Abstract Index Playlist - December 2/10
I'd like to see mbalax get its due by the deejay-reissue industrial complex.
Since the Buena Vista narrative has recently been retold with the release of the Afrocubism project, it's an opportune time to point out the Senegalese similarities. Barthelemy Atisso is guitarist for Afrocubism and more importantly Orchestra Baobab. Baobab's Cuban style was submerged/swept away by the Senegalese new wave of mbalax, at whose forefront was Youssou N'Dour and his Etoile De Dakar. Over the past decade and a half, it was quite the turn of events to see Baobab and Buena Vista experience great success with outdated (though lovely) styles instead of the more contemporary, urban, complex forms of timba in Cuba and mbalax and its descendents in Senegal.
Mbalax at this point is both popular and historical music. Even with the growth of rap in Senegal, there are many stars in this style. Contemporary mbalax retains the shape shifting sabar drumming rhythms of the music, smoothing the impact only with stock synth pads.
Super Diamono's glory years came before digital synths swept Africa (and African productions in Paris and London), but electronics were common tools nonetheless . It sounds like a Prophet 5 winding its way through "Diallo Dieri" this week which ties the whirlwind drumming, electric piano and incantatory singing together. It's undeniably funky, but you have to work a little bit to catch the groove. It's a song for dancing, not bouncing. If James Brown had just kept going further out after "I Got The Feeling" he might have hit these Senegalese shores.
Despite Youssou N'Dour's global stature, it's unlikely mbalax will cross over further. It's just not easy to mix this groove into today's more rigidly metered dancefloor requirements. If dance music is just starting to come to grips with the syncopations of soca, cumbia and kuduro, mbalax represents a whole new level of rhythmic information to process. Nonetheless, as speed metal proves, it's possible for complex, less accessible music to find a global audience. Super Diamono's sound can be seen/marketed as an extension of the psychedelic Africa reissue movement, or RIYL tradi-moderne Congotronics. Well known labels like Sterns have kept this music in circulation but even the recent Etoile De Dakar re-evaluation never really made it out of the world music 1.0 media.
Then again, I live in Ontario, not Quebec, where Senegalese music enjoys a much higher profile and maybe has the same kind of DJ ubiquity as Nigerian and Congolese music have in Toronto. Maybe our friends at Masalacism Records are busy grooming Montreal nu-mbalax artists and waiting for just the right moment to strike!
people suite - sweet maya (riverman)
crystals - ron forella (luv n haight)
mr. clean - richard groove holmes (blue note)
whitehouse - aeroplane trio (drip audio)
fuma - dimba diangula (analog africa)
diallo dieri - super diamono (dakar audio diffusion)
cumbia invasiva - monareta rmx by huracan (nacional)
coupe cumbia - banana clips (bersa discos)
seven chirp - kingdom (night slugs)
bobo (dub) - hunee (rush hour)
beautiful dreamer - justine & the victorian punks (dfa)
jurame - helado negro (no label)
pegwee power - maylee todd (do right)
rain horses - szilard mezsei ensemble (red toucan)
fax shadow - toro y moi rmx by shlomo (no label)
brown eyed girl - shigeto (brainfeeder)
saativaa - kenlo craqnuques (no label)
mainne kaun koi kya jane - anuradha paudwal (nascente)
brimstone & fire version - atarra (pressure sounds)
you don't have to know me - milton henry (wackies)