About this Artist
Since the 1980s, Baaba Maal has released a series of Grammy Award-nominated solo albums and toured the world numerous times. He often collaborates with other major artists and has worked on many high-profile international projects.
In 2001, he worked with Hans Zimmer on the soundtrack to Ridley Scott’s hit film Black Hawk Down. More recently, Baaba was instrumental in the development of the Oscar Award-winning original score for the global mega-smash movie Black Panther. Baaba collaborated on the soundtrack with Black Panther composer Ludwig Göransson, as well as performing the song “Wakanda.” Baaba took Ludwig on a tour of Senegal so the composer could immerse himself in this country’s musical culture. They then spent a month recording at Baaba’s studio outside Dakar, during which time the Swedish musician was introduced to some of the fundamentals of West African music. Göransson, for example, encountered the wonder of the African talking drum, which was to become one of the recurring musical motifs in Black Panther. “The talking drum…is the first type of telephone — the first type of communication device,” he explains.
His 2016 album The Traveller features members of The Very Best and the best-selling British band Mumford and Sons. The album represented both a new direction musically, and a powerful summary of his life’s work. For the Senegalese veteran, travel and music are inextricable. The singer and guitarist belongs to the semi-nomadic Fulani people. “It’s part of my culture,” he says. “The songs travel from village to village, from country to country. It’s something natural to my tribe and this part of Africa.”
Baaba founded his festival Blues du Fleuve in December 2005 to draw attention to the culture of this region. “Even the people who live in Dakar sometimes don’t know the country very well,” says Baaba. “It’s to open a window for people to discover where I come from and see all the opportunities in this part of Senegal.”
In 2016, Baaba collaborated with Mumford and Sons on a four track EP, Johannesburg, recorded in South Africa. Two singles, “There Will Be Time” and “Wona”, both had considerable chart success.
For Baaba Maal, music and activism are intertwined because they are both about building bridges and encouraging mutual understanding. The Traveller’s themes of communication, reconciliation, and responsibility chime with Baaba’s work campaigning for women’s rights and children’s education, and his speaking out on the effects of climate change on the continent.
Baaba’s latest and most ambitious project is the establishment of the organization NAAN-K. A Pulaar word, “NANN-K” tellingly translates as the phrase “Listen to this,” and in its original language spells out the initial letters of the five elements with which it will be concerned: Agriculture, Fishing, Livestock Farming, Culture, and Technology Access. The overall aim of NANN-K as an organisation is to support people from Senegal, and throughout Africa, in developing careers in agriculture.
NANN-K was initiated in the northern Senegalese region of Saint Louis and Podor. Targeting young people especially, it has organised start-up loans, developed apprentice schemes, and encouraged the creation of cooperative structures, which allow small family farms to remain independent whilst tapping into a larger support network. NANN-K also interfaces with the Senegalese government, promoting opportunities for dialogue and cooperation between farmers and the government.
Baaba Maal is very clear about his mission: “I intend to be the voice for the people in Africa’s rural communities. I want to offer them a chance to be part of the future development of Africa.”