traditional instruments, and finally tracks Mariama and Alekouma has the band drops to just the Kora with just a little backing from the rest of the band. On the other hand the Kora is absent on both Sey and Caravana, providing a more classical Baobab sound, if somewhat changed due to Atisso's absence.
They have some good guests including Cheikh Lo and Thione Seck, the latter who reprises his classic Sey. While this is a great version there is more echo in Seck's voice on this version than I prefer, and notably more than in the salsa version Seck recorded with Africando.
All in all, great interesting music.