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Orchestra Baobab
Pirate's Choice
World Circuit

cd cover Orchestra Baobab were one of the truly great African bands, releasing over 20 LPs and cassettes in Senegal during the 1970s and 1980s. This double CD features their famous 1982 session in entirety, containing 6 previously unreleased tracks. If you have never heard this group before and like Afro-Cuban music, then you are in for a real treat.

Orchestra Baobab were formed in 1970 by ex-members of Senegal's premier outfit, The Star Band, and by 1982 they had been the number one group for over a decade. Their line-up was well established and featured the Togolese guitarist Barthelemy Attisso alongside Issa Cissoko on sax, with the vocals of Balla Sidibé and Rudolphe Gomis. Many great bands produce great sessions, but there is something special about Baobab's 1982 recording that sets it apart. The group seems to play so effortlessly and gracefully, and they form an instant, seamless groove that will satisfy for many, many listens. Indeed, the original release proved so popular (yet difficult to obtain) that it earned the moniker "Pirate's choice". Six tracks from this session were originally released by World Circuit in 1989 and have now been remastered and re-released.

These songs comprise CD 1, and commence with the slow, almost dirge-like "Utru Horas," with superb sax and lead guitar solos that attest to the musician's extraordinary abilities. "Coumba", the second track, is an up-beat rumba, and tells of heart-break and loss, set against more fine guitar-work from Attisso. "Ledi Ndienne M'Bodj" follows, and is another lively dance number featuring some great vocal duets, whilst the fourth track "Werente Serigne" has one of the best introductions that Baobab ever recorded. The interplay between guitar and saxophone in this song is something to be heard, and it is surely one of the masterpieces from Africa. The session doesn't let up, with "Ray M'Bele", the fifth track, beckoning us to the dance-floor with its sinuous sax and floating bass lines. CD 1 concludes with "Soldadi", a song based on a traditional melody from the Casamance region. CD 2 of Pirate's Choice contains the 6 previously unreleased songs from the 1982 session, and whilst this CD may not be as strong as the first, tracks such as "Ngalam", "Ndiaga Niaw" and "Balla Daffe" continue in the same classic Afro-Cuban style and are worthy additions to Baobab's output of official releases. This CD set will not disappoint and will undoubtedly become a true classic. It's an absolute must for all lovers of African music. - Graeme Counsel

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