Sunday, October 16, 2011

Liquid Guitar and Liquid Vocals: Ernest Ranglin and Baaba Maal

African River

Another doubleheader tonight.

Ernest Ranglin, one of the original soulmen of Studio 1 the fabled Jamaican mecca of so much reggae, is a living granddaddy of guitar. Influencer and mentor to so many (he even taught Bob Marley for a short period) he had a hand in the creation of the ska sound, Jamaica’s earliest popular music and has brought the ‘reggae’ touch to jazz, R&B and African musical forms.

Ernest Ranglin
In Search of the Lost Riddim (1998) is my favourite Ernest Ranglin album as it seems to make connections with all sorts of African riddims lost or otherwise.  The music sways and grooves with rolling kora, snappy drums and Ranglin’s intricate, understated electric guitar riffs. Vocals are handled primarily by Baaba Maal, star crooner of Senegal, where the album was recorded. The record builds steadily and reaches several stunning highpoints especially Minuit and Haayo a languid hypnotic groove that rolls out deliberately over ten minutes.

Baaba Maal

Baaba Maal has a voice I’m unable to find the right word to describe. It has an expansive and open feel, slightly raw. For some reason, I always think of water or liquid when I hear him sing. And perhaps that is because he was born into a caste of fisherman.  Don’t know.  But his voice has that raw, slightly untamed feel that I love so much. It is perfect in combination with Ranglin’s silky cool guitar runs.

The second part of the double header, is therefore, a classic from Baaba Maal himself. Recorded in 2001 it is full of those lusicious acqueous vocals and powerful tunes and rhythms. 

As one of Africa's most pivotal musicians, Baaba Maal has consistently produced music that challenges cultural expectations as well as political/social consciousness. Since he was not born into the griot caste, the group that traditionally produces music and documents history, Maal oversteps many barriers to create tunes that inspire dancing, thinking, and spiritual connection. Missing You (Mi Yeewnii) represents a pinnacle of sorts. After the commercial success of previous albums that presented a seamless blending of modern and traditional cultures, Missing You returns to the natural essence of African music -- the people and land itself. It's an offering that reaches both the modern and traditional worlds without compromise. It is a collection of intimate, pure tunes enhanced only by traditional instruments and Maal's soaring voice. Recorded in the small village of Nbunk, just outside of Maal's native Dakar, the album brims with the nuances of rural African life. Composed on acoustic guitar, the songs range from the throbbing percussion of Leydi Ma, to the unadorned simplicity of Miyaabele, a melody indigenous to all of West Africa, which Maal brilliantly uses as a plea for African unity. Boasting balafons, koras, drums, hoddu (African lute), and even crickets, Missing You reflects Maal's vision of one Africa, and it's a beautiful vision indeed.  (

            Track Listing:
            In Search of the Lost Riddim
            01 D'accord Dakar
02 Up on the Downstroke
03 Minuit
04 Ala Walee
05 Cherie
06 Haayo
07 Anna
08 Huh True
09 Wouly
10 Pili Pili
11 Midagny
Listen here.

            Track Listing:
            Missing You (Mi Yeewnii)
            01 Yoolelle - Maman
02 Miyaabele
03 Fa - Laay - Fanaan
04 Leydi - M
05 Jamma - Jenngii
06 Fanta
07 Laare - Yoo
08 Senegaale - Ngummee
09 Mamadi
10 Kowoni - Maayo (Mi Yeewnii)
11 Allah - Addu Jam
Listen here.


Kaat said...

Great blog. Thanks for sharing! ;-) Here a portrait of Ernie Ranglin (in French):

ajnabi said...

you are welcome Kaat! Great music!