Legendary Senegalese guitarist and percussion player Baaba Maal played an all to rare show in London, Rachel Newsome was there to bask in his glory
London Pleasure Gardens: the river reflecting broken windows of empty mills whose shadows rose up from its banks”Â¦ and beyond the mills, cable cars connecting Greenwich to the Olympic Park strung up in the sky, the rigging of an invisible ship”Â¦ and beyond the cable cars, the lights of Canary Wharf crackling on the horizon, a strange cold sun setting on the horizon”Â¦
Canary Wharf from London Pleasure Gardens
”Â¦ and breaking through its death-star light, the sound of lamentations from across the ages: the first cry of a newborn and the last of a dying man, cradled in the ache of Baaba Maal's voice. With him on stage were the most incredible dancers who rolled their groins as if a string from the earth to the stars were running straight through them and as if the centre of gravity at the heart of the universe were hidden in the spheres of their buttocks.
And though all of this was magical, it was the drummer, whose instrument was so small that it could be played from the cavity between the top of his ribs and the underside of his arm, who I most fell in love with. Although his talking drum was so slight, the sounds of his palm on its skin produced one of the most complex rhythms I think I've ever heard. They seemed to have been streamed straight from a future of Detroit techno and black disco, channelling the spirit of Carl Craig and Moodymann returned to the present as the ghosts of ancient Senegal.
the magical talking drum
And this was the rhythm, this was the call that seemed to spin a web from the thread at the centre of the dancers out through the hearts of everyone who had come to listen into the same deep space between the earth and the stars.