Baaba Maal

If socially conscious worldbeat star Baaba Maal hadn't followed his heart, he might have ended up a humble fisherman, or -- God forbid -- a lawyer. Thankfully, he chose the same path as blind childhood pal Mansour Seck, whose ancient caste carried the honorable burden of preserving Podor, Senegal's oral history in song. After joining his griot-guide in metropolitan Dakar on an art scholarship, Maal did time in the seventy-piece Asly Fouta, then chased down additional musical theory at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Meanwhile, Maal and Seck's hypnotic picking sessions broadened in scope with exposure to James Brown, Otis Redding and Bob Marley. Debuting with a masterful acoustic guitar and four-string lute shootout (1984's Djam Leelii), Maal soon electrified his sound for European club appeal, followed by even slicker collaborations with Brian Eno and producer John Leckie. Still showcasing sightless prodigy Seck, Maal's current thirteen-piece, Daande Lenol -- literally translated as "the voice of the race" -- gets allegorical, shedding light, hope, funk and reggae, Senegalese style. Cue the sunset and crickets.


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