Born in Senegal to a Gewel griot family, singer and percussionist SIDY SAMB is the son of Daro Mbaye, one of the first women singers in the popular mbalax genre and from whom he learned the foundations of technique and composition. On a visit to Seville, Spain for the 1992 World Expo, he discovered a passion for flamenco music and decided to make his home there. He quickly found his way into the music scene and became a founding member of Mártires del Compás (Martyrs of the Compass), a seminal “nuevo flamenco” band, that same year.
He recorded three CDs with Mártires del Compás – Flamenco Billy (1995), Prohibido Da el Cante (1996), and Al Compás de la Llaga Dolorida (1998) – and has collaborated with Spanish pop stars such as Ana Belén, Victor Manuel, Kiko Veneno and Raimundo Amador, among many others.
In 2004, Sidy recorded his first solo album, La Sombra del Duende. Featuring all original material, he called the project Gewel and invited the participation of a select group of legendary musicians: Raimundo Amador, Diego Amador, Pepe Bao, Joaquín Megallón, Alex Icot, Valentín Ponce, Álvaro Gandul and Pape Ndiaye. The instrumentation included kora, balafon and sabar drums as well as Spanish guitar and cajón, along with electric guitar, bass, keys and drums. With lyrics in Wolof, Mandinga, Spanish and French the music is a rich exploration of flamenco, jazz, reggae, and various Senegalese styles.
Following that project, Sidy formed a new band, this time with his compatriots, returning to Senegal and offering the kind of “pure and hard mbalax” that was in high demand. “I felt like an ambassador of African music in Europe, because in everything I did, I brought my African touch. But at some point, I thought it was time to return to the source,” he says. He recorded several albums for the Senegalese market. Askanwi (2004) was, as Sidy calls it, “a business card” – a foot in the door of Senegal’s pop music industry. Produced by Youssou Ndour, the album came from Sidy’s participation in Ndour’s 4.4.44 project celebrating Senegal’s independence 44 years earlier on April 4, 1960. Two other albums followed: Morena (2005), featuring Youssou Ndour on the song “Daan San Doolé”; Gnun Gnep Thilen (2006), and Women (2009) – which was re-released in 2012 for the international market.
Once again, the urge to look elsewhere returned to Sidy, who identifies as “not a Senegalese musician but a Senegalese who makes music”. In 2014 he recorded yet another new concept album, Sunu (Return to Our Origins), on the Aztec Musique label. For this project Sidy enlisted the brilliant Ivoirian guitarist Mao Otayeck, pillar of Alpha Blondy’s band Solar System, as co-director. At its very core a pan-African album, Sidy describes it as a “trip to Africa” – incorporating instruments and musical elements from Senegal, Guinea, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo. More importantly, he composed the music on site: “I don’t want to stay in Senegal and sing a song in Lingala without going there [to the DNC],” he explains. The songs on the album carry messages about peace, love, unity and other issues of concern to Africans across the continent.
In 2015, a follow-up album, Adayi, was released on Youssou Ndour’s Prince Arts label. With a solid fan base in Spain and Senegal and growing recognition throughout Africa, Sidy Samb has the foundation and momentum to open new doors in the international arena. He has participated in festivals like WOMAD, Etnosur, La Mar de Músicas, BAM, Getxo International Jazz Festival, MIDEM, Africa Vive, and others, as well as festivals throughout Senegal.
Sidy Samb has recently joined the artist roster of the U.S.-based New African Production for exclusive representation in North America, and is preparing for his upcoming 2017-2018 tour.
Written by “DJ Neva” E. Wartell