Awesome music from the archives – Orchestra Baobab’s ‘Pirates Choice’
Like the night-time sky over Dakar, there’s a lot to take in with the music of Orchestra Baobab. The roots of their sound stretch back centuries and across continents.
The sophisticated fusion of these ancient cultural strands with Cuban rhythms was how the Orchestra derived its uniquely colourful identity. Having the means to experiment with sound broadened their horizons. Skills passed down through generations found new modes of expression with advancements in recording technology.
The multi-ethnic band were the brightest stars in a golden age of post-independence Senegalese music. Political and and social evolution powered a tidal wave of creativity. The winds of change was to their backs.
Conditions were officially favourable for miracles to happen. The minds that conjured up the Baobab sound were no ordinary dreamers. They were an electrified incarnation of griot storytellers and praise singers. The music was in their veins. They were the first generation with the means to change the course of the bloodflow.
They set about the task with surgical precision. The scope of their ambition and scale of achievement is staggering. They recorded 20 albums between 1970 and 1985. Pirates Choice is masterpiece number 16.
Before attempting to unravel this glorious mystery, it’s worth paying attention to the provenance of their name. The baobab is one of the most emblematic and majestic trees of the African savannah and is considered sacred in Senegal. If you cut it down, it will always grow back. Mature trees are hollow, providing living space for animals and humans. In pre-colonial times, griots were buried within its trunk. The spirit of music is ingrained in its fibrous essence. The tree of life is what it is.