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October Feature: Orchestra Baobab

Formed in 1970 and one of the most popular African bands of the decade, Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab created a blend of various African and Cuban styles and rhythms as entrancing today as it was when the group first began to play.

Baobab came together to perform at the chic new Baobab Club in Dakar. Their members were recruited from another popular club group, the Star Band (some of whom would go on to form Etoile de Dakar which featured a young rising Senegalese singer, Youssou N’Dour). It was a relatively large ensemble renowned for its strong vocals, horn lineup, distinctive and outstanding lead guitar, and infectious blend of different African styles and the Cuban music that had become so popular across the continent.

Baobab became one of the country’s most popular groups during the ‘70s and recorded some 20 albums from the time they formed until 1985. The group broke up in 1987. Then, in part at the urging of Youssou N’Dour (whose mbalax style, ironically, had surpassed the sound of Baobab in the ‘80s), they reunited in 2001. They became major stars on the world music scene, saw some of their earlier material reissued or released for the first time internationally, and recorded several critically acclaimed new albums.

Throughout October, Global Village highlights music of Orchestra Baobab, from those early classics to the later recordings, along a new album from Ablaye Thiossane N’Diaye, who was a singer with the group in the ‘70s.