Baaba Maal – Wango
1989 – Stern’s Music
I came across this album when searching through the bins at last year’s Rock and Roll Yardsale in Providence. I asked the seller for a recommendation for a good African album with interesting percussion, this is what he suggested and it has become one of my favorite albums. Baaba Maal is one of Senegal’s most famous musicians, but here in the US I’m sure he is not well known. If this album is what pop music sounded like here, I would definitely be listening to the radio more often. It is interesting to hear how a different set of musical and cultural influences make a final product something completely original sounding (at least to my Western influenced ears). As soon as the drums kick in on the first track, it is evident that an amazing album awaits. The drumset, which sounds like a standard Western setup, is played with groove for days. The beat itself is accented and felt in a way that is completely foreign to me. The base rhythms that these musicians grew up with weren’t the rock and swing beats that have influence us in the US. The Senegalese baseline rhythms are much older than rock and swing and are a part of their culture as much, if not more, than our beats are. Because of this, the modern translation to a drumset is going to be much different for a drummer from Senegal than from the US. Aside from the percussion, the bass player on this album plays some of the funkiest line’s I’ve ever heard. The horns, guitars, vocals, and organ all punctuate and add to the groove. I really can’t say enough great things about this album. It is something that you need to listen to. Find a copy, stream it, whatever…just make sure to listen, you won’t be disappointed!