I think the musician's role is to give advice, to warn people, and to make them aware of what they might not have thought of themselves. We use melodies and harmonies to make songs enter your mind." So declares Baaba Maal of the songs on Television, a subtle blend of electronic dance elements with timeless West African musical traditions.
Television was produced jointly by Baaba Maal and Barry Reynolds, once the guitarist with the legendary Compass Point Studio Band, and mixed by Jerry Boys. In addition, the tune "Song For Women" was produced by John Leckie. "I use that song," explains Baaba, "to talk about how women can be much more powerful in Africa, which can be really helpful for the entire continent. We should encourage that, and I sing about it to give them more power." The enigmatically named title-track refers to the relatively recent phenomenon in Africa of ubiquitous TV screens. "The television set is like a stranger that you find sitting in your living room," explains Baaba. "You don't care about who he is: he just seems to come from nowhere and gives you information."
Television was recorded intermittently over the last three years, during which time Baaba has kept up his rigorous global touring commitments, including his work on the large-scale Africa Express project, in collaboration with Damon Albarn. As he has made clear, Baaba Maal's mission in West Africa extends beyond his music. He is committed to the concerns of families, young people and the future of the continent, as is reflected in his role as Youth Emissary for the United Nations' Development Programme, about which he says: "It strengthens my determination to work harder to contribute more to improving the living conditions of disadvantaged people of the African continent, especially young people, whose future is seriously threatened by illiteracy, poverty and HIV/AIDS. When I am talking about Africa, it is about how Africa will grow into the new millennium. This is why I really wanted to make music, so people can listen more to the music and the messages I am talking about."
Television was made in London and Dakar, the Senegalese capital. Baaba Maal worked on its eight songs with various musicians, but most specifically in a collaboration throughout the recording with singer Sabina Sciubba and keyboardist Didi Gutman, both members of New York's Brazilian Girls, who blend electronic dance music with a diversity of eclectic styles. Working on the song "Tindo," for example, whose subject is the guidance meted out to Senegalese children as to their future responsibilities, Baaba Maal found that Sabina's responses, sung in Italian, accurately mirrored his own lyrics: "I see language as an instrument. Sabina told me that she could just feel the meaning of the words that I was singing. This is the power of music - it can give you advice even if you do not understand the language."
Download: Baaba Maal's "Television"
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"...surprisingly swift and jamming, a blend of electronic dance pep with West African cool" — The Fader
"World-infused exotica that fuses the African traditions he's known for with a breezy, downtempo feel." — Billboard
"fearless and all-encompassing...fresh yet timeless..." — CNN