Africa 05 Baaba Maal

Percussion Storm
Mbaye Sy
African Woman

Baaba Maal (vocals & guitar) withDaande Lenol (Voice of the People):
Mansour Seck (vocals & guitar)
Ibrahima Cissokho (guitar)
Massamba Diop (talking drum)
Amadou Fall (kora)
Hilaire Chaby-Hary (keyboards)
Jean Daniel Diedhiou (keyboards)
El Hadji Seye (bass)Cisse (Mami) Kanoute (backing vocals)
Bada Seck (percussion)
Bah Kane Seck (percussion)
Aliou Diouf (drums)
Emilie Mbengue (dancer)
Awa Cheikh Tine (dancer)
Mamadou Gaye (acoustic guitar)
Barou Sall (hoddu)
Tim Sanders (brass)
Roddy Lorimer (brass)

Reviewed by: Nick Breckenfield

Reviewed: 13 August, 2005
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

Halfway through the 2005 Proms (four weeks to the Last Night!) and the annual world-music Prom is this year devoted to “Africa 05”, part of the much wider festival running across the BBC and beyond, which was perfectly timed to add impetus to the G8’s focus back in July.

There was widespread comment made of the fact that the original line-up for “Live 8 Hyde Park” included no musicians from the continent the global event was designed to help. If you really wanted to get any African music you had to go to the Eden Project in Cornwall.

As it happened even the Eden Project event didn’t include the indefatigable voice of Senegalese, Baaba Maal. So this Prom was doubly exciting, and there can be no doubt as to the success of the show.

Belying his age (early 50s), Baaba Maal kicked off the show, solo, strumming his guitar seated on an imposing carved wooden throne, with his feet on a piano stool. He then explained that, as in a typical African setting, he would add more and more players. Just shy of two hours later, the last collaborators – saxophone and trumpet – came on while the set-list accommodated Maal’s wider influences.

By then the stage was full of musicians: drummers, guitarists, keyboard players, authentic-instrument players, backing vocalists (one blind) and unbelievably energetic dancers, one doubling as a backing vocalist, who were often joined in exhausting routines by Maal himself.

High-octane stuff indeed and, although I was unable to make much sense of the words, this was a fantastic, life-affirming show. The crowd – not a sell-out (the rain was particularly bad, which may have thwarted some spontaneous walk-ins), but fantastically enthusiastic – roared its approval and demanded more. The show came down at ten past midnight. If the audience was ecstatic, goodness knows how the performers felt.

This was pure music; no moralising from the UN representative on the issue of ‘HIV/Aids in Africa’, but there was no need. This concert, affirming the great traditions of African culture and its interface with other music, made its case eloquently and vibrantly on its own.

Mind you, despite the interesting article by Peter Culshaw about meeting Baaba Maal at home in Senegal, the printed programme was silent on to the concert’s items (admittedly a tall order in the nature of these gigs) but, more seriously, no artist list for Maal’s band Daande Lenol (Voice of the People).

Therefore I am grateful to the Proms press office that researched both the line-up and the song list. I suspect Classical Source may be the only place that gives this basic information; a feather in the cap for us, but it really shouldn’t be that way.

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