Thought I would share a story of one of my favorite African artist Baaba Maal.
From the northern, riverside town of Podor comes a modern musician filled with the mysteries of ancient Africa. Catlike and delicate in appearance, Baaba Maal sings with hurricane force. His music embraces the gentle filigree of West African folk, the tumult of mbalax and the toughness of rap and reggae.
Maal comes from the Toucouleur people who live in the Fulani fouta region, by the Senegal River, which divides Senegal and Mauritania. Young Baaba left home and moved to the Wolof-dominated capital Dakar to study music and explore his national culture. He soon returned to the north and spent a year with his group traveling along the Senegal River and learning from the old musicians village by village.
In 1982, Maal went to a conservatory in Paris, where he performed with his longtime friend the blind singer Mansour Seck. The duo pricked up ears in Europe with their intimate live recording, Djam Leelii. Maal returned to Senegal to form his current group, Dande Lenol, or "Voice of the Race." The group has played a key role in African pop's incorporation of hip-hop, reggae and techno, notably on their landmark 1994 release, Firin' in Fouta. Other Maal releases with Dande Lenol include Lam Toro (1992), Nomad Soul (1997) and Live at Royal Festival Hall (1999).
Maal also maintains an acoustic group that plays and records folkloric music. His 1991 acoustic release Baayo is a landmark Afropop recording, and Maal reprised its acoustic format on Missing You (Mi Yeewlii) (2001). A true original, Maal celebrates village life even as he advocates contemporary causes, including women's rights in Africa. Like the griots he admires, Maal sings of history and heroes, bringing the lessons of the past into peoples' lives today.– Banning Eyre, Courtesy Afropop Worldwide: www.afropop.org