Pirates Choice

Pirates Choice

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by Orchestra Baobab
     
 

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Hailed as one of Africa's finest bands, Senegal's Orchestra Baobab were innovators who countered the au courant Europeanization of African music in the '70s with an infusion of local styles. At the same time, they were a storehouse of rhythmic knowledge whose members, hailing from different ethnic groups and nations, number among the firmament of African pop stars. It… See more details below

Overview

Hailed as one of Africa's finest bands, Senegal's Orchestra Baobab were innovators who countered the au courant Europeanization of African music in the '70s with an infusion of local styles. At the same time, they were a storehouse of rhythmic knowledge whose members, hailing from different ethnic groups and nations, number among the firmament of African pop stars. It's easy to see why Pirates Choice has been a favorite import since its European release in 1987. Recorded in 1982, the record sounds a decade older, a motherland cousin to the musky recordings of Lee "Scratch" Perry in Jamaica. Combined with wonderful playing -- especially the effects-laden guitar of Togolese master Barthelmy Attisso -- and Latin-accented beats, Pirates Choice conjures a dark, sweaty Dakar nightclub, somewhat schlockily done up to resemble the knotted trunk of a baobab tree, somewhere in the precincts of 4 a.m. The American release does the classic one better with a second disc of unreleased material. Each six-song set takes a similar arc, beginning with Cuban-influenced numbers and building to hypnotic proto-mbalax jams showcasing Attisso's psychedelic fretwork, alighting on snatches of reggae, soul jazz, traditional Senegalese praise-songs, and more. The version of Baobab here, minus incendiary vocalist Laye M'boup, a Robert Johnson-like figure who was killed in a car crash in 1974, radiates the easy-swinging grace of a band at their peak, just before Senegal's pop world would be turned upside down with the arrival of Youssou N'Dour. Fans of Salif Keita's Rail Band and similarly sparse Malian funk who have somehow missed this essential ensemble have been give a golden opportunity: The Choice is yours.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Chris Nickson
The reissue of this 1982 classic -- so named because the album from the Senegalese band was pirated all over West Africa -- is a thing of beauty, especially considering a whole other album of six more tracks comes appended to the remastered original. So what makes it a classic and worthy of reissue 20 years on? It's all about the music, a marvelous mix of Cuban and West African that stood at the crossroads before Senegal developed its trademark m'balax sound. And so the rhythms are redolent of Cuba -- whose musical influence on West Africa extended back to the 1940s -- while other sounds, like the tenor sax of Issa Cissoko, are pure Senegal with its thick Wolof influence. Of particular note are the four vocalists, who sing in a mixture of Spanish and Wolof. Some of the tunes themselves are reworkings of Cuban material, while the wonderful "Utrus Horas" comes from Guinea Bissau, and "Soldadi" has its origins at home in Senegal. Both are given a slow, smoldering treatment, with some spare, lovely guitar from Barthelemy Attisso. The additional tracks (originally released on cassette in Senegal in 1982, but which have never seen the light of day elsewhere) come from the same session, but explore slightly different directions -- "Toumaranke" has a decidedly carnival atmosphere, although its theme (sung in Mandinka) is homesickness, while "Balla Daffe" is something of a percussion-fest. For many years this has been one of the treasured releases of world music. Now it's back in print, and everyone can understand why it's been so revered.

Product Details

Release Date:
01/08/2002
Label:
Nonesuch
UPC:
0075597964325
catalogNumber:
79643
Rank:
11446

Related Subjects

Tracks

Disc 1

  1. Ultrus Horas
  2. Coumba
  3. Ledi Ndieme M'Bodj
  4. Werente Serigne
  5. Ray M'Bele
  6. Soldadi

Disc 2

  1. Ngalam
  2. Toumaranke
  3. Foire Internationale
  4. La Rebellion
  5. Ndiaga Niaw
  6. Balla Daffe

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