Last night I was at the Barbican to see Orchestre Baobab. Once they got into their groove a couple of songs in they were excellent, but if it hadn't been for the bass player and rhythm guitarist keeping things going it might have been a bit of shambles as the rest of the gang ambled around at the beginning of each number while mulling over whether to sing, bang something or disappear all together. This peaked during the encore when the designated drummer decided to abandon his post and wander off stage to take a call on his mobile. The rest of them just kept things bubbling until he came back.
Support was from Belgium-based Congolese rapper Baloji and his band. He caused a bit of excitement late last year with his album "Kinshasa Succursale", on which he goes back to the Congo and hooks up with the likes of Zaiko Langa Langa and Konono No 1. The mix of rap and more local sounds works pretty well on the whole but it is hardly new, as the next two selections from "The Rough Guide to African Rap" demonstrate. K-Melia are also from the Congo, Mabulu from Mozambique.
That compilation also features African rap pioneers Positive Black Soul from Senegal. In 2010 one of their former members, Didier Awadi, released "President's d'Afrique", an album about many of the leading figures from the African independence movement. He pulled in some great guest musicians from all over the continent and, with all due respect, it knocks Baloji into a cocked hat. Today's selection features a sample of Thomas Sankara, former President of Burkina Faso, and the vocals of fellow Senegalese Noumoucounda Cissoko.
"Congo Eza Ya Biso (Le Secours Populaire)" - Baloji
"Na N'Ko" - K-Melia
"Karimbo" - Mabulu
"Oser Inventer L'Avenir" - Awadi
We finish with the Baobab boys from ten years ago. A disappointing lack of ambling in this clip.