Consumer Guide Album
Orchestra Baobab: Made in Dakar [Nonesuch, 2008]
Leading with three old songs, none in my CD collection and all newly performed, this will take awhile to sink in for anyone who's bonded with Specialist in All Styles. But it will, the five new tunes no less than the six Africa-tested classics, all redone no matter when Baobab started playing them. Much more than the Buena Vista folks, this reconstituted band is the great jewel of world music as a commercial concept. It would never have recorded its finest music if there wasn't an audience of middle-aged white liberals ready to eat it up. Barthelemy Attisso's loping guitar, Issa Cissoko's drolly soulful sax, distinctive voices old and not-so-old adding possible wisdom in four different languages over a shared wealth of Afro-Latin rhythms that include calypso, guajiro, seuraba and what is called mbalsa--all seem like the fruits of rich lives fairly lived. This is precisely the illusion the commercial concept means to propagate. Most likely it's also the truth.