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26 May 2014
Baaba Mall - Television

Baaba Maal – “Television”

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Baaba Maal is undoubtedly one of the most important African artists of our time. With deep integrity he has transcended limitations and remained undaunted by social restrictions. As an artist he is unique – a pioneer, passionate, involved, evolved and all encompassing. He has created his own style of music – distinctly West African with an international sensibility. Fearlessly expansive, he has encouraged others to explore without limitation. Therefore it’s unfathomable why purists persist in compartmentalizing his creations, arguing that his sound is too westernized and ‘not African enough’. In 1985 he formed his own band, Dande Lenol [‘the voice of the people’] and has since been recording and performing prolifically. He has consistently pushed the boundaries and shifted the parameters, so much so, that the largely acoustic, African-folk quality of the Grammy-nominated Missing You, [Rew Mii] his last studio album, was the surprise. Now, after eight years comes ‘Television’, and although Baaba’s essence is the unexpected, the fundamentalists will frown. His co-producer, Barry Reynolds, suggested he team up with the Brazilian Girls, who are dubbed as ‘New York’s premier international party band’. Strangely enough, none of the members of this electronica outfit come from Brazil, and three of the four members are men. Sabina Sciubba is the female, and it’s her voice that initially attracted Baaba Maal. It’s also her contribution that stands out on ‘Television’ – a title that refers to the ‘relatively recent phenomenon in Africa of ubiquitous TV screens’. ‘The television set is like a stranger you didn’t ask for coming into your living-room,’ explains Baaba. ‘You don’t care about who he is: he just seems to come from nowhere and gives you information.’ With a strongly cosmopolitan edge, it’s still an African album – affirmed by the inclusion of instruments like the talking drum, the djembe and the sabar – all performed by members of Daande Lenol. However, this time the kora is absent, because Baaba believes that his longtime kora player, the late Kaouding Cissoko can’t be replaced. But he is joined, once again, by his lifelong friend, the blind griot, Mansour Seck, who besides adding a spiritual element through his guitar remains Baaba’s advisor. Singing in Fulani, Wolof and French, he includes his first composition in English, the easy-going ‘Dakar Moon’. With Song for Women’ he encourages the empowerment of women in Africa, by transforming a traditional song, both musically and lyrically. Overall, the album is more commercial than much of his earlier work, but it’s still serious- thematically it addresses the impact of the media on Africa, and musically its medicine! “Music is just music. It doesn’t belong to this part or this part. When we arrive at this level, music is something you share.” – Baaba Maal

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