Fifty years of Orchestra Baobab, West Africa’s Greatest Band
West Africa’s greatest band, Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab are celebrating their 50th anniversary with a worldwide tour, ahead of a new album for 2024, after a hiatus of 7 years.
With their historical mix of Afro-Cuban style, international pop, traditional griot music, and an after-dark nightclub ambience of lilting, mellifluous rhythms, Orchestra Baobab are now embracing the 21st century with a renewed international fame getting both old and young audiences dancing along their classic tunes in festivals and concert halls around the world and with the support of new band members joyfully joining the group.
Orchestra Baobab’s epic story began in the heart of Dakar’s Medina in the late 1960s, in a fashionable club built around a baobab tree where the band developed a distinctive take on a raft of styles that reflected the cultural mix and the strong musical personalities of its members.
Orchestra Baobab definitely set the tempo for a new era of modern Senegalese and African music!
Orchestra Baobab remained in residence at the club for seven years and in 1977 moved on to the Jandeer Night Club. In 1978, they released two exceptional albums, Baobab à Paris Volumes 1 & 2, which showcased the band’s maturing sound.
Classic albums followed Gouygui Dou Daanou (1979) and Sibou Odja (1980), which refined and defined the band’s style. The seminal Ken Dou Werente (1982) featured tracks like Utrus Horas, Coumba, Werente Werigne… some of the most beautiful African songs ever recorded.
For some time after that, though, the band, hit by new music trends from outside and inside Senegal, almost disbanded.
But the reissue of Ken Dou Werente in 1989 renamed Pirate’s Choice by Nick Gold’s World Circuit record label, marked Baobab’s new steps towards a new recognition and adulation. Specialist in all styles (2002) confirmed that the original group could rose again, coming together for unforgettable shows on the international circuit where they received standing ovations that seemed sometimes to go on forever.
2007’s Made In Dakar was co-produced by Youssou N’Dour and had the feel of a real homecoming. Indeed, after touring the world, the band settled into another of their legendary residencies at Dakar restaurant Just4U, and let the music flow through the night in a series of intimate gigs in the restaurant’s garden.
As years go on, Orchestra Baobab’s line up continued to evolve with some sad departures and some exciting new additions.
This 2023 international tour is celebrating the prestigious Orchestra’s half- century milestone. With great panache.
Atcha Lene, Let’s go !