Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane
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cd cover Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane
Thiossane (Stern's)
cdRoots Code: st-3247952

Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane is part of the very fabric of Senegalese national identity, yet this is his first album recorded and released as lead artist. Joined here with members of Orchestra Baobab, legendary Congolese guitarist Papa Noel and Africando's Medoune Diallo Thiossane is a rich addition to Senegal's Afro-Cuban musical heritage.

   

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Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane (pronounced ä-blâ in-jî' chô'sãn) makes his solo album debut at the grand age of 76. While this is cause for celebration, it would be a mistake to think of Thiossane as a late bloomer. He has been an active and recognized artist in Senegal for 60 years. He started his career in 1952, when he joined a theatrical troupe in his hometown, Thiès, a Senegalese city known for its artistic community and its fierce resistance to colonialism. In addition to acting and singing, he wrote plays and songs. His work was championed by Léopold Sédar Senghor, the poet and political theorist who became the first president of independent Senegal in 1960. A song by Thiossane, “Talene Lampe Yi,” was chosen as the official anthem of the first international Festival des Arts Nègres, held in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, in 1966. At the opening ceremony Thiossane sang the anthem to an audience that included Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie, and the record was heard on the radio throughout Senegal. Thiossane went on to write for and sing with several bands in Dakar, including, most famously, Orchestre Baobab in the early '70s. At the same time he earned a reputation for his graphic arts, especially his paintings, and eventually he focused his creative skills on this work, becoming one of Senegal's most acclaimed painters.

But he never lost his love of music, so he didn't need much persuasion when the renowned Senegalese record producer Ibrahima Sylla proposed making an album with him last year. Old friends such as singer Medoune Diallo of Orchestre Baobab and Africando, Baobab saxophonist Thierno Kouyaté, Idrissa Diop organist Cheikh Tidiane Tall and the great Congolese guitarist Papa Noel eagerly joined the project. So did arranger François Bréant (best known for his work with Salif Keita and Thione Seck).

Among classics such as “Lat Dior” and new songs such as the lovely “Laye Woyena Laye,” the centerpiece of the album is a new version of the festival anthem “Talene Lampe Yi.” As Nigel Williamson's four-star review in Songlines notes, “The nine songs here mine the same rich blend of Wolof and Afro-Cuban sounds as the mighty Baobab and share the same relaxed, breezy feel.” Thiossane's “belated return to music,” Williamson concludes, “is a blissful one.”

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