Cheikh Lô is one of the great mavericks of African music. A singer and songwriter as well as a distinctive guitarist, percussionist, and drummer, he has personalized and distilled a variety of influences from West and Central Africa, to create a style that is uniquely his own.
Lô dedicates both his life and music to Baye Fall, a specifically Senegalese form of Islam and part of the larger Islamic brotherhood of Mouridism. Established by Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba M’Becke at the end of the 19th century, Mouridism emerged from opposition to French colonialism and many fabulous stories are told of Bamba’s struggles with the authorities who feared that the rapid spread of Mouridism would inspire armed insurrection. Bamba’s closest disciple Cheikh Ibra Fall (also known as Lamp Fall) established the Baye Fall movement, and he was the first to wear the patchwork clothes and long dreadlocks that are still Baye Fall trademarks today. Cheikh Lô’s own marabout, Maame Massamba N’Diaye is said to be over 100 years old, and was a disciple of Cheikh Ibra Fall; Cheikh Lô wears his picture in a pendant around his neck.
It follows that he's an artist unlike any other in music. It’s not just his unique appearance—with long dreadlocks and his colorful patchwork clothes—that sets him apart; his career is constantly evolving, incorporating influences from around the world. Wherever his musical journey takes him, he will surely remain rooted to his Baye Fall beliefs and, no matter what, will always sound like Cheikh Lô. ...N'Joy.
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Mbalax, the intricate dance music of Senegal, has been made more accessible to Western listeners by Cheikh Lô (born Cheikh N'Digel Lô). Softening the hard edges of mbalax and incorporating elements of salsa, Zairian/Congolese rhumba, folk, and jazz, Lô has created an infectious, hook-laden style of pop music. While Roots World described Lô's musical approach by writing "complemented by the acoustic guitar, exploding tama, and free-falling electric bass, Lô's voice has a rounded sweetness with poetic hills and valleys," Real Groove Magazine explained, "with its enigmatic complexity and so non 4/4 beat, mbalax has had difficulty outside West Africa. Where even N'Dour's overdone attempts to counter this problem have failed, [Lô] has succeeded. His acoustic approach gives a magic mbalax music that my friends can appreciate." Cora Correction, also with a similar view, wrote, "West Africa has produced the continent's most powerful singers and Lô easily earns a high position in the pantheon."
The son of a successful jeweler, Lô was born in Bobo-Dioulasso, a small village near Senegal's border with Mali. He grew up speaking Bambara, Wolof, and French. As a youngster, he became fascinated with music and taught himself to play drums and guitar. In 1976, he accepted an invitation to join a local group, Orchestra Volta Jazz, as a percussionist. He remained with the band until moving to the capital city of Dakar in 1980.
Lô quickly became involved with the music scene of Dakar. After a three-year stint as drummer for progressive vocalist Ouza, he joined the house band at the Hotel Savana in 1984. Although he performed with the group for a little over a year, the experience exposed him to a global range of pop influences.
Emigrating to France in 1985, Lô found work as a session drummer in Paris. Soon afterward, he purchased his first guitar and began writing songs. Although he formed a band with Ivoirean and French musicians and began working on an album in 1987, the group separated before its completion. Lô's debut solo album, Doxandeme (Immigrants), was released as a cassette in 1990. Despite receiving a Nouveau Talent award, the album fell short of Lô's artistic expectations. Although he began working on a second album, he became disenchanted and canceled the project. For the next four years, he maintained a low profile.
In 1995, Lô convinced Youssou N'Dour, whom he met in 1989 while playing on an album by traditional Wolof griot singer N'diaga M'baye, to produce an album for him. The resulting album, Ne La Thiass, was released on N'Dour's label, Jololi, shortly before Lô joined the multi-artist Jololi Revue tour in November 1996. Lô continued to promote the album during a European tour with his own eight-piece band, N'Diguel, in April 1997. The same year, Lô received Best Newcomer and Kora All-American awards in South Africa. Lô continued to expand his following to the United States as a featured performer with Africa Fete in 1998. The following year, he received the Ordre National de Merite de Leon from the president of Senegal. In 2000, he returned to recording with the release of Bambay Gueej. The title means "bamba, ocean of peace," and was co-produced by Nick Gold and Youssou N'Dour in Dakar with additional recording in Havana and London. Expanding on his previous album, Lô drew on sounds from Burkina Faso, Mali (with guest Oumou Sangare), and incorporated touches of Cuban son (with Richard Egües on flute) and funk (with Pee Wee Ellis of James Brown fame on sax).
Following the album’s release, Lô continued to tour successfully and to gather and refine songs for his next recording. His eclectic mix was furthered on Lamp Fall (World Circuit, 2005; Nonesuch Records 2006) by his discovery of Brazilian sounds and rhythms, and he traveled to Bahia, Brazil, to work with acclaimed producer Alê Siqueira (Tribalistas, Omara Portuondo). These Brazilian recordings were coupled on the album with sessions recorded in Dakar and London.
For the next few years, Lô withdrew from the international stage and immersed himself in the Dakar scene playing regularly with his own band; this return home is reflected in his 2010 World Circuit release, Jamm, released the following year on Nonesuch. His signature blend of semi-acoustic flavors—West and Central African, Cuban, flamenco—has been distilled into his most mature, focused, yet diverse statement to date.
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Cheikh Lô has created an inspired and sensual acoustic/electric mix which embraces double bass, acoustic guitars, talking drum, flute and a hint of electric bass and keyboards. Né La Thiass, his debut recording, infuses rare mbalax rhythms with rippling tides of energy, but the mood is strikingly Latin.
Lô began working on the compositions for the album in 1991, and the next five years saw the music simmering while he sought the most favorable conditions in which to record. He wanted to record live with real musicians who understood his music. On hearing a demo of the songs, Youssou N’Dour was immediately interested in producing. A cast of Senegal’s finest was assembled with musicians from N’Dour’s Super Etoile band, including master percussionists Assane Thiam and Mbaye Dieye Faye and guitarist/arranger Oumar Sow. Recording and mixing were completed in nine days, giving the album the freshness and immediacy of a live recording.
This strong debut from the Senegalese singer is a healthy hybrid of African and Cuban rhythms. Lô's high, reedy vocals are immediately evocative of countryman Youssou N'Dour -- no surprise since N'Dour helms as producer. But the acoustic aesthetic here is warmer than N'Dour's usual high-gloss pop. If you're looking for an album to turn winter to spring, darkness to light, this disc is a safe bet.
Cheikh Lô - Ne La Thiass (flac 301mb)
01 Boul Di Tagale 6:07
02 Ne La Thiass 4:25
03 Ndogal 5:24
04 Doxandeme 6:04
05 Sant Maam 4:46
06 Set 5:26
07 Cheikh Ibra Fall 4:30
08 Bamba Sunu Goorgui 4:52
09 Guiss Guiss 4:36
Cheikh Lô - Ne La Thiass (ogg 120mb)
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Bambay Gueej (Bamba, Ocean of Peace) is Cheikh Lô’s follow up to his highly acclaimed 1996 debut album Ne La Thiass. The nine new tracks on this recording were co-produced by Nick Gold and Youssou N’Dour and were recorded at N’Dour’s Xippi Studio in Dakar, with additional recording in Havana and London.This album finds Cheikh Lô in an even sweeter voice, with his Dakar-based "N’Diguel" band augmented by very special guests Richard Egües (flute), Pee Wee Ellis (horns), Oumou Sangare (vocals), and Bigga Morrison (Hammond organ). Adding to the rippling Senegalese m’balax rhythms, felicitous Latin inflections, and spiritual intensity of his debut, Cheikh Lô draws on sounds from Burkina Faso, Mali, and Congo and adds influences from Cuba, subtle reggae and blasting African funk into the mix.
Pee Wee Ellis, erstwhile James Brown horn arranger and saxophonist during the Heavy Funk period of Cold Sweat and musical director for Van Morrison, fell in love with Lô’s music on first hearing. To Lô, who grew up listening to the sounds of James Brown, the arrival of Pee Wee at the Dakar sessions was akin to a homecoming. Ellis’s arrangements, in particular on the title track "Bambay Gueej" (which includes the groove-driven Hammond organ of Aswad’s Bigga Morrison, and a spontaneous vocal tribute to Fela Kuti), add a new dimension to the mix.
Lô was nurtured on Cuban music, and he names Richard Egües, for years the mainstay of the Orquesta Aragón, as his favorite musician. Egües, in his 80s during the recording of this record, gives a performance on "M’Beddemi" that was a dream come true for Lô. The Cuban connection is also present on "Jeunesse Senegal" with its spectacular Havana trumpet section featuring members of the Afro-Cuban All Stars. Lô heard Malian diva Oumou Sangare through their mutual label, World Circuit. They first met at the 1997 Kora Awards in South Africa, where Lô was named Best Newcomer. When he penned "Bobo-Dioulasso," sung in Bambara and dedicated to his hometown in Burkina Faso, Lô immediately thought of her for this atmospheric duet.
Lô is a very spiritual man and the album is dedicated to Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, the founder of Senegal’s main Muslim brotherhood, Mouridism. The final track, "Zikr," with backing vocals from N’Dour, is a lilting, lyrical adaptation of a traditional chant of the Baye Fall, a branch of Mouridism that Lô follows. Lô is featured not only as lead vocal, but also on rhythm guitar, drums, and percussion, and his band retains the core of musicians from his first album: Oumar Sow (guitar), Pathé Jassy (bass guitar), Samba N’Dokh M’Baye (tama -talking drum), Thio M’Baye (percussion and Sabar drums), Thierno Kouyate (alto and tenor saxophones), and Badou N’Diaye (drums on "Bamba Gueej"). Members of N’Dour’s Super Étoile, Babacar Faye (percussion) and Habib Faye (bass, acoustic guitar), make additional contributions.
Cheikh Lô - Bambay Gueej (flac 315mb)
01 M'Beddemi 4:25
02 Jeunesse Senegal 5:42
03 N'Jarinu Garab 4:28
04 Bambay Gueej 7:15
05 N'Dawsile 6:14
06 Africadën 6:13
07 Bobo-Dioulasso 4:45
08 N'Dokh 4:46
09 Zikr 4:00
Cheikh Lô - Bambay Gueej (ogg 131mb)
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Lamp Fall is the first international release from the Senegalese singer/songwriter and guitarist Cheikh Lô. Issued on World Circuit, it is a collection of traditional and original songs that heavily showcase his trademark mbalax drums, reggae grooves, and funky polyrhythms, with a host of colors and textures added by widely varying instrumentation. This time out, Lô goes to Brazil for inspiration -- about half the album's tracks were recorded in Bahia. Lamp Fall's opener, "Sou," is a traditional song with a radically different arrangement. It is sung in Bambara, the language Lô learned in Burkina Faso. It is a Mandinka song in origin, and comes form Mali. One can heard the Brazilian feel here in the employment of a sanfona accordion -- a close relative of the bandoneon. It is juxtaposed against a talking drum, as Lô's falsetto carries its melody -- a love song -- over. The title track was one of many recorded in Dakar and in London. Lamp Fall is a tribute to Cheikh Ibra Fall, a religious leader whose faith Lô belongs to. What's startling is the opening guitar chord, which sounds like it could have been lifted off James Blood Ulmer's Are You Glad to Be in America? Saxophone great Pee Wee Ellis blows hard and funky here against crisscrossing rhythms by Saliou Seck, accented by a Crescent City piano vamp played by Arona Barry. The Brazilian feel comes to the fore in "Satta Kaani Xeen," where castanets, wood blocks, cajon, and berimbau make up the main body of the tune lyrically and rhythmically. The band here is large, with a sitar, tama, bass clarinet, and Paulinho Andrade's flute orchestrating the melody. Ellis is heard fiercely in "Bamba Mo Woor," over the top of twin electric guitars riffing like hell, and fronting both Bigga Morrisson's Hammond B-3 and the rest of a horn section featuring Byron Wallen on trumpet and Tim Smart on trombone. The reggae groove here is deeply dread, shuffling and slipping along a bubbling bassline and Lô's sweet -- but not saccharine -- falsetto vocals. The only pure mbalax tune here is "Fattaliku Dëmb," where Lô plays a mean flamenco-style rhythm guitar part over the rolling drums and pumped bassline. It also features a fine guitar solo by Lamine Faye. In sum, Lamp Fall is a further extension of the already heady mix of styles, rhythms, and harmonics Lô has amassed over the past decade and a half. It's an utter joy in that it's so dense that most of its secrets won't be revealed until many repeated listenings are undertaken. That said, its sunny sheen and easy, airy atmosphere are intoxicating and elegant. This is early candidate for one of the best recordings of 2006.
Cheikh Lô - Lamp Fall (flac 335mb)
01 Sou 3:03
02 Lamp Fall 4:32
03 Xalé 4:12
04 Kelle Magni 4:08
05 Sénégal - Brésil 4:24
06 Sante Yalla 4:36
07 Toogayu M'Bedd 3:58
08 N'Galula 3:49
09 Sama Kaani Xeen 4:29
10 Bamba Mô Woor 3:48
11 Fattaliku Demb 3:09
12 Kelle Magni (encore) 4:00
13 Zikroulah 2:43
Cheikh Lô - Lamp Fall (ogg 130mb )
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