The richness of Senegal music cannot be denied. Some artists, like Baaba Maal, manage to reproduce the essential traditions while blending them with more modern sounds. His Toucouleur blood also adds a particular note which rings in his songs. With Youssou N’Dour and Ismaël Lô, Baaba Maal forms a trio which has sent Senegal musical culture rocketing to the top of the international charts.
Baaba Maal was born in 1953 in Podor, in the Fouta province, Senegal. He is of the Toucouleur or Haalpulaar (pulaar-speaking) people, of northern Senegal. His family was fisherman, an unlikely background for a musician. But his mother sang for pleasure in weddings and other ceremonies. Young Baaba Maal thus became familiar with a cappella singing and traditional melodies.
Developing a passion for music, Baaba Maal began playing with friends during the school holidays. In 1974, after his baccalauréat (school leaving certificate) he chose to study music while also taking a fine arts course in Dakar. In fact, he did not really think he would become an artist but expected to become a teacher. However, he and his old friend Mansour Seck joined an association for the promotion of Toucouleur culture, called Lasly Fouta. They were thus part of a group of 70 musicians who toured part of West Africa.
In 1977 the two apprentice musicians formed a traditional music group, Yeli Taaré Fouta, with another musician, Mbassou Niang. They hit the road and followed the Senegal river to study musical traditions from the ground up. But Baaba Maal still wished to complete his musical training and therefore went to Paris in 82 for further study at the Conservatoire. Mansour Seck joined him and they began touring with a new group, Wandama, in various European countries and Senegal universities and associations. In Brussels they recorded their first duo, “Djam Leeli”.
SOURCE – RFI MUSUC