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Baaba Maal: Fusion of Tradition and Modernity

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Baaba Maal is an African guitarist and singer who was born in Podor (Senegal) in 1954. Due to the African caste systems, he was supposed to be a fieldland as his father, not a musician since he did not belong to that caste. But Baaba’s courage and determinations were more powerful, so he started learning music from his mother and his teachers. He even studied music in Dakar and Paris. He and Yossou N’Dour are the most famous Senegalese musicians worldwide. His most noticeable work relies on promoting the traditions of the people who live near the Senegal River and are descendents of the kingdom of Futa Tooro.

His musical style is the result of the influence R&B, Jazz, Blues, and Soul had on him. Jimmy Cliff, Otis Redding, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Bob Marley and Etta James are musicians that have greatly influenced Baaba’s music. In Dakar, he learned more about some traditional instruments and the way in which they work. This fact is essential in the definition of what will be later his musical style which was basically a combination of traditional sounds and rhythms with some elements of reggae and pop. Baaba Maal is a musician committed to Africa and its social issues; for that reason, he is a representative of UNDP (the United Nations Development Program.)

Wango was released in 1988 as the first of a series of successful and popular albums. Following, the albums Lam Tooro and Firin’ in Fouta were launched in 1992 and 1994 respectively. Other albums that belong to this artist are Djam Leelii (with Mansour Seck), Baayo, Nomad Soul, Missing You…Mi Yeewnii, and Palm World Voices: Baaba Maal. Missing You...Mi Yeewnii is particularly significant since it was a return to his musical sounds. The singles “Yoolelle Maman,” “Miyaabele,” and “Fa Laay Fanaan” are some of the ones included in Missing You...Mi Yeewnii.

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