Orchestra Baobab, the seminal Senegal musical ensemble, played Seattle’s EMP Museum in the Sky Church (The Church of Rock ‘n Roll-get it?) tonight before an audience of about 300 people. I’ve seen many African bands, but I’d never seen this group, since they disbanded in 1982 and reunited for a world tour in 2001. On a sultry, sweaty Seattle night, they were inspiring.
Orchestra Baobab is an all-male ten-piece ensemble with lead, rhythm & bass guitars, alto & baritone sax, three percussionists and two singers. They sing in French and Senegalese. The playing was tight-this is a mature band that knows where it’s been and knows it has something to say musically. These guys played as if they’d known each other for years. They respected each other’s contribution to the band’s sound. The lead guitarist had a fluid and supple sound like the best African guitarists (Nico and Franco). The two sax players were brilliant with the baritone sax player being especially boisterous and exuberant in “taunting” and encouraging the crowd to join in the musical festivities.
Orchestra Baobab’s musical influences run from Afro-Cuban rumba to reggae to North African rai with other stops in between. They mostly play in a slower, quieter groove. Like the best African bands, they work into a nice, cool musical groove and gently sustain it with repetitive musical phrases that both lull and stimulate the listeners’ senses. The crowd was dancing and grooving to the music with some couples doing slow, sexy dance steps. It was that kind of evening.
Judging from this concert, their current record, Specialist In All Styles, is well worth buying. Learn more about the group at their website Orchestra Baobab
My only quarrel is that with an all-male ensemble (as almost all African groups tend to be for some reason-aside from male chauvinism, why is that?), it’s nice to see female dancers break up the testosterone monopoly. That didn’t happen tonight, unfortunately.
I saw several children in the audience including toddlers in their parents’ arms. While I applaud their desire to introduce their children to the sounds of the world’s cultures, as a father of a 2 year-old, I have to wonder what they were thinking? This was a concert that lasted till 9:30 PM!! Am I just an old fogey or what?
EMP deserves credit for hosting this concert. It has hosted some other fine world music concerts in the past and one hopes it will do more in the future.
Coming soon in this blog:
Seattle’s world music resources–concert venues, world music concert hosting organizations, world music on radio, etc.