Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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MBALAX

The national pop style of Senegal, emerging '70s. Senegalese music was heavily infl. first by Calypso and then by Latin, especially Cuban music; elements of soul and funk were introduced in the '60s, with imported Congolese music equally popular; in '70s a specifically Senegalese brew began to emerge, return to roots also being encouraged by Senghor's philosophy of Negritude. Drawing on the kora tradition and other local elements as well as Cuban influences, and making use of Western instruments, mbalax slowly defined itself: essentially percussion-based, featuring the tama (a small talking drum) as a lead instrument, it also uses congas, timbales, electric guitars and horns; characterized by complex rhythms, it is usually sung in Wolof, with distinct Islamic inflections. Of many mbalax bands in Senegal, the most popular was that of Youssou N'Dour. Other leading groups are Super Jamono (albums incl. Le Ventilateur, Geedy Dayaan), Orchestra Boabab (Coumba on MCA) and Guelewar (Sama Yaye Demna N'Darr), also Super Diamono, Ismail Lo, Thione Seck and Kine Lam. Many top bands feature on compilation Panorama du Sngal Vol. 1 on MCA.