Baaba Maal

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Baaba Maal
Maal in 2011
Maal in 2011
Background information
Born (1953-06-13) 13 June 1953 (age 68)
Podor, French West Africa
(now Senegal)
Years active1989–present

Baaba Maal (born 13 June 1953) is a Senegalese singer and guitarist born in Podor, on the Senegal River. In addition to acoustic guitar, he also plays percussion. He has released several albums, both for independent and major labels. In July 2003, he was made a UNDP Youth Emissary.[1]

Maal sings primarily in Pulaar[2] and promotes the traditions of the Pulaar-speaking people, who live on either side of the Senegal River in the ancient Senegalese kingdom of Futa Tooro.

Early life and education[edit]

Maal was expected to follow in his father's profession and become a fisherman. However, under the influence of his lifelong friend and family gawlo, blind guitarist Mansour Seck, Maal devoted himself to learning music from his mother and his school's headmaster. He went on to study music at the university in Dakar before leaving for postgraduate studies on a scholarship at Beaux-Arts in Paris.[citation needed]


After returning from study in Paris, Maal studied traditional music with Mansour Seck and began performing with the band Daande Lenol. Maal's fusions continued into the next decade with his Firin' in Fouta (1994) album, which used ragga, salsa and Breton harp music to create a popular sound that launched the careers of Positive Black Soul, a group of rappers, and also led to the formation of Afro Celt Sound System. His fusion tendencies continued on 1998's Nomad Soul, which featured Brian Eno as one of seven producers. In addition to his various solo releases, he contributed to two tracks, "Bushes" and "Dunya Salam", on the concept album 1 Giant Leap.

In 1998, Maal recorded "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" for the Red Hot Organization's compilation album Red Hot + Rhapsody: The Gershwin Groove, a tribute to George Gershwin which raised money for various charities devoted to increasing HIV/AIDS awareness and fighting the disease. In 2002, Maal again worked with the Red Hot Organization, recording "No Agreement" alongside Res, Tony Allen, Ray Lema, Positive Black Soul and Archie Shepp; as well as "Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am" alongside Taj Mahal and featuring Kaouding Cissoko and Antibalas, for the tribute album to Fela Kuti, Red Hot + Riot: The Music and Spirit of Fela Kuti.

On 7 July 2007, Maal performed at the Live Earth concert, Johannesburg.

Maal's album On the Road, a live acoustic album recorded straight from the mixing boards of his shows over a ten-year period, was released in 2008. A new studio album, Television, was released in 2009.

He appears on two tracks "Hunger" and "Still" on the Black Hawk Down film soundtrack and performed on the title track of the 2008 video game Far Cry 2, in addition to helping to create the whole soundtrack for that game.[3] He played at Bonnaroo and the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in 2010.

On 4 May 2013, Maal performed at the 2013 edition of the Harare International Festival of the Arts in Zimbabwe.

In 2014, he contributed to the BBC Music's remake of The Beach Boys song "God Only Knows".[4]

Maal's 11th studio album, The Traveller, recorded with Johan Hugo from the Very Best and Winston Marshall (Mumford & Sons), was released via Palm and Marathon Artists[5] The lead singles, "Fulani Rock" and "Gilli Men", received critical acclaim.[6] in January 2016, and was accompanied by a UK tour and headlining Senegal's Festival Blues Du Fleuve.[7] Maal accompanied Mumford & Sons on their Gentlemen of the Road tour around South Africa in 2015. He also released a song and accompanying live performance music video with Mumford & Sons called "There Will Be Time".[8]

In 1998 he was honoured by the Dutch-based Prince Claus Fund, which rewards people who have a progressive and contemporary approach to the themes of culture and development.[citation needed]

He voiced the Wakandan soundtrack of Black Panther for Ludwig Göransson.[9][10]

In an interview with The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2020, Maal discussed the ritual quality of traditional instruments, and how he chooses instruments to convey his songs' messages: "The spirit of the kora and the ngoni are different from the talking drum and the balafon, or the sabar and the djembe. The kora and ngoni are closer to human beings, because they are made from things that had life. The talking drum, the balafon, and the sabar are made from wood, and when you listen to them your mind goes out into the forest. When you make music and write songs, you have to know about the messages. From the messages, you know what the instruments are and how to put them together underneath the lyrics."[11]

Giving back[edit]

On December 11, 2019, Maal promised to fight to stop the desertification in the Sahel by planting trees. He said he hoped every person in Senegal could say they planted a tree.[12]


Maal performing at the Opening Plenary at the New Theatre, in March 2011


  • 1989 – Passion – Sources (compilation) - Real World Records
  • 1989 – Djam Leelii (with Mansour Seck) – Mango Records
  • 1991 – Baayo (with Mansour Seck) – Mango
  • 1992 – Lam Toro – Mango
  • 1994 – Wango – Syllart
  • 1994 – Firin' in Fouta – Mango
  • 1995 – Gorel – 4th & Broadway
  • 1997 – Taara – Melodie
  • 1998 – Nomad Soul – Import
  • 1998 – Djam Leelii: The Adventurers – Yoff Productions
  • 2000 – Jombaajo – Sonodisc
  • 2001 – Missing You (Mi Yeewnii) – Palm
  • 2003 – The Best of the Early Years (compilation) – Wrasse
  • 2005 – Palm World Voices: Baaba Maal (compilation) – Palm
  • 2008 – On The Road (compilation) – Palm
  • 2009 – Television – Palm
  • 2016 – The Traveller – Palm / Marathon Artists

Import releases[edit]

  • Jombaajo
  • Ngalanka
  • Ndilane

Contributing artist[edit]



  1. ^ Chinen, Nate (4 July 2006). "Exhilarating and Aware, an Eclectic Advocate". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Romer, Megan. "Baaba Maal Profile and Biography - Learn More About Senegalese African Musician Baaba Maal". Archived from the original on 6 September 2015. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  3. ^ "Baaba Maal - The International Star Of Senegal Music". 5 January 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  4. ^ "Launches with God Only Knows, a star-studded film featuring 'The Impossible Orchestra'". BBC Music. 7 October 2014.
  5. ^ Empire, Kitty (17 January 2016). "Baaba Maal: The Traveller review – where tradition meets Auto-Tune". The Observer. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  6. ^ Honigmann, David (20 November 2015). "Baaba Maal: 'It all started by the river'". Financial Times. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  7. ^ Perry, Kevin (3 January 2016). "Senegal: a trip to Baaba Maal's music festival". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
  8. ^ "Hear Mumford & Sons' New Collaboration With Baaba Maal, 'There Will Be Time'". 21 April 2016. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  9. ^ Pearce, Sheldon (7 February 2018). "How Black Panther Composer Ludwig Göransson Found the Sound of Wakanda | Pitchfork". Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  10. ^ Perry, Kevin (21 March 2018). "Baaba Maal on soundtracking Black Panther's Wakanda". NME. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  11. ^ Fenstermaker, Will (6 May 2020). "Baaba Maal's Songs of the Sahel". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 14 April 2020.
  12. ^ "The music legend fighting to stop desertification in the Sahel2 BBC News. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  13. ^ Ayers, Michael D. (22 July 2009). "Baaba Maal Tunes In With Brazilian Girls On 'Television'". Billboard.
  14. ^ "'Johannesburg' with Baaba Maal, The Very Best & Beatenberg".

External links[edit]