At the age of ten he was charming the audiences at the Jazz Festival in St Louis, Senegal when he was spotted by the legendary Senegalese singer Papa Seck. Recognizing the extraordinary vocal talent of this young boy he arranged for him to be auditioned at the National Music School. Passing this test easily Laye was soon to be following in the footsteps of Youssou n' Dour and Baaba Maal and to learn his crafts of singing, performing, writing, playing drums and guitar. After graduating he became the lead singer at the National Orchestra.
The National Orchestra is made up of the creme de la creme of musicians living in Senegal. This Government sponsored Orchestra acts as an ambassador to the country supporting national celebrations, events and performing throughout Africa and Internationally. By the age of 22 Laye was known in 10 Countries and was a regular on TV and radio.
His travels introduced him to the music of UB40, Bob Marley, Ry Cooder, Buena Vista Social Club, Ali Farka Toure and Tracy Chapman and soon he was experimenting with the fusion of their musical forms and the traditional rhythms of Senegal. This has led to his unique singing style.
At twenty five he formed Jelitara Futa. For the next 16 years the band played in Africa and Internationally. Playing at such well known events as WOMAD, Glastonbury, Live Eight, Larmar Tree, Eden Project, Royal Festival Hall, National Theatre and numerous other festivals and venues across the World. He is a superstar in Senegal where he is loved for his on stage performances.
In 2003 a meeting with Steve Marshall Producer led to a change in musical direction and a successful collaboration on his next two albums 'Mami and more recently 'Djamano' Orange World Records. The large band sound was dropped to reveal the purity and range of his voice with each track performed with the English blues guitarist Richard Caswell. Unsurprisingly this music has reached the 'Sahara Blues of the Desert' and 'Acoustic Africa compilations. Charlie Gillet (BBC Radio) was to say of this album.
'An addictive new find it's rare to hear such a perfect combination of voice and guitar Laye Sow is surely one of the best young Senegalese singers and Richard Caswell frames each song with guitar arrangements that feel satisfyingly apt'.
So what makes Laye's music so different to others before him? Perhaps it is in his roots from the Fula ethnic group of West Africa? The origins of these people can be traced from the Pharaohs of Egypt to nomadic tribes in Ethiopia. Laye can trace his family history directly to the Dogan in Mali a culture steeped in the arts, music and dancing. For many visitors today this place seems like a paradise on earth but life here is hard and with no way of recording events the stories of the ancestors are passed down through the generations through song and story telling. Like his fathers before him Laye sings of everyday events and people he has known, of loves and passions of life and death. As his audience has widened the more difficult subjects that beset Africa are expressed in his lyrics.
In 2006 Laye wrote and produced the 'Presidential Tapes' in Dakar. This music formed the backdrop for the Presidents election campaign. Using the top musicians of Senegal the music and pop promo were a great success................and the President elected
He was in the UK in February 2007 when he received the news that his wife of 17 years had died . It was a difficult time. Tours were cancelled. He did not renew his contract with his management and took some 'time out'. A new contract has now been signed with Music Directions Ltd. and an album is being recorded in December. The album is named 'So Far'.
So what of the new album? Here we find the performer again. The man who can hit the notes that makes the hair on the back of your neck curl. The man who with a twitch of his shirt has the audience teased into dancing and singing. The blues have been left behind and in their place are the rhythms of Reggae, Reggae Dub, Cha, Cha, Cha and Salsa. Fusion music at it's best. Music to drive to, music to dance to and music to be moved by...and a great audience to be flirted with
For more information put his name into Google.
Currently looking for Tour Bookings, Gigs and other projects for 2008/9 in UK and abroad. Laye Sow currently lives in London and has a Work Permit and VISA.
Update - Sang in January at the Liverpool 08 opening of the Echo Arena. He was the first act and sang with Ringo Star. Featured on the Culture Show.
NB. This biography is not subject to WOMEX's copyright - Music Directions Ltd release it under the GFDL (GNU Free Documentation License).