Blog April 24, 2020
Quarantunes: Orchestra Baobab “Specialist in All Styles”

Dakar's Orchestra Baobab is one of our world's most reliable pleasures—when one of my friends asks what I'd recommend for someone just getting into African music, I skip the long lecture about how “African music” isn't a style but literally thousands of styles, and just say “Orchestra Baobab.”

And for good reasons! Not only is the group immediately charming, the songs beautiful and complex yet immediate, but they are, as their 2002 comeback album title boasts, specialists in all styles. Since the early '70s, Orchestra Baobab has been melding styles—starting with Afro-Cuban music, adopting Congolese guitar work, griot instrumentation and singing styles, incorporating tango and blues. Their music is a tour of their world. And since the world is the one place we can't go right now, let's take a trip back to Dakar circa 2002, to Baobab's comeback after a 15-year absence.

As much as I love the group, I've never known much about its individual members. There are a lot of them coming and going over the band's five decades of existence, and its a group whose work I've only explored in the streaming era, so I don't even have liner notes for many of my favorite songs of theirs. This 2002 documentary sheds some light on the members, where they're from and what they bring to the group. I love Rudy Gomis (while he cooks) listing where the members are from—I'm pretty sure when he says guitarist Ben Geloune is from St. Louis he doesn't mean Missouri, right?

Have a good weekend; stay safe. I'm going to be idly scrolling through flights to Dakar, dreaming of next year...


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