Senegalese singer and star
of the world stage Baaba Maal is a man with a mission that
extends beyond his music. He is committed to the concerns of
families, young people and the future of the continent, as is
reflected in his role as Youth Emissary for the United Nations’
Development Program, about which he says:
"It strengthens my determination to work harder to contribute
more to improving the living conditions of disadvantaged people
of the African continent, especially young people, whose future
is seriously threatened by illiteracy, poverty and HIV/AIDS.
When I am talking about Africa, it is about how Africa will grow
into the new millennium. This is why I really wanted to make
music, so people can listen more to the music and the messages I
am talking about." - Baaba Maal
Baaba never stops touring. He ended the last millennium with
debut tours of Australia, South Africa, South America and the
West Indies following on from stunning European and North
American tours - the response globally to both the man and his
music is always immense.
In December 2004 Baaba Maal was thrilled to perform in Oslo when
Kenya’s Wangari Maathai became the first woman from Africa to be
honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize. He performed alongside
Andrea Bocelli, Diana Krall, Patti Labelle, Cyndi Lauper,
Polyphonic Spree and Joss Stone at the event hosted by Oprah
Winfrey and Tom Cruise.
When Baaba tours the world, as one of its great performers, his
role as a representative of the United Nations’ Development
Program is never far away. Both elements come together when
Baaba features in musical projects such as “Red Hot and
Gershwin” and the Fela Kuti Tribute “Red Hot and Riot,” both put
together by HIV/Aids awareness campaign group The Red Hot
In February 2005 Baaba Maal was the special guest speaker for a
lecture at the British Museum where he gave his views on Africa,
speaking passionately and eloquently of the continent’s
strengths and its challenges.
Baaba Maal sold out a special performance at the Royal Festival
Hall on April 1st 2005 with the aural and visual spectacle of
his full band, Daande Lenol. This was a special project
celebrating the Hayward Gallery’s inspirational Africa Remix
exhibition. He was then invited to headline Glastonbury’s Jazz
World Stage on Saturday 25th June and also to lead a show of
solidarity with the Make Poverty History Campaign with Bob
On July 2nd Baaba made a speech in support of the Make Poverty
History Campaign in Edinburgh and addressed the Rally in advance
of the G8 Summit at Gleneagles.
Returning to London in August 2005, he presented a special and
prestigious Late Night Prom at the Royal Albert Hall.
Baaba comes from humble beginnings but he has learned and
travelled and now speaks and sings of empowerment, enlightenment
and peace. Baaba Maal was born in Podor, a town with a
population of 6,000, on the banks of the river Senegal that
separates the country of the same name from Mauritania. Baaba's
family is Hal Pulaar, known in the English speaking world as
Fulani. He is not from a Griot family (the hereditary caste of
artists and communicators). His father worked in the fields but
was also given the honour and responsibility of using songs to
call the worshippers to the mosque. Baaba's mother was a
musician who sang and wrote her own songs educating her son in
the musical forms of the area and encouraging the young Baaba to
value intelligent and thoughtful lyrics.
At the same time Baaba was listening to American black music,
people like James Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Etta
James. Later he caught up with Jamaican musicians such as Toots
Hibbert, Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff.
Baaba went to school in St. Louis, the original French colonial
capital and after winning an Art scholarship, went on to
Senegal's modern capital, Dakar. There he joined Asly Fouta (a
group of 70 musicians) and spent his time with the group
learning as much as he could about the local musical instruments
and how they work. On leaving college he toured West Africa with
longtime friend, guitarist and griot Mansour Seck, soaking up
more knowledge. "It's traditional for young musicians to do
that. When you arrive in every village you do a gig. This makes
you friendly with all the young people who are in the village.
The next day the young people take you to visit the oldest
person who knows about the history of the village and the
country and about the history of the music."
From there Baaba lived in Paris for several years, studying at
the Conservatoire des Beaux Arts, with ears still wide open. On
arriving back in Senegal Baaba formed his band Daande Lenol
(Voice of the People).
Baaba Maal is a man with a mission that extends beyond music. He
often credits his much-loved mother with giving him a broader
and more sympathetic view of the world than many contemporaries.
Baaba is a citizen of the developing world who has carved out a
place for himself in the first world. Baaba Maal can speak and
sing to and for Africa with unprecedented authority.
“Baaba Maal opened his mouth and beautiful pearls and lilies and
songbirds came flying out. It was one of the most beautiful
things I've ever seen” - Michael Stipe
1988 Wango, Syllart SYLCD 8348 (Stern's)
1989 Djam Leeli (with Mansour Seck), Rogue FMSL
1990 Taara, Syllart production, Melodie 38774 -2
1991 Baayo, Mango 162-539 907-2
1992 Lam Toro, Mango 162-539 925-2
1994 Firin' in Fouta, Mango 162-539 944-2
1998 Djam Leeli (with Mansour Seck), re-released with extra
1998 Nomad Soul, Palm Pictures PalmCD 2002
2001 Mi Yewnii (Missing You), Palm Pictures Palm CD
2005 A Voice for Africa DVD + “The Best of Baaba Maal” CD
2009 On The Road, Palm Pictures
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