Awesome mu­sic from the ar­chives – Orchestra Baobab’s ‘Pi­rates Choice’

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - TICKET STUBS -

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.

Donal Di­neen

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