NY Times Takes Musical Tour Through Dakar with Youssou N'Dour, Orchestra Baobab, Cheikh Lô
I Bring What I Love, the film by director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, documents the release of Youssou N'Dour 2004 Nonesuch album Egypt and its reception internationally, earning critical acclaim and a 2004 Grammy award, and at home in Senegal, where it is met with initial resistance and, ultimately, celebration of the sort that country has long given this revered singer, songwriter, and humanitarian. Nonesuch will release music from the film in January. On Sunday, the New York Times Travel section featured an extensive musical tour through Senegal's capital city of Dakar, highlighting not least the ubiquitous mbalax style Youssou made famous, and that of his countrymen, like "local legend" Orchestra Baobab (pictured) and "longtime local favorite" Cheikh Lô.
Writer Seth Sherwood follows Youssou to Thiossane, his Dakar nightclub, for a live performance at which "an ecstatic roar explodes" as soon as Youssou takes the stage, "and soon several hundred bodies are dancing madly."
Sherwood describes Dakar as "one of the globe’s most dynamic yet least touristed music centers" and, with all that musical wealth, deems it "ripe for discovery." A rich source of that music for decades now has been Orchestra Baobab, whose "rise, fall and rebirth is one of the most remarkable stories in Senegalese music," says Sherwood, "and a window into the evolution of the country’s characteristic sounds." The band and its Afro-Cuban-inflected sound dominated the country's musical scene, only to be found out of favor with the rise of mbalax, and return again with the 2001 World Circuit / Nonesuch reissue of its 1982 debut, Pirates Choice, and the band's subsequent new releases in the 21st century, Specialist in All Styles and Made in Dakar. Experiencing that music live in Dakar, Sherwood says the "grooves feel as tropical as the night air: warm, up-tempo, lushly orchestrated, full of rich horn riffs and rock-steady guitar strumming."
Also on the musical tour is a live set from Cheikh Lô and his band, "a mid-tempo mix of jazzy guitar chords, golden saxophone runs and the light pitter-patter of Senegalese drums, like rain on a roof, all punctuated by Cheikh Lô’s trebly wail."
To follow Sherwood on his tour of Dakar and insight onto planning your own Senegalese musical vacation, visit nytimes.com.
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