Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Baaba Maal returns to Central Park SummerStage

Central Park was rocking last night thanks to Baaba Maal and his band, who made clear to the rest of New York that the summer concert season is very much underway. The Senegalese singer brought his energetic live show to a diverse, multicultural crowd at SummerStage that seemed to be perpetually moving, even during breaks between songs when Baaba spoke charismatically about his music and issues in Africa. The set was a mix of songs from his new CD Television, and classics by his band Dande Lenol, like the salsa tinged "African Woman," with New York's own Somi making a vocal guest spot.

Baaba's lively interactions with his longtime tama (talking drum) player Massamba Diop were as dynamic and playful as ever, and veteran backing singer Mansour Seck was on hand in fine voice as well. Missing was any of Baaba's acoustic material, which generally makes an appearance even in his most high-energy shows. But tonight it was non-stop adrenaline. The highlight of the show was near the end when audience members were invited onstage to dance with the band. Though the enthusiasm of a few of the guest dancers during that song was impressive and entertaining, it was still Baaba and his voice that stole the show in the end. The opening band was Playing for Change, a multinational group whose musical variety was as much a weakness as it was a strength.

Photographs by Banning Eyre.

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