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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

On Verra

It's time for some more music again. A wonderful album I keep playing these days is "Specialist in All Styles" by the Senegalese band Orchestra Baobab. The album was released somewhere in 2002 and I totally missed out on it until now. Especially the two songs Bul Ma Min and On Verra Ca will bring a happy smile on your face!

Here's a review from the BBC:

Even those with just a passing acquaintance with African music will have heard of Orchestra Baobab. They were superstars in Senegal in the seventies with their sophisticated, cosmopolitan blend of homegrown styles and Cuban influences. Their album "Pirates' Choice" was one of the first "world music" albums to have an impact in the West. Ironically, by the time of this international breakthrough, the group had already split up, victims of changes in musical taste and dispirited by civil war in Senegal.

Now after a gap of 17 years they return, their reformation a labour of love instigated by record label boss Nick Gold. And endorsed by Youssou Ndour and Ibrahim Ferrer, both of whom sang backing vocals on these sessions.

When any group reappears after a long period away the discerning listener is wise to approach the results with caution. Will it be as good as it used to be?

With Orchestra Baobab, there's no problem. It really does sound like they've never been away. This is a cunningly arranged, charming, swinging record which lives up to its title; the range of different styles attempted, all of them successfully, gives the album real variety and breath. There's excellent self-penned new material like the ska tinged "Bul Ma Min", alongside some old favourites including the classic "Hommage A Tonton Ferrer" and the Latin swing of "On Verra Ca".

The star of the show is lead guitarist Barthelemy Atisso. One minute he's delivering clean, fast, twangy lines, the next is using the Wah Wah pedal to great effect or experimenting with just a touch of scratchy noise, all done in impeccable taste. It's amazing to think that he didn't even own a guitar for thirteen years when he became a lawyer in Togo.

A delightful return from a group who seem to enjoy playing as much as ever. Music to put a smile on your face.

Reviewer: Nick Reynolds

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