Senegal has lost a star, the death of singer Balla Sidibé, one of the founding members of the legendary Senegalese Afro-Latin band Orchestra Baobab group, on Wednesday, July 29, in Dakar, has come as a shock and devastation to many.
The Association des Métiers de la Musique du Senegal (AMS) announced the news that, “Balla Sidibé, did not wake up this Wednesday morning after a busy rehearsal day with his fellow musicians.”
Born in 1942, Sidibé worked in the police force in Senegal before he decided to pursue music full time. He went to the then cultural hub of Casamance in Senegal. There he and other like-minded musicians came together and formed the Orchestra Baobab in the 1970s.
Their style was characterized by a mix of Latin rhythms, African sounds and soul and jazz influences. They appeared on television throughout the 80’s and begun to tour west Africa and have 20 album and hundreds of songs under their repertoire.
After a long hiatus, the group returned to international success in the early 2000s. Its rebirth is credited to British producer Nick Gold, boss of the record label World Circuit.
The Orchestra Baobab was the first to introduce Senegalese folklore into Afro-Cuban music. The melancholy of Creole tunes from Casamance, influenced by the “saudade”, the “joyful sadness” of the Cape Verde Islands, and by the traditions of nearby Guinea-Bissau formed a fusion of sounds that made Sidibé and the Orchestra Baobab unforgettable.
As news of his death went viral fans and friends wrote tribute messages expressing their sorrow and celebrating his legacy.
“Huge loss for Senegal and African music: Balla Sidibé is one of the founders of the mythical Orchestra Baobab, for which he was preparing the 50th anniversary.
He is leaving us in 2020 after Aurlus Mabélé, Manu Dibango, Tony Allen, Mory Kanté. Peace to his soul, ” one fan writes.
Band mate Thierno is quoted as saying, “Frankly we have lost two monumental musicians without compare since he was a singer and a timpani drummer – bringing the two roles together.
Details of his cause of death are not yet known.