The Sound Cafe
Senegalese Master Kora Player Seckou Keita and Star Vocalist Baaba Maal Release 'HOMELAND'
By Angie Lemon.
HOMELAND is a very special collaboration between 2 internationally acclaimed Senegalese artists: master kora player Seckou Keita and star vocalist Baaba Maal.
HOMELAND is an uplifting song that easily connects with everyone’s story: a return to a place that carries everyday beauty and joy, a respect for tradition while looking into the future, a sense of nostalgia mixed with warmth and hope.
Baaba Maal and Seckou Keita’s paths have crossed many times over the past 25 years at festivals and shared stages. They have developed a mutual respect and love for each other's music and have been talking about a collaboration for a while. They finally used the quieter time offered by the pandemic to realise their wish with HOMELAND.
At the start of 2021, Seckou set himself the ambition to release a series of Pan-African collaborations throughout the year and beyond, with the aim of releasing an album in a few years. In February 2021, Seckou released his first single ‘Elles Sont Toutes Belles’ featuring the popular Senegalese singer, Aida Samb. Now, Seckou brings us HOMELAND, the second track recorded with the legendary singer Baaba Maal.
The thinking behind these collaborations started last year as Seckou was travelling back from touring. Like everyone else, Seckou found himself confined to his adopted home in Nottingham with surreal feelings: confusion, disillusionment and fear.
It is not unusual for artists and others to move from their small towns, rural areas and sometimes their own country to pursue their careers. Whilst the Covid pandemic was a difficult time, like many others, Seckou took this opportunity to take stock and reflect on what was really important to him. Family and home came first. So, at the end of 2020, Seckou travelled back to Senegal to return to his beloved birthplace and wrote this tribute song. There he re-connected with the legendary singer Baaba Maal who immediately accepted his invitation to collaborate.
While Seckou praises life in the green and lush Casamance (southern Senegal), for Baaba Maal, home is Podor, a former river stop-over located in the heart of the historic region of Fouta-Toro in northern Senegal, a semi-desert region on the border of Mauritania. Seckou and Baaba both sing about the simple joys and beauty of everyday life.
HOMELAND celebrates things many take for granted, as simple as food, the intimate connections to the elderly, children playing in the streets, a general joyful spirit, and the exceptional natural, and still preserved landscapes that surround them. Both musicians carry a sense of respect and somehow nostalgia for tradition but through their music acknowledge, one note at a time, the inevitable changes, conveying a spirit of hope, that we will all be drawn to contribute to make the world a better place. And while Seckou is descended from the griot lineage, who traditionally played and sung for kings and queens, he shows that his heart and music resonate with everyone who hears it.
This feeling is carried by the small contradictions that make life beautiful and infused into the music: traditional kora is mixed with more contemporary musical sounds and programmed beats brought by some of Senegal's top musicians. HOMELAND is rocked by soft Sabar rhythms which gently break into warm reggae vibes and Seckou’s gentle singing throughout gives space to the powerful and inspired voice of Baaba Maal - who, yet again, shines as one of the most recognizable and leading voices of the continent.
Artwork by Jean Baptiste Diouf