Baaba Maal and the Senegalese Kingdom of Music
- United Kingdom
More informationEach year the Senegalese king of music, Baaba Maal, invites musicians across the region to play at the Blues des Fleuves festival, Festival of the Rivers, which takes place somewhere along the Senegal River on the northern edge of the country.
The river is the key - it runs from Guinea through Mali, Mauritania and Senegal - the countries that were once unified in the kingdom of Mali, the most musical region in Africa and Baaba has invited musicians from all these countries to perform at the festival.
This year the English cellist Adrian Brendel travels with his instrument to the most remote festival location ever, to immerse himself in the music. He makes his way to the desert town of Diemete on the Senegal side of the river and to Bogue on the Mauritanian side, to hear traditional singing of the griots, spine tingling laments from Mauritania's Veyrouz, love songs from Guinea's Bineta Lala next to the finest hip hop artists including Duggy Tee.
Baaba's own band Daande Lenol draws thousands - young and old. The band's name means the "Voice of the People" and they follow him in droves.
Baaba is increasingly deemed a guide for these people - collectively the Felani - and he represents peace and wisdom in a culturally threatened region.
He and Adrian share a passion for music and discuss differences in their approach. Baaba describes his alarm at the upheaval in Mali along with sadness that music has been banned as part of the repressive regime. Adrian plays with different musicians, ultimately going on stage with Daande Lenol.
Producer: Kate Bland
A Just Radio production for BBC Radio 4.