By Marie-Louise Gumuchian
LONDON (Reuters) – When Baaba Maal released his last album “The Traveller” in 2016, the Senegalese singer and guitarist wasn’t sure he would put out another record.
Six years on, he is back with a new single celebrating the fishermen of his local community in northern Senegal, the first track released from the new album coming out in 2023.
“I thought…I did so many albums and I’m going make a break and just focus on all the engagements with my family and then suddenly, my body, my soul, my heart, my spirit, everything did remind me that I’m an artist,” he said in an interview.
“I want to write songs.”
The 69-year-old last week announced his new album “Being”, out in March. The seven-track record, mixing traditional African instruments with electronic touches, addresses themes like technology and the environment. The uptempo song “Yerimayo Celebration”, released last week, salutes the cultures of fishermen, the profession of Maal’s father.
“It’s music not just to listen to but to think about all the engagements that we have right now in the world and especially in Africa, like climate change, like protecting the environment,” Maal said.
One song, featuring new singer Rougi, is about migration.
“All these young people who take the boats, they have to go because there is sometimes no opportunity for them here.”
In 2005, Maal founded the Blues du Fleuve festival in his hometown of Podor on the Senegal River. The annual event has grown into a hugely popular gathering providing music and cultural offerings as well as forums for discussing topical issues like climate change and its impact on local communities.
This year’s edition begins on Friday and features a packed agenda, including Maal unveiling a new solar irrigation project via his NANN-K Trust charity.
“I wanted just to bring back something home…But I never expected it to become so big and so popular now,” Maal said.
“Sometimes I (joked) with my friends (saying) ‘I want this festival to be like the Glastonbury of Africa’. I don’t know if it’s possible, maybe, let’s hope.”
Maal has also lent his vocals to the “Black Panther” movie soundtracks, becoming the “voice of Wakanda”, the fictional African nation in which the films are set in.
“Wakanda, if ever it existed, it might be Africa…and to be the voice of Africa, it’s great for me. It’s a very positive Africa.”
(Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Mark Heinrich)