SENEGAL, COSTA RICA
From the outset Africando is the project of musician and star producer Ibrahim Sylla. Salsa has been a hugely popular style in Senegal since the 1940-50s, and his goal has been to cultivate the tradition from the African side of the Atlantic. Ibrahim Sylla himself has a collection of over 6000(!) Cuban disks. Through his interest in Salsa he became acquainted with the Salsa Musique Company in Paris, and became fascinated with disk production. He co-produced Youssou N’Dour’s/Etoiles de Dakar’s album “Absa Gueye” and thereafter pursued his own solo production career. In the course of his production work he came into contact with studio music in the USA and came up with the idea of uniting salsa rhythms from both sides of the Atlantic, mainly based on the African tradition. There has been a steady turnover in the group over the years since Africando was formed in 1990, but central from the start was Boncana Maiga from Mali, still a driving force, who in the 1980s played with the New York-based group Fania All Stars. Another founding artist in Africando’s first year was the late singer, Pape Seck.
Africando is a meeting between four of West Africa’s most important salsa musicians and pioneers within Afro-Cuban music. They come from various ethnic groups and countries: Pape Seck, Medoune Jalow and Nicholas Menheim from Senegal, Boncana Maiga from Mali.
In the 1960s and early 70s Latin American Salsa and Rumba were the hottest dance music in Senegal and a large part of Africa. Musicians at that time used also to sing in Spanish – as a tribute to the musical form’s roots -but that was more by luck than management, if you know what I mean? Since those days African music has found its own roots and created new AFRICAN musical forms, not least in Senegal where people like Youssou N’Dour and Thione Seck are still developing and stretching these roots, if in different directions. But the Latino sound has become part of today’s musicians’ roots, and it’s good that it’s become so important that Senegalese singers work together on such a project, under the direction of Mali’s brilliant arranger and “kapelmeister”, Boncana Maiga. He worked for nine years in Cuba and clearly knows what he is doing. And it’s not only him; the musicians here have obviously crossed the pond for, when the trumpeter’s name is Hector Bomberito Zarzuela, one knows it is not just the music that is Cuban! The singers here are among Senegal’s most gifted vocalists with backing from Star Band, Orchestra Baobab and Youssou N’Dour’s Super Etoile. The result is glimmering salsa, in fact, and I especially feel that Pape Seck’s armoured voice plays perfectly up against the music’s perfect sound, creating a driving Latino dance mood, full to the brim with the best from Cuba and Colombia. That all this is in addition to the unstoppable Ibrahim Sylla’s production shouldn’t shock you. Just enjoy these guys’ polished and over- exaggerated sound, for Sylla has clearly made sure that Senor Maiga had everything under control and let him do his stuff. A glittering album!