Various ‘Senegal 70 – Sonic Gems & Previously Unreleased Recordings from the 70s’ 2LP/CD Dig (Analog Africa) 4/5

senegal-70Analog Africa has joined forces with Teranga Beat to offer up this tasty retro slice of the music scene in 1970s Senegal. What makes this project slightly different from previously is that it has unearthed a combination of previously unheard live club recordings as well as rare as hen’s teeth singles and album tracks. Collectively, it makes for a highly enjoyable trip back down memory lane to an era when melodic grooves and external influence, especially from Latin American music, was all the rage in West Africa. Vinyl music was shipped in to the Senegalese capital of Dakar from far afield and regularly from New Orleans and thus the greater Senegalese public and musicians alike were exposed to the emerging salsa emanating from New York as well as authentic Cuban and more traditional sounds. This is reflected both in the choice of songs and in the hybrid Afro-Latin music performed here. Some of the names will be familiar such as Orchestre Baobab (with a slightly different spelling) and Le Star Band de Dakar (Youssou N’Dour would at a later date perform with them) while others are fascinating missing chains in the bigger jigsaw of the evolution of Senegalese music during this period. One group belonging firmly in this category are Le Tropical Jazz who offer up ‘Kiki Medina’ which is really a pretext for some big-band mayhem with incessant rhythm guitar and brassy accompaniment with fine trumpet soloing into the bargain. This joyous song encapsulates what Senegalese music is all about. A funky percussive work out can be found from Orchestre Laye Thiam and an amusing ditty entitled, ‘Kokorico’, complete with JB inspired English vocals. The classic Cuban standard, ‘El Carratero’, is given a faithful and respectful interpretation by Le Star Band de Dakar with Amara Touré on lead vocals and the pared down instrumentation with mournful bassline and percussion works a treat. Lazy saxophone and wailing vocals seem to be a common trait of Senegalese music during this era and Fangool do just that on the staccato-paced opener, ‘Mariama’, with the just the faintest hint of a reggae beat. In marked contrast, Afro-Latin flavours are on offer on ‘Viva Marvillas’ by the intriguingly named King N’Gom et les Perles Noires and this is a real discovery. Of the trio of music from Orchestre Laye Thiam on this compilation, arguably the strongest of all is the deeply lyrical ‘Sanga Té’ which has a strong Afro-Cuban element to it and lyrics sung in both Spanish and French. The vinyl version contains a spectacular forty-four page booklet to answer just about any question you could wish to pose on the music within. A fine overview, then, of 1970s Senegalese music which is heavy in its dosage of Latin influences.

Tim Stenhouse