Baaba Maal gets WOMAD 2011 jumping

Baaba Maal at Bestival 2008 by Sara Bowrey
Baaba Maal at Bestival 2008 by Sara Bowrey

Senegal's Baaba Maal headlined the Open Air Stage On Saturday night at WOMAD 2011.

Trained at music conservatory in Dakar, then Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Maal’s distinctive high pitch voice makes him instantly recognisable even for the weekend world music fan.

Maal sings in Pulaar, language of the nomadic Fula ethnic group, found in Niger, Somalia, Guinea, Mali, and Benin.

Maal’s love of fusion style has seen him record with his family friend and West African story teller Mansour Seck, the blind griot as well as record reggae, salsa music and work with artists like Afro Celt Sound System, Get Cape, Wear Cape and Brian Eno.

He received such reverential treatment from the crowd that they hung on every word for the first song. Then, introducing the second song, Maal said of his set: “This is going to start quietly but get very loud towards the end so if you want to jump on stage and dance, do that.”

Then he began ‘Souka Nayo: (I Will Follow You)’ and the crowd finally lost their inhibitions. Sonically it was quite moving and you could feel the intensity start to build.

Guitar, kora, his horn section invited specially for this show, djembe drummers and African dancers were all on stage together and for a headline set it really was quite a spectacle.

“How are you feeling WOMAD?” asked Maal, and the crowd were definitely feeling it. “You are a really great audience WOMAD,” he added, commenting about what a beautiful evening it was as he broke into ‘Dakar Moon’, one his only English language tracks.

True to his word, the set built into a brilliant crescendo of dancing and festival celebration and as he ran over time, the field is jumping.