Most of the audience are quite happy losing themselves in the pretty much non-stop nature of the gig, it’s not like a rock concert with dramatic changes of mood and tempo, rather things are surreptitiously shuffled around, sometimes making it difficult to remember quite what has been played beforehand…
Orchestra Baobab – Paard van Troje, Den Haag 30/11/07
What a gig... Recently the Paard has been getting some damned good acts on the sly, Fanfare in February, Sonic Youth last year, now Orchestra Baobab with a new-ish LP Made in Dakar storm the boards.
The place is full of middle-aged cultural trippers and Afro-intellectuals grooving away to the mighty B. Due to the huge queue of 40-somethings, (all of whom have come dressed as if for a lecture) it takes us a fair bit of time to get into the building; once we do we head to the bar to get a real feel of the gig; as sadly the scene by the mixing desk is a bit too quiet. Up front all is different, with a pretty sweaty (though obviously well groomed) audience swaying and nodding gently. Once you get into the gentle rhythms of a Baobab gig there's no stopping dancing, as their music is addictive stuff which caresses its listeners, never once leading them down blind alleys groove-wise. Most of the audience are quite happy losing themselves in the pretty much non-stop nature of the gig, it's not like a rock concert with dramatic changes of mood and tempo, rather things are surreptitiously shuffled around, sometimes making it difficult to remember quite what has been played beforehand...
Still, it's just great to watch the individual band members too, there's enough of them to get busy with; conga player Ndiouga Dieng is a fabulous sight, chopping a frantic solo out now and again with a violence that belies his years. Despite the entertaining duels of alt and tenor saxophonists Thierno Koite and Issa Cissoko, I'm most drawn to watching the lead guitarist Barthelemy Attisso, whose liquid, mercurial run-throughs are spellbinding and quite a forceful counterpoint to rumbling groove underpinning things.
What is truly brilliant about Baobab is the way the rhythms shift and change, the way the musical standpoint is altered from song to song without undue stress. Ami Kita Bay from the new LP is tremendous as is Aline. Best of the night for me is the brilliant Bul Ma Miin off their LP All Styles, a much more forceful, loose interpretation than the charming, laid-back LP recording. Soon after this they troop off, cracking open a well deserved drink, only to return to tumultuous applause and crank out more stuff from All Styles. Sadly at this point we have to go, but we're smiling at the memories. If you get the chance, go see Orchestra Baobab.
Words: Richard Foster
Pictures: Mariska van den Hoven