Senegal's coolest are a winter
by This is London
Senegal's Orchestra Baobab is the best live band in Africa right now. Rather than play a big London venue, they decided to do three nights at the Jazz Café because there's nothing better than an intimate gig with a group like this. Demand has been so high there's barely room to clap along and they could have packed the venue for a week.
People think that close and cosy gives more of an African flavour, although Baobab's regular haunt in Dakar is cooler than anything London has to offer.
Baobab's trademark sound is lyrical, Cuban-inspired vocals accompanied by great playing on guitar and saxophone.
The band formed in 1970 to play for Dakar's elite in the Club Baobab for more than a decade until, in the Eighties, Youssou N'Dour's new streetwise mbalax sound made them yesterday's men. In the meantime some of their old recordings became classics among the world music crowd and World Circuit's Nick Gold brought them back together in 2002. The magic was still there and was evident last night.
Although the band has very fine vocalists, guitarist Barthélemy Attisso, a lawyer by trade who circumspectly avoids the limelight, and saxophonist Issa Cissoko are the real stars of the group.
The sound was warm and well balanced with the focus neatly shifting between vocals, instrumentals and percussion. Ultimately it's saxophonist Cissoko who is the live wire and, with some wild and unpredictable solos, he could take the band to yet another level. He is the one with a sparkling, if slightly greedy, rapport with the audience and it was Nijaay and Utras Horas, the two songs with big sax solos, that were the most memorable in a truly exceptional evening. You will literally have to kill for a ticket tonight.