FOR some Western listeners, Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng may serve as an introduction to Senegalese legends Orchestra Baobab. Despite afro-beat’s recent surge in popularity around the world, the group have managed to remain just below the radar. Formed in the mid-1960s, the group has been at the forefront of the multi-cultural and ethnically diverse movement, which helps form afro-beat’s unique sound. This new release finds the group sounding incredible across the board.
The record, ten tracks long, is packed with layered polyrhythms, soaring horn lines and emotive vocal deliveries. The music feels global. Elements of the various West-African popular music traditions are present, especially in the phenomenal percussion arrangements. There is, however, a Latin tinge somewhere in the mix too. Spanish guitar and modal melodies are reminiscent of Bueno Vista Social Club at their very best. The vocal melodies are the love child of Western RnB and Congolese sensibilities. The end product is a sound and feeling which celebrates the best of the world’s many sound cultures.
The production on the album is clean, while taking precautions not to overshadow the skill of the musicians involved. Guitars, infused with chorus, sit comfortably amongst the centre sound of electric bass and the multi-faceted rhythm section. The voices dance over this arrangement, giving each part of the record its own place to live in the mix.
It’s hard to pick a highlight from the bunch. It might well depend on what mood you’re in while listening to the album. We certainly strongly suggest giving the album a chance as a whole, so as to immerse yourself in the full experience. This may seem an archaic practice in the modern age, but you won’t regret giving Orchestra Baobab an hour of your time.
In a Nutshell: Love at first listen; how could you not?