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Orchestra Baobab, Pirate's Choice: The Legendary 1982 Session CD

Review: Orchestra Baobab Pirate's Choice: The Legendary 1982 Session

by J.J. Rassler

With members drawn from Senegal's most illustrious bands, the all-star Orchestra Baobab debuted opening night in 1970 at Dakar's Club Baobab and a legend was born.

Since the 1940's Latin music reigned supreme in the Senegalese nightclubs and dance halls. Although a number of musical styles were always popular, the Latin influenced rhythms were foremost.

The 1960's, however, saw a return to more authentic African music. Baobab was pivotal during this period with their deep-rooted Cuban influences and strong leanings towards national identity. They had created a distinct sound indeed. So often we hear of Cuban or Puerto Rican bands with African influence. Well here's an African band with a strong Latin undercurrent.

Featured vocalist Radolphe Gomis gives his songs a decidedly Latin flavor with lyrics in both Wolof and Spanish. From Togo, guitarist extraordinaire, Barthelemy Attisso, adds a melodic spacey quality that, but for the tone, is reminiscent of Arsenio Rodriguez. Three songs are reworkings of Cuban tunes; "Sol Dadi" and "Utru Horas," the latter title, represented here in two takes, has a tough drag-sway feel with great timbales and a haunting saxophone. "Ray Mbele" is a hypnotic bilingual descarga that could go on forever without protest from this listener.

This CD gives just over 60 minutes worth of guitars, assorted percussion, infectious sax, top shelf timbales, clave beat on steel, and a bevy of singers. Recorded straight to two-track with no (zero!) overdubs, you are seduced and pulled right into the groove of some very special moments. A relaxed, cool ambience results. Few records have as consistent an effect. The musicians work together as if one entity. This is a unique and infinitely enjoyable recording that will undoubtedly appeal to World Music fans, musicologists interested in the transculturalization of musical forms, and Salseros who know a good groove when they hear one. Highly recommended.

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