The Baobab Orchestra, the eternal resonances of African music

The mythical Senegalese band, Orchestra Baobab, was at the Astrolabe in Orléans to celebrate its 50th anniversary. An orchestra that moves at the intersection of musical trends from all over Africa and beyond.

By Mael Petit

Baobab Orchestra on the Astrolabe stage this Friday, October 21. ©Mael Petit

If we were to define, or even extract, the essence of this Baobab Orchestra, born from the buye* seed planted in the famous nightlife clubs of Dakar’s Medina, it would perhaps be its resilience in the face of oblivion and heaviness. years, those whose flowers have faded within the last 50 years. Because, like almost every artist, the Senegalese band has had its ups and downs in its career. The glory of the beginnings in the 70s, which consecrated the Baobab Orchestra as one of the most popular musical groups in the capital of West Africa.
A decade of hegemony that later predicted no false note for the orchestra’s future. But today, an artist knows very well the renewal he must demonstrate in order to endure. Perhaps the young Baobab of the time did not have enough experience to continue growing. Because the descent was brutal, with the arrival of mbalax, the most popular musical rhythm in the country, especially popularized by Youssou N’Dour, Baobab quickly overshadowed its counterparts on the Senegalese music scene.

The rebirth of the baobab

In total, a nearly fifteen-year follow-up that the public considered insurmountable, started by World Circuit Records label director Nick Gold and the same man Youssou N’Dour was indirectly involved with, before the renaissance of the early 2000s. the group’s demise 15 years ago. A holy wink of fate for an orchestra reconnecting with past success. To say that conductor and saxophonist Thierno Koite’s band has come a long way is an understatement. The mistakes of the past are not forgotten, they are now part of Baobab’s history, like the scars on its trunk that symbolize the stages the group has gone through. From brightest to darkest. “We will not be caught again”they swear.

Wind instruments brilliantly accompany Cuban percussion ©Mael Petit

Then follow albums, tours across continents, which in turn discover the style of the Baobab Orchestra. A spicy blend of Cuban percussion and rhythms combined with African melodies and sounds, all enhanced with a touch of soulful jazz. However, we are far from covering all the influences that shaped the style of Baobab’s repertoire. The best place to talk about this is the group itself, “We have succeeded in creating what no president of the African Republic has been able to do. Knowing how to bring together many nationalities and ethnic groups within the same group” guitarist Yahya Fall explains proudly. Beninese, Togolese, Mauritanian, Moroccan, Malian rub shoulders in this orchestra… everyone brings their own musical personality here.
“Baobab represents the true African unity that creates a palette of musical colors as diverse as unseen colors.continues John Fall, and even if we’ve lost a few key elements, it’s still not going away.”.

Passing the baton to a new generation

If the baobab is eternal, its fruits are not eternal either. Many of the elders who were present when the orchestra was formed have now disappeared. This involves waiting the next few years to find a new generation capable of maintaining the baobab. “The elders introduced the younger ones to the intricacies of the orchestra very early on, passing on the spirit of the baobab tree, which continued to exist even after we became a band.
no morecontinues John Fall, the two generations complement each other. The elders bring their subtlety and experience, while the young show dynamism, strength and energy ». A clever mix that allows you to cross the decades with the help of the new shoots of the baobab, one of which is embodied by Alpha Dieng, the eldest son of the former member of the orchestra, now deceased, Ndiouga Dieng. young singer “baobab boy”developed within the group with his father
“He passed on his legacy”. Therefore, there is no better school to continue to promote the Baobab Orchestra, a true ambassador of African culture, around the world.

*bouye = also called monkey bread, bouye is the fruit of the African baobab tree.

More information about Magcentre: Words by the musicians of the Orchester d’Orléans No. 2 “Contrabass and silences”

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