(Palm Pictures; September 15, 2009)
“…a brave, unexpected set that veers between brilliant extremes.”– The Guardian
“Television finds Baaba Maal expanding his musical horizons beyond his native influences, reaching fresh rapprochements with Western modes.” (4 Stars) - The Independent
Senegalese master-musician Baaba Maal will release his new multi-lingual album, Television, on September 15 (Palm Pictures), a groundbreaking successor to 2001’s Missing You. Television is a collaboration primarily between Baaba Maal and singer Sabina Sciubba and keyboardist Didi Gutman, both members of New York’s Brazilian Girls. The result is a stunningly beautiful and diverse record that meshes two genres, generally unfamiliar to each other, to produce an eclectic and romantic sound. The enigmatically named title-track refers to a relatively recent phenomenon in Africa - ubiquitous TV screens. “The television set is like a stranger you didn’t ask for coming into your living-room,” explains Baaba. “You don’t care about who he is: he just seems to come from nowhere and gives you information.”
Television was recorded intermittently over three years in London and Dakar, the Senegalese capital, and produced jointly by Baaba Maal and Barry Reynolds (Marianne Faithfull, Grace Jones, Antony & The Johnsons) and in part by John Leckie, and mixed by Jerry Boys. During that time Baaba kept up his rigorous global touring schedule, and found time for stunning collaborations like the duet of “One”/“One Love” performed by he and Bono at the Island Records 50th Anniversary celebration (May 2009). Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, and Baaba Maal continue to work together on his Palm Pictures record label. Another success for Baaba was the “Africa Express” project. Founded by Damon Albarn and Baaba Maal in 2007, 2008 saw Baaba and Damon collaborate with Franz Ferdinand and others on their most acclaimed series of performances to date. The Guardian said, “It left those who did bear witness gobsmacked.”
With its subtle blend of electronic dance elements and timeless West African musical tradition which includes indigenous instruments such as talking drum, djembe and sabar, Television proves to be a gorgeous genre-crossing album. Baaba Maal worked on its eight songs with various musicians, but most specifically with Sciubba and Gutman, of the Brazilian Girls, who blend electronic dance music with a diversity of eclectic styles. Searching for a diversified form for Maal’s music, it was Barry Reynolds who suggested he work with the pair. Immediately admiring their sound, Baaba Maal soon found further points of creative connection. Working on the song “Tindo”, for example, whose subject is the guidance meted out to Senegalese children as to their future responsibilities, Baaba Maal found that Sabina’s responses, sung in Italian, accurately mirrored his own lyrics: ‘‘I see language as an instrument. Sabina told me that she could just feel the meaning of the words that I was singing. This is the power of music - it can give you advice even if you do not understand the language.”
“Sabina is European but takes the name of Brazilian Girls; Didi is from Argentina, with its strong connection with Africa. I come from a tiny town in West Africa, but I’m connected to these people through my experiences, and to my English writing partner Barry Reynolds who has worked with people like Marianne Faithfull and recently, Grace Jones and Antony & The Johnsons, writing songs in different areas of life. I thought that this was a good combination, what I was looking for. I think really magical things came out of it,” says Maal.
Another highlight track on the album is “Song For Women,” produced by John Leckie. “I use that song,’ explains Baaba, “to talk about how women can be much more powerful in Africa, which can be really helpful for the entire continent. We should encourage that, and I sing about it to give them more power.”
Not only has Baaba Maal had a rich and accomplished music career, his humanitarian efforts have always been at the forefront of his life. Baaba serves as United Nation Development Programme Youth Emissary and is intimately involved with efforts to uplift the lives of youngsters in West Africa. Baaba Maal will be performing at Mandela Day, July 18th, at Radio City Music Hall in New York alongside such luminaries as Stevie, Wonder, Alicia Keys, Aretha Franklin, Josh Groban, Cyndi Lauper and many more.
Watch this space for a Fall US tour.
Track listing for Television:
5. A Song For Women
7. Dakar Moon
8. Tindo Quando